Clemson’s 38-17 victory over Virginia Tech makes the Tigers bowl-eligible for the eighth consecutive season, but what are their chances of making a repeat appearance in the BCS?
The Tigers’ Week 4 loss to Florida State obviously puts Clemson’s hopes for a back-to-back ACC title game appearance in the hands of the Seminoles, who will play for the league crown if they win the balance of their conference games.
This all means that for Clemson to make the BCS, it would have to chart a perfect run through the rest of their schedule and hope that Florida State loses.
The other option is laying claim to an at-large bid, but this seems a bit of a stretch because the Tigers simply don’t have the kind of slate in 2012 that, without a conference title, would garner a BCS bid, even if they finish the season 11-1.
What makes you wonder about Clemson, despite its 6-1 record and the convincing win over the Hokies, is a defense that hasn’t shown the improvement that Tigers fans may have hoped for vs. last season.
Clemson’s D came into Week 8 ranked No. 70 in scoring (allowing 27.3 points per game), No. 80 vs. the pass and a dismal No. 102 against the run.
And let’s also keep in mind that these numbers came against only two teams that presently hold winning records (Ball State and Florida State), and only one of these two games resulted in a win (Ball State).
To use the Week 8 game to illustrate, Clemson’s defense gave up 23 first downs and 406 total yards of offense to Virginia Tech while the Tigers offense gained only 15 first downs and 295 yards of total offense in the win.
If you’re wondering how the Tigers managed to win the game even though they were outgunned, consider the Hokies’ one fumble and three picks, which go a long way in telling the proverbial “rest of the story.”
The truth is, Clemson’s defense may cost the Tigers far more than the title of being “BCS-worthy”; it could mean that they drop a game they shouldn’t to the likes of Wake Forest, Duke, Maryland or N.C. State.
Sure, you can see Clemson suffering a narrow loss to rival South Carolina in the finale, but how will they handle a Duke offense (seriously) that is averaging more than 35 points per game?
To put this into perspective, remember that the Tigers gave up 31 points to Boston College, a team that averages 24.7 points per game.
Clemson’s No. 11-ranked scoring offense (it has averaged more than 40 points per game) definitely has done its part to cover up for a defense that is still trying to find its way to stop the bleeding, but you have to wonder what would happen if an opponent can shut down the Tigers offense.
Yes, if one of Clemson’s final five foes can put a halt to its prolific point-scoring machine, then what happens when the defense has to win the game?
Squads with the best chance of exposing the Tigers D and proving that Clemson is not BCS-worthy are Maryland, which has held foes to 20.3 points per game this season; N.C. State, which has held opponents to 20.5 points per game; and of course South Carolina, which is scary at 12.3.
Though Clemson fans may have their eye on a Florida State loss as the key to the Tigers’ BCS hopes, it may be the continued woes at defense that keep Clemson out of the money dance this postseason.