How dominant was Clemson in 2018?

I’m generally fascinated by the strength of schedule debate.  It’s certainly not irrelevant, but there is a danger in overrating its importance.  The simple truth is that a great team can play a weak schedule.  The latter shouldn’t define the former, but I’ve seen plenty of cases where that’s argued.

What’s important is that a great team should dominate mediocre opposition and do it on a consistent basis.  Take a look at what Matt wrote about Clemson’s latest national championship season.

A little less than four weeks ago, Clemson won their second national title in the past three seasons (and third overall). The Tigers dominated (on the scoreboard if not in the box score) an Alabama team that many thought might be one of the best of all-time. Clemson was touted as one of the best teams in the nation all season, but with the Tide sucking most of the oxygen out of the college football ecosystem, I feel like most casual football fans didn’t realize how dominant Clemson was this (I know I didn’t realize it until I was crunching the numbers for bowl season). The Tigers did survive a few tight games in 2018, edging Texas A&M in College Station and rallying to beat their Orange adversaries in Death Valley. However, those games share a common thread: quarterback Trevor Lawrence did not both start and finish them. In games Lawrence both started and finished, the Tigers won by an average of 36 points per game, with no team coming closer than twenty points!

He concludes, “The ACC was mediocre at best in 2018, but Clemson thoroughly dominated it, and with their non-conference performance (victories against two SEC bowl teams as well as a solid Sun Belt squad) and subsequent playoff thrashing of two unbeaten heavyweights, the Tigers can make a case they are the best national champion of the new century.”  Agree or disagree?  If you disagree, how much do you hold the overall weakness of last season’s ACC against Clemson?

75 Comments

Filed under ACC Football, Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, Stats Geek!

75 responses to “How dominant was Clemson in 2018?

  1. Derek

    Mmmm…Bullshit!!!

    The USC teams in the mid-2000’s are the best we’ve seen this century.

    They were on the cusp of a 3 peat with 30 something seconds on the clock in the Rose Bowl.

    The 2012 Alabama team that crushed ND would have beaten this Clemson team.

    The fighting Tebows of 2008 were pretty damn good. Better than this Clemson team.

    No one was beating the 2003 LSU team at the end of that season.

    I’d put Deshaun’s Clemson championship team ahead of this one. Bama was a flawed team once we neutered Tua for them. Too bad we had to hurt him. I think we had his number, like Hurts the year before.

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    • Greg

      Boy Bama certainly started out looking like one of the best ever, if not the best. Guess that SEC schedule wore their asses down. Clemson had an easier path. 42-18 & 1, Georgia…can’t wait until we meet again.

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      • Derek

        I think their reliance on Tua and their gazelles catching deep balls adversely affected their identity in the big games vs. teams that could match up.

        That’s not the identity Alabama has gone with heretofore.

        That 2012 team may have never punted vs. if had they never thrown. You go back and look at their drives and it was only when they put it in the air did they face 4th down.

        You get 8 yards a carry before contact, that’s a helluva a lot harder to beat than a pass happy team.

        Everyone gets caught up in stats! and points but what matters in championship football is what happens in the trenches. If you can dominate there, you truly become very hard to beat.

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    • CB

      None of the teams you mentioned have a d line that comes anywhere close to the one this Clemson team put out there.

      Those USC teams for all their talent struggled against teams like Fresno State and perennially overrated Notre Dame, and then there was the loss to Texas. If anything was bullshit it’s the idea of a USC threepeat.

      2012 Bama? You think AJ McCarron could have out-dueled Lawrence? I don’t see it. I honestly believe Lawrence is a better qb than McCarron right now.

      Tua looked fine to me against Clemson health wise, but you’re right he probably wasn’t 100%

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      • Derek

        41-10, 45-14 is struggling huh? I’d like to struggle like that.

        27-23 vs Syracuse tho? Whoopee!!

        The 1 close game was in south Bend and ND was a top ten team.

        12-1
        13-0
        12-1

        41-2 with 2 natties and 30 seconds from a three peat isn’t impressive?

        Scoring 55 in a natty?

        Ok. Whatevs.

        I’ll take the 2012 OL at Alabama over the 2018 Clemson DL every time.

        Lots of great DL’s on the teams I mentioned.

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        • CB

          15-0 >>> 12-1, 13-0, 12-1

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          • Derek

            2 natty winning streak > 1 natty winning streak

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            • CB

              Agreed, but neither team has a two natty winning streak. Not yet anyway. In any event. This is about one season not three. Plus, Clemson actually had to make it through a playoff.

              And, I think you said that nobody was beating the 03 LSU team. Wasn’t that the same year that your Trojans won a consolation title? Which is it?

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              • Derek

                I’d take that LSU team. They were monsters.

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                • CB

                  03 Florida might disagree

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                • Derek

                  Im talking about at the end of the season. We should have beaten them during the season. The team that showed up at the dome was a different animal.

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                • CB

                  So LSU got better at the end of the 03 season, but Clemson didn’t improve after the Syracuse blunder?

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                • Derek

                  I think they were a nice football team, but I think exposing a flawed Bama team by that margin is getting them too much credit.

                  If we had those refs, we’d be the ones getting all that love.

                  The teams I can remember that just blew me away we’re the mid 1990s Nebraska teams, the mid 2000 USC teams, some of those Miami teams from 1984-2001 without digging in to get specific.

                  Clemson was great. Team of the century? Not buying in. They don’t scare me.

                  A locked in USC team in 2004 was near impossible to deal with because of all the ways they could beat you. And by 2005, they’re lazy and entitled and big headed and didn’t think they could be beat. They were 1 first down run and a few seconds from being correct.

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        • CB

          1.5 natties is what USC won. Also, I don’t think the question is referring to 3 year metrics. You can’t say 2016 Clemson is better than this Clemson team and then use USC’s three year total as evidence that they’re better. We’re they better in any one season? No.

          Scoring 55 against the Big 12 is neat, but Dabo called off the dogs against a real defense and still scored 44.

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          • Derek

            If they matched up, USC has better players. Period.

            In 2004 6 Trojans were awarded All-American first team honors: Matt Leinart, RB Reggie Bush, DE Shaun Cody, LB Matt Grootegoed, DT Mike Patterson and LB Lofa Tatupu.

            (Clemson had 3. Pretty sure that’s half. I know 6>3).

            Matt Leinart also won the Heisman, the Walter Camp Award and the AP Player of the Year. Bush finished 5th.

            Clemson had a guy finish 7th.

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            • CB

              If that’s your argument then 2001 Miami is the correct answer.

              Trevor Lawrence >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Matt Leinart Lol. That can’t be a serious point. Carson Palmer is the best qb to come out of USC in that era. Matt Leinart was David Greene with an easier schedule.

              I don’t believe any of USC’s six all Americans did much after college. Makes me think it was a bit of fools gold.

              Polamalu, and Mike Williams was before the “dynasty” and Clay Matthews, Ray Maualuga, and company came after.

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            • CB

              Also Reggie Bush was a marginal NFL back.

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              • Derek

                As was the fat kid, White.

                They were the best combo in college while they were there tho. Maybe the best combo in college football history just in terms of production. Both exceeded 3,000 in 3 years. We’ve had 4 guys do that, ever. And then add what Bush did in the passing and return games, with a Heisman winning QB to boot.

                Miami probably deserves consideration here too. Their qb was no pro.

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                • CB

                  Miami’s qb was a pro, just not a starter. I’m not going to debate stats accumulated on the west coast that translated to average pro careers. I don’t think I need to list Miami’s backs, or Auburn’s at the time.

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                • Not saying you’re wrong about USC, but look at this box score that super team put up.
                  https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/boxscores/2004-10-09-southern-california.html
                  Outgained by over 200 yards. Out first downed by 16. At home no less. Not saying they weren’t a great team, but you can’t just gloss over games like this while dismissing Clemson for their close win against Syracuse.

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                • Derek

                  Aaron Rodgers.

                  Does Syracuse have an Aaron Rodgers?

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                • Matt

                  Did he play defense and hold them to 200 yards?
                  They also scored a fourth quarter TD to beat 4-7 Stanford by 3. There were also close wins against Oregon St and UCLA. USC was great, but every team usually has one or two close scrapes. Clemson’s two came against top 25 teams early in the season so I hardly think that disqualifies them from being in the conversation for best of this century.

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                • Derek

                  I agree. Clemson isn’t the best of the century for reasons other than the Syracuse game.

                  Of the 19 champions crowned this far, they’d beat a handful.

                  I’d say that 2004 usc team is beating all of them even if they took some opponents lightly along the way.

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  2. I do not hold Clemson’s schedule against it because it proved itself to me against Notre Dame and Alabama.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I got distracted and did not finish my thought.

      I do not think Clemson is the best team in the 21st century. USC dominated an undefeated Oklahoma team worse than Clemson handled Alabama, and US was dominant for three seasons in a row.
      The 2012 offensive line at Alabama would have neutralized Clemson’s 2018 defensive line.

      Clemson was a worthy champion this season, but I am not going to place it above SC’s 2003 and 2004 teams.

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  3. Greg

    Great team, but woulda lost 1-2 games with an SEC schedule imo. There is a reason that Bowden (FSU) didn’t join the SEC when he had a chance.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Uglydawg

    I felt like A&M bested them in all but the score…and yes, TL didn’t start that game…also, the win against USCe is really nothing to crow about.
    This is a great Clemson team. While I doubt it’s the best in years, there’s no doubt it can be argued either way.
    Trevor L. is a great, great talent…but those towering and talented receivers were the real difference in Clemson and everyone else.
    If I were a recruiter, I would be going to HS basketball games to look for wide receivers..there are a lot of amazing athletes playing basketball and not football.

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  5. Normaltown Mike

    alls I gotta say is that Trevor Lawrence kid can damn ball.

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    • Derek

      True dat.

      All we need now is for Fields and Eason to light it up in the years to come.

      Fromm better get a big trophy is all I can say. Not throwing shade I’m just saying he’s directed a lot of traffic out of Athens.

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    • Got Cowdog

      Truth. There will be a couple of games that I will watch, just to see that kid play.
      Outside of that? tech, for obvious reasons. TA&M to see what we are looking at later in the season.

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  6. ASEF

    It helps when you can spend your entire bowl season prepping Alabama and ignore Notre Dame. That came out a couple of weeks ago.

    Alabama’s defense was below average by Bama standards. I’m not crowning Clemson anything other than very good and very lucky. Which defines a lot of national championship football teams. No knock on them, but I would put two non champs – 2011 LSU and 2016 Alabama – way ahead of them.

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  7. Biggus Rickus

    I thought Clemson was capable of beating Bama much of the season, and while I didn’t see a blowout coming in the national title game, it’s worth noting that the game was closer than that in most other ways.Sure, scoreboard, the point of the game is to score and keep the other team from scoring, blah, blah, blah. Scores get out of hand for weird reasons sometimes.

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    • dawgtired

      The close games against TA&M and Syracuse left me unimpressed with Clemson. Bama handled TA&M better. I think Clemson had the right match ups and seemed more hungry than Bama. Bama players were eating the rat poison.

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    • 2675miller

      Bama had 200 yards of offense in the first quarter. They quit after the turnovers and the punch in the mouth clempson gave them. Folks shouldn’t be fooled by the score.

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  8. GruvenDawg

    The d-line coming back and Lawrence being ready to go made that team dangerous. The big bodied WR’s ran roughshod over bama’s DB’s. On top of that the O-line held up against bamas D-line pretty well. I didn’t expect the beat down, it shocked me. I was in the “they haven’t played anybody” camp until they dominated the playoffs. The game plan by Clemson was well put together and executed without fear and Bama panicked. I was impressed.

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  9. Clemson with Lawrence was an absolutely juggernaut. I see a lot of Georgia fans trying to explain away how good they were due to the ACC being bad (which is was), but that argument doesn’t hold much water after seeing what Clemson did to Notre Dame (a legit top-10 team, and Bama, a legit top-2 team).

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  10. Bright Idea

    Clemson’s style of play and offensive philosophy seems to keep the pressure on the opponent for 60 minutes. They have no thought of just running out the clock. The fact that they are having fun keeps the pressure off themselves as well. Add that up plus the talent and it makes them look great.

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  11. Todd

    Let TL get knocked out in Baton Rouge or dare I say Athens during the regular season. They were lucky Chase Brice hit a 4th and 6th pass against Syracuse. The OL down field didn’t hurt Clemson’s feelings either.
    Oh and don’t forget the Deshaun Watson team……NC State misses a straight shot 25 yard FG to make it go into overtime.

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  12. Hogbody Spradlin

    And the lovely and talented Trevor Lawrence is so pretty to look at.

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  13. TomReagan

    Strength of schedule doesn’t have anything to do with how good a team actually is. It’s just a way to measure how good teams are. It gives you more useful data points to use to evaluate a team, but it doesn’t make a team better or worse other than wearing on them over the season or possibly providing some experience with closer games or playing from behind.

    It’s also hugely important for determining who “deserves” to be in the title game because some teams have to “earn it” while others have an easier ride. There’s nothing wrong with that element as a consideration of who gets in the playoff, but you can’t rely on it alone.

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  14. Russ

    Usually, I think championship games can split between the two teams if they played ten times. I’m not sure Bama beats Clemson more than 1-2 out of 10 this year.

    As for best this century? Who knows? USC teams were pretty good, Bama’s had some good ones. I think this Clemson team hangs with any of them.

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  15. Uglydawg

    Trevor is great but his receivers are spectacular. That’s the thing.

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  16. JS

    I’ll be honest. I hate Clemson and I just really refuse to give them much respect. It’s my God given right as a fan to be completely unreasonable.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Charlottedawg

    No, I vote 2001 Miami, and probably 2005 Texas and 2004 USC ahead of this Clemson team. I’m judging mainly on how thoroughly they dominated their opponents, no weight given to SOS. Clemson almost lost to Syracuse and probably lose to A&M if not for Kelly Bryant. 2004 USC had close games against Cal and Stanford. 2001 Miami was an NFL team with a chip on their shoulder due to getting snubbed for the national championship the year before and it showed via them kicking the crap out of everyone they played.

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  18. Yurdle

    Upon reflection, I’m starting wonder about the post-championship game love fest with Lawrence. Don’t get me wrong—he’s incredibly good, and plays well beyond his years. But he also got helped on two incredibly bad defensive plays (or bad luck) by Alabama defenders. Tua finished with a higher completion percentage, and TL’s numbers were further bolstered by some incredible catches where his guy made a play. Clemson played its best game, and its red zone defense and scheme against Tua were remarkably effective. I take nothing from them. But the bounce of the ball went their way, too, and those same throws and play calls could have resulted in a very different stat line, more in line with Clemson’s first drive.

    (And don’t hear me being a Tider apologist. Those are the tastiest tears in the world, and Clemson pantsed ‘em.)

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  19. Hogbody Spradlin

    And Dabo is so Gawdly! Gosh, they’re perfect!

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  20. BassCatSC

    Playing in the ACC allows the room to develop players with in-game competition and for players (starters) to be less fatigued at year end where it now counts for more. To their credit, Clemson takes full advantage of playing football in the ACC.

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  21. I gotta go with USC as some others have. Those guys would fly across the country, kick your ass, and look really good doing it. What they did in Virginia’s stadium that one year….lol.

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  22. Macallanlover

    Absolutely a team can still be great, even if they are dealt an easy path. They have little control over the schedule, and none at all over how their opponents recruit/play/scheme. But I am convinced there are many great teams that never reached the final game, or even the playoffs, simply because they are overwhelmed by the number of tough games and hits they must take during the season. (It is another reason why an 8 team playoff would more likely insure a better champion…but that is another discussion for another time.) Would Clemson have survived the same schedule UGA did as an unbeaten? I doubt it, but they didn’t have to, and we will never know. That isn’t a shot against Clemson, just a fact that the playing field is never level in CFB, and won’t ever be. They had an easy path, had few injuries, took their shot and came out on top. Good for them, hope that happens to UGA one day, but it will never be that easy.

    I didn’t think Clemson was as good as they showed themselves to be, primarily because I only saw them tested once, and that was in College Station, where they may have lost. I take nothing away from a fine team but I have serious doubts they are the best team we have seen in decades. The point about “best” is you can never defend that, other than just your own limited perspective/opinion. You can only crown a deserving champion at the end. I am comfortable Clemson is that for the past year, but would love them to have to play comparable athletes and have to grind through 4-5 games a year.

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    • I didn’t think Clemson was as good as they showed themselves to be, primarily because I only saw them tested once, and that was in College Station, where they may have lost.

      As Matt pointed out, that game was pre-Lawrence.

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      • Macallanlover

        Yes, not sure that is a guaranteed improvement that early in the season in that environment against A&M’s defense. Again, that is why assigning absolute certainty to any single victory/loss is overstated since the circumstances can present so many variables like weather, personnel readiness/availability, calls, time on the schedule, etc. I realize it is the best piece of evidence we have, but isn’t a slam dunk, one game never is. Clemson justified themselves pretty convincingly in the 2 playoff games as a deserving champion, not sure they would have won the title had they faced more difficult teams. But it isn’t about the “best” to me, and never will be. Not enough games, or interactions to level everything out.

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  23. stoopnagle

    I didn’t read comments, so if I’m repetitive… well, most folks are probably done here anyway.

    I agree a great team can play a weak schedule and still be great.

    I think the rub is that Clemson basically gets a pass that Bama or Georgia would not, that obviously being that they don’t get a beat up over the course of the year. At least not until Florida State or maybe the Canes get their shit together.

    Clemson basically gets a Patriot’s pathway which gives them an advantage when it comes to the CFP. The Pats have played in the AFC East against practically nobody while the Steelers have the Ravens, etc. Give the Clemmers credit: they’re taking advantage of it. Hopefully, Georgia takes similar advantage of the SEC east going forward in the same way.

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  24. PTC DAWG

    To hell with Clempson.

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  25. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    I vehemently and roundly disagree because…because…oh hell, they’re freaking Clemson!!!

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  26. To much GOAT shit floating around, debate on, who knows….HC organizes staff, staff recruits players to fit team (off./def.), team plays who is on the schedule, good and bad teams/staff, when good teams get up by 19 to 24 points all the best laid plans are done….then and only then do good teams get made to look better than who they really may be(i.e. bama 2018).

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  27. Mayor

    Every year, the team that wins the natty gets proclaimed as the best that ever was by somebody.

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    • Derek

      Except BYU or Georgia Tech in which case “they” advocate destroying everything to get rid of “mythical” and now only a handful of teams can ever win the thing.

      I think the BCS was as good as it can get for deciding a champ and I prefer the old system to the playoffs.

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