CLEMSON, S.C. – How you view Clemson’s 2013 regular season depends largely on your perspective.
If you’re head coach Dabo Swinney, you consider it a success.
Clemson won 10 games for the third consecutive season, the program’s longest such streak since 1987-90.
The Tigers beat No. 5 Georgia in the season opener, becoming the first-ever non-SEC team to beat Top 10 SEC teams in back-to-back games. They spent virtually the entire season in the Top 10 and garnered the program’s second Bowl Championship Series bid in three seasons, earning an invitation to the Orange Bowl to face off with No. 7 Ohio State on Jan. 3.
Fans see it slightly differently. While the Tigers finished 10-2 and No. 12 in the final regular-season BCS standings, Clemson lost two of its three marquee games.
On Oct. 19, then-No. 5 Florida State entered Memorial Stadium and utterly throttled the No. 3 Tigers, 51-14, handing them an embarrassing home loss in what was billed as the ACC’s biggest-ever regular-season game.
And on Nov. 30, Clemson committed six turnovers and dropped a 31-17 decision at South Carolina. It was the Tigers’ fifth consecutive loss to their bitter in-state rival, the longest such streak in the program’s history.
It marked the second consecutive season that Clemson lost to both of its biggest rivals in Florida State and South Carolina, fueling some fan unrest.
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich appealed to fans to lobby the Orange Bowl for selection, successfully so. But there are concerns about just how many orange-clad supporters will follow the Tigers to South Florida.
Clemson’s offense stayed high-powered in offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ third season: The Tigers ranked 12th nationally in total offense, scoring offense and passing. And a once-beleaguered defense showed significant improvement in defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ second season.
Plenty of programs would be pleased with a 10-win season and an Orange Bowl berth. But with talented players like senior quarterback Tajh Boyd and junior wideout Sammy Watkins on board, it’s hard to avoid a feeling of disappointment.
Boyd will head to the NFL following the Orange Bowl, and Watkins, a projected first-round pick, is expected to follow him. With an expected three-way quarterback competition between rising senior Cole Stoudt, rising sophomore Chad Kelly and incoming freshman Deshaun Watson coming in spring practice, 2014 could be a season of transition.