The best single word to describe Clemson’s performance in the Orange Bowl was pitiful. The Tigers turned the ball over four times, couldn’t do anything to stop Tavon Austin and allowed one of the single worst 10-minute spans of football in collegiate history, giving up 35 points from 2:29 in the second quarter to 9:18 in the third en route to a 70-33 loss.
They shelled out the big bucks to keep offensive coordinator Chad Morris and return most of their offensive playmakers next season, but 2012 figures to be a step back for Clemson.
Here are three reasons why.
It may not look like it from the season stats—Clemson allowed more sacks on Tajh Boyd than it gained on opposing quarterbacks—but the play in the trenches defined the season.
When Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson were able to have big games, the Tigers were able to shut down teams like Virginia Tech. Left tackle Phillip Price also missed some time and it really hurt the overall effectiveness of the offense.
Without those three guys as well as two other offensive linemen, Clemson is poised to get a lot more points scored on it because the team flat-out cannot tackle in space.
It will take fans of the conference a long time to realize it, but the ACC could have one of its best years ever in 2012.
Virginia Tech and Florida State should be at least Top 15 teams based on the talent they returning, there were only two seniors on Georgia Tech’s entire offense, and in-state rival South Carolina could be even better than it was this year.
With all of those teams in addition to a neutral-site game against Auburn to open the season, Clemson will have to play a bunch of good teams next season. And if it continues its trend of randomly losing to terrible teams, the Tigers won’t have a real chance at winning the ACC Atlantic.
The offense will be high flying once again with every skill player, with the likely exception of tight end Dwayne Allen and running back Mike Bellamy, possibly having a breakout season. But offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who calls the plays from the sidelines, appears to be affected by opposing crowds.
In three of the Tigers’ four true road games, they scored 23 points or less, which is 10 under their season average. The guy is absolutely brilliant and will continue to do well but when you score no less than 31 points at neutral site and home games, there is a clear statistical difference in output.
If there was a line out already for the Clemson-at-Florida State game, I’d put money on that game right now.