After the loss to Pittsburgh, is this the beginning of the end of the Clemson dynasty? | Launderer report



Keith Srakocic / Associated press

The dynasty is not necessarily dead. Let’s put that aside right now.

It is not one of the those stories.

Even big shows on historic tracks get a mulligan from time to time. But Clemson’s dramatic downfall this season could very well be a sign of new struggles to come, and the Tigers’ era of domination seems largely behind them. At least in the moment.

If it’s a mulligan, it’s a major. There’s no way to water down how disappointing Clemson has been compared to expectations this fall.

And it’s not just a bad week or a bad month. This has been a constant throughout the year.

The issues that plagued Clemson throughout the season were all exposed against Pittsburgh on Saturday. The offensive could not muster enough points or long journeys. Mistakes and slips were once again a dominant theme. And the defense, which has kept this season afloat, finally erupted against a quality offense and a potential Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.

Kenny Pickett looked in total control against Clemson, elevating his Heisman CV with another 300-yard passing play, two more touchdowns and no interceptions. His brilliance shouldn’t be lost amid the shock of seeing Clemson lose his third game before the November hits.

The final score, 27-17, tells a story. Final scores can often lie, but this one can’t.

Clemson’s defense has been good for a while. The offense really wasn’t. The only difference, however, is that the Tigers haven’t looked so broken in years.

Keith Srakocic / Associated press

They also didn’t spend a lot of time looking like the inferior team on the pitch, which they most certainly were on Saturday.

To some perspective, the Tigers have lost seven games in total in the six years leading up to this season. Dabo Swinney’s side actually outgrown Alabama’s dominance for a while, winning at a rate known only to Tuscaloosa’s side. They won two national titles against Nick Saban’s team and lost another.

It was – and it may still depend on how quickly you are ready to dominate – the team that every college football program in the country strived to be.

But now? They are an average team from the Atlantic Division of the ACC.

Clemson has three losses against a most laughed-off schedule outside of the opener against Georgia before the start of the season.

And it could have been worse. The only team Clemson has beaten by more than one touchdown is South Carolina State. The Tigers played against Syracuse, Boston College and Georgia Tech, winning all three games by a total of 15 points.

The loss to Pitt was no surprise. It was a fitting next chapter given how this season has unfolded.

Perhaps in some ways the expectations were too high.

After losing quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne to the NFL, some regression was assumed. But glimpses of quarterback DJ Uiagalelei last year were so stunning we expected him to naturally take over, as Clemson’s quarterbacks have done for most of a decade, and be immediately dominant.

That’s what Uiagalelei was against Notre Dame last year when Lawrence couldn’t play, throwing for 439 yards in a loss. This season, Uiagalelei has only thrown more than 200 meters once in a game. He is also thrown for two touchdowns once.

Keith Srakocic / Associated press

On Saturday, Uiagalelei was put on the bench after his shovel pass was retrieved and returned for a touchdown. Taisun Phommachanh replaced him, although he returned to the game later.

A player with incredible physical gifts has been largely absent all year, and it’s unclear exactly why that is the case and when, if at all, he will become the player we thought he would become.

This has been a major problem, although there is some criticism to be made. Injuries haven’t been kind to Clemson, and that can’t just be a footnote in a long season. Both sides of the ball were badly affected.

This list, we believe, could overcome injuries and departures to the NFL no matter how small. The coaching staff, apart from the loss of former offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, has remained intact. The continuity that built this team and this dynasty remains largely in place. And yet this football team is a shell of what we’re used to.

The 2021 season is lost. In fact, he was lost when the Tigers lost to NC State a few weeks ago.

The question now is not what this team will look like in December. At this point, we know. Instead, one can’t help but wonder if this will continue into next fall.

At the moment, it’s impossible to say. The list is still largely made up of some of America’s best athletes. The conference will likely be without a dominant team to move forward, unless that team is Clemson.

But winning at the level that the Tigers have been at for such a long period of time isn’t easy, no matter how easy this program has made it. This requires the perfect pieces, which Clemson assembled before this year.

These parts are currently missing. Something is missing.

At the very least, they did not come together as in the past. While it is possible that Clemson will regain momentum once the season is over, it is also possible that Swinney’s schedule will never be what it was.

It is difficult to know exactly when the glow disappears. There is no guide for this part. It’s just, well, the fact. It doesn’t happen in a game or even in a season. It just fades away.

It certainly requires a sample size of more than seven games, however eye-catching it is to state otherwise. And yet one can’t help but watch the quality suffer so much and the losses add up as fast as they did and wonder if the best is behind us.



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