The Clemson Juggernaut Isn't Going Away Any Time Soon

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2020

Dabo Swinney and Trevor Lawrence
Dabo Swinney and Trevor LawrenceStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

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 phraseno matter if referencing the small townhas 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.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

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.

CLEMSON, SOUTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 02: Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Clemson Tigers warms up before their game against the Wofford Terriers at Memorial Stadium on November 02, 2019 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

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 abilityand the school's wherewithalto 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, Scottthough a terrific recruiter and a valuable source of wisdom for the passing gameisn'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 cyclesincluding the current 2020 phaseClemson has one top-five finish.

One.

And it's the No. 1 class in 2020.

Clemson has signed six 5-stars, including No. 1 overall player Bryan Bresee and top-rated pro-style quarterback DJ Uiagalelei.

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.

           

All recruiting rankings via 247Sports' composite. Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

Related

    Dabo Swinney: 2020 championship legit even without two from Power Five

    Clemson Football logo
    Clemson Football

    Dabo Swinney: 2020 championship legit even without two from Power Five

    Spartanburg Herald Journal
    via Spartanburg Herald Journal

    Clemson football would love to add these Big Ten players

    Clemson Football logo
    Clemson Football

    Clemson football would love to add these Big Ten players

    Rubbing the Rock
    via Rubbing the Rock

    College Football Playoff shouldn’t be canceled, it should be expanded

    Clemson Football logo
    Clemson Football

    College Football Playoff shouldn’t be canceled, it should be expanded

    Rubbing the Rock
    via Rubbing the Rock

    Trump Talked to Trevor Lawrence About CFB Season

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Trump Talked to Trevor Lawrence About CFB Season

    Paul Kasabian
    via Bleacher Report