Nine 10-win seasons in a row. Five straight ACC titles. Five consecutive trips to the College Football Playoff. Four appearances in the national championship game. Two, perhaps three, victories on that prestigious stage.
After a near-decade of Clemson's excellence, that list surprises nobody who follows the sport on even an occasional basis.
Head coach Dabo Swinney orchestrated the program's rise to prominence, turning "Little ole Clemson" into such a powerhouse that his usage of that phrase—no matter if referencing the small town—has become the source of eye rolls. Nothing about the football team is little anymore.
And what Swinney has built, regardless of what happens in the championship showdown with LSU, has no end in sight.
Between a star-studded roster, outstanding recruiting class and a conference of teams far behind, Clemson has no excuse not to remain a national contender for several years.
That sentence, for the record, is entirely unfair. Yet it's the truth of the program's current situation.
Star quarterback Trevor Lawrence will likely declare for the NFL draft once eligible but must wait one more year. Although his presence alone makes the Tigers a championship threat in 2020, they'll bring back an impressive group of skill-position talent and plenty of pieces from the nation's No. 2 defense.
In all likelihood, nobody who follows the sport will disagree that Clemson's reign will continue for years to come. You might be tired of it, but Lawrence enters the 2019 national title with zero losses as a starter.
Since projecting one season is often hard enough, anything in 2021 and beyond is far more uncertain, yes. Trends established over the last decade suggest Clemson will continue thriving, though.
A critical piece of the Swinney-led ascent is his ability—and the school's wherewithal—to retain high-level assistants.
For several years, co-offensive coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott and defensive coordinator Brent Venables have been linked to head coaching vacancies but turned down the offers. Scott recently accepted the South Florida job and will leave Clemson after the championship game, but he's the first coordinator to leave since Chad Morris headed for SMU in 2014.
Nevertheless, Scott—though a terrific recruiter and a valuable source of wisdom for the passing game—isn't the primary play-caller. That responsibility falls on Elliott, who will work alongside new passing game coordinator Brandon Streeter, in 2020.
As long as Swinney, Elliott and Venables are in place, the program will have a sturdy foundation of leadership. And, without a doubt, an impressive arrangement of talent.
For competing teams, the scariest part should be Clemson is just now starting to sign the highest-rated prospects at an Alabama-like rate. Over the last 10 recruiting cycles—including the current 2020 phase—Clemson has one top-five finish.
And it's the No. 1 class in 2020.
While 10 straight top-25 hauls is perfectly fine, Clemson hadn't secured consecutive top-10 classes before 2018 (seventh) and 2019 (10th). The ranking typically hovered around 15th. Stars don't mean everything, but top-level recruiting, as Bud Elliott of Banner Society notes, has proved a necessary condition of winning titles.
Given the team's accomplishments without top-five classes, the thought of what's coming may be downright frightening for the ACC.
In 2019, per ESPN's Bill Connelly, the conference ranked fifth in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Broken down further, the Atlantic (where Clemson resides) was the ninth-toughest division in the nation, one spot behind the ACC Coastal.
There is encouraging news, yes. In the Atlantic alone, Louisville surged to eight wins in Scott Satterfield's first year, Wake Forest won eight regular-season games for the first time in more than a decade, and Florida State hired Mike Norvell, who won 12 games coaching Memphis in 2019.
Pardon our lack of excitement after Clemson just defeated each of those programs by no less than 31 points. North Carolina nearly pulled off an upset, but one poor showing is an outlier. Clemson smashed its eight other ACC opponents with four margins of 40-plus points and four of 30-plus points.
The gap between Clemson and the rest of the ACC is a chasm, and that has helped the Tigers maintain a remarkable streak of national relevance.
If Clemson falls to historically efficient LSU in the national title game, Swinney's squad will simply have extra motivation for 2020. If Clemson wins, the championship will provide yet another trophy for a program that has already earned the "dynasty" label.
Yet it's a dynasty that hasn't necessarily reached its peak.