Where did it all go wrong for the Clemson Tigers? Clemson was soundly beaten by the Duke Blue Devils 28-7 Monday night at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina.
Pundits have been waiting for the downfall of the Clemson Tigers, and with Monday’s loss, it is here. Duke used to be the type of opponent Clemson would blow out by 30+ points, but the days of Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence are far behind them.
The downfall of the Clemson Tigers has been a couple of years in the making, but should anybody be surprised it happened this quickly? No, and there are four reasons why Clemson saw their status as a blue-blood slowly start to slip away.
Four Reasons why the Clemson Tigers aren’t at the top of College Football anymore:
1- The Clemson Tigers lost Trevor Lawrence.
A quarterback like Trevor Lawrence can change a program. Lawrence was a five-star recruit out of Cartersville High School in Cartersville, Georgia.
Being a highly regarded recruit comes with high expectations, and Lawrence certainly lived up to the hype. After starting his career at Clemson backing up incumbent Kelly Bryant, Lawrence took over the starting job after four games and never looked back.
In his 40 career starts for the Clemson Tigers, Lawrence went 38-2 and tacked on a National Championship against Nick Saban for good measure.
After winning the national title his Freshman year, Lawrence would lead the Tigers to back-to-back championship game appearances. Both resulted in losses to the LSU Tigers and Ohio State Buckeyes.
Those losses began the beginning of the end for the Clemson Tigers because what happens after would change the College Football landscape as we know it.
2- The rise of NIL
Beginning on July 1, 2021, college athletes could earn money from their Name, Image, and Likeness. College coaches viewed this as a tool to help with recruiting. Meanwhile, this was Head Coach Dabo Swinney’s response.
"We built this program on NIL… In God's name, image, and likeness." – Clemson coach Dabo Swinneypic.twitter.com/vgGJEAi58b
— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) December 21, 2022
Maybe he should been praying for Trevor Lawrence to come back another year. Swinney had the tip of a College Football on his fingertips. He beat Nick Saban twice in championship games, and another national title would have cemented Swinney as a top-five college coach of all time. As much as Swinney helped build Clemson into a national power, he’s also the reason for their serendipitous downfall.
His refusal to take advantage of NIL and use it as a recruiting tool could have kept Clemson at the top of College Football. Instead, Swinney refused to adapt to the shifting landscape of College Football, and Clemson now finds itself miles behind Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, and Michigan.
3- The Clemson Tigers don’t have that continuity that they are accustomed to
Close your eyes and envision the Clemson Tigers coaching staff from 2013-2021. There were three main guys. Swinney, Offensive Coordinator Tony Elliott, and Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables. Now fast forward to the coaching staff in 2022., Both Elliott and Venables have departed to start their programs, and Swinney is left trying to replace two guys who had been a big part of the team’s success.
After Elliott departed for Virginia, Swinney hired from within and tabbed Quarterback Coach Brandon Streeter as the next offensive coordinator. Under the direction of Streeter, the team’s offense fell off a cliff as they finished at the bottom in scoring offense and passing offense. Streeter was fired after one season, and they hired TCU Offensive Coordinator Garrett Riley.
Riley is an offensive genius who helped transform TCU into one of the best offenses last season, but they had Max Duggan, Quinton Johnson, and Ke’Andre Miller. Clemson doesn’t have nearly the amount of offensive talent. It will be a tough task for Riley to fix that offense.
4- Dabo Swinney
The coach has to take culpability year in and year out for their teams’ performance. In Swinney’s case, I’ll give him 95 percent blame for the downfall of Clemson Football.
In College Football it’s hard to get to the top and stay there. Swinney should get credit for taking an average program and turning it into a blue-blood school. Under former Head Coach Tommy Bowden, the Tigers were an average school and competed but there was no fear factor playing against the Tigers. It took Swinney three years after he took over as an interim coach in 2008 to cement himself as one of the top college coaches in the game.
The Tigers have won double-digit games in 12 out of the 14 years Swinney’s been the head coach. He’s still a good coach, and Clemson still has a good team but their shot of competing in the College Football Playoff is over. The Clemson Tigers haven’t been that team in a while, but their loss against Duke on Monday night cemented that the glory days of Clemson are over.
For More Wisconsin Sports Content: