June 19, 2019

Respect for Clemson was hard earned, but could easily be lost

The morning after Clemson’s loss to Alabama I woke to something I hadn’t felt in a long time: Clemson football had earned the respect of the College Football World. Except for college football’s lunatic fringe, the Tigers were almost universally praised for their performance in Phoenix.

As I tweeted at the time, it’s incredibly ironic that Clemson earned respect for a game they ultimately lost and not for the 14 in a row they won and that speaks volumes on how different college football teams are viewed nationally.

Post CG Tweet

The Tigers will begin the 2016 season at or near the top of the rankings with the requisite publicity accompanying the lofty ranking. Players will be named to preseason All-Conference, All-American and all of 73 “watch lists”.

There are teams across college football that get the benefit of the doubt. Teams like Stanford, who lost twice as 10 point favorites in 2015, yet somehow remained in discussion for the college football playoff up to the end. Or Oklahoma, Clemson’s trash-talking playoff opponent, that lost to a 5-7 Texas team as a 16 point favorite, beat every team with a backup quarterback and played no conference championship game, yet was awarded a playoff spot, which in retrospect looks suspect at best.

Clemson won’t get those advantages despite their 2015 season and the post championship game respect bestowed upon them. One loss likely dooms the 2016 Tigers playoff hopes.

If that loss comes in the opener at Auburn the respect that was so hard earned slowly and incrementally over the last 4 years will disappear into thin air. The masses will utter worn out catchphrases so as to not tax their brains with analysis and turn their attention to the next big thing or, more likely, to the Stanfords and Oklahomas that continuously underperform and are rewarded handsomely for doing so.

College football is a “what have you done for me lately” proposition, at least for most teams. There are teams that can lose repeatedly as favorites, deflect those losses like Teflon and “impress” with 50 point wins over undermanned teams and end up in the playoff because of their name, coach or conference.

Clemson isn’t one of them.

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