CLEMSON FOOTBALL

Slim margin for error: Tigers have to do the little things right to get back to Playoff
Does Clemson's 2024 success ride on Cade Klubnik's arm?

Slim margin for error: Tigers have to do the little things right to get back to Playoff


by - Senior Writer -

The margin for error is as slim as it's been for Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers.

I was at a birthday party Sunday and was asked the same question whenever I see people in public – how are the Tigers going to do this season? My stock answer is that the defense is good, the offensive line and wide receivers should be better, but they will go as far as No. 2 (quarterback Cade Klubnik) takes them.

While the children played, I sat there thinking that I didn’t necessarily like that answer. What was it about last season that led to four losses? The Tigers had issues along the offensive line, kicking issues, health was once again a problem, the wide receivers struggled mightily at times, and the quarterback play wasn’t as good as we’ve seen.

But as much as people don’t like what Swinney had to say about the losses – that the Tigers didn’t take care of the football in the right spots – he was right. Look at the four losses, and you see that Clemson had three turnovers against both Miami and Duke and lost both games. The turnovers came at critical points in the game and changed momentum. Clemson turned it over twice at NC State and lost – and one of those came on the goal line.

In the loss to Florida State, there was one turnover – Kalen DeLoach hit Klubnik and forced a fumble and rumbled 56 yards for a touchdown. Kicker Jonathan Weitz missed a chip shot 29-yard field goal with Clemson going for a late lead. The errors, Swinney said, were disastrous.

But how different was the season from a turnover perspective? The Tigers turned it over 22 times, just the seventh-most under Swinney, but had a plus-6 turnover margin thanks to an opportunistic Clemson defense. The Tigers turned it over 22 times in 2022 (plus-1), 19 times in 2021 (plus-1), 15 times in 2020 (plus-8), 15 times in 2019 (plus-15), 17 times in 2018 (plus-7), 16 times in 2017 (plus-4), a whopping 28 times in 2016 (minus-1), and 27 times in 2015 (minus-2). There were 18 in 2014 (plus-6), 24 in 2014 (plus-4), 24 in 2013 (plus-4), 21 in 2012 (plus-2), 24 in 2011 (minus-1), 23 in 2010 (minus-3), and 24 in 2009 (plus-6).

So even when the Tigers were really good, like in 2016, they turned it over 28 times and had a negative margin on the season, and they turned it over just 17 times in 2018 and were a plus-7, but won National Championships both seasons.

But the days of Deshaun Watson turning it over four times (three interceptions and a fumble) against a ranked opponent and the Tigers still winning are gone. Watson did indeed turn it over four times against Louisville in 2016, but the Tigers won 42-36. As he said after the game, "It just shows even with the hiccups how good we are and how good we can be. We found a way how to handle adversity."

Of course, that team had Watson, Jordan Leggett, Wayne Gallman, Mike Williams, Artavis Scott and an offensive line that wasn’t dominant but was good enough. All of those teams had playmakers and an elite quarterback, and they could make mistakes and still win games.

Against Louisville in 2019, Trevor Lawrence suffered through two early interceptions and wasn’t playing well to begin the season. A friend of mine who lived in Louisville at the time (JT Bass, he was a Fire Captain at Louisville’s House of Pain firehouse), said the Louisville fans were smelling an upset after the early turnovers. But Lawrence found Justyn Ross near the end of the half and the Tigers’ Travis Etienne rumbled his way to 192 yards in the 45-10 rout.

Yes, the lack of playmakers makes the margin slim. And Clemson’s opponents can rebuild quicker than they did in the past by going out and getting players in the transfer portal. Dave Doeren at NC State can plug holes quicker than he did by recruiting high school players.

So, how will the Tigers do this season? My guess is the margin will once again be slim. Can the offense avoid the disastrous turnovers, can the kicking game find its stride, can the defense continue to hold its own?

Yes, it will still revolve around No. 2. But the Tigers have to get back to doing the little things right, taking care of the details, to get back to the Playoff.

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Subject (Replies: 18) Author
spacer TNET: Slim margin for error: Tigers have to do the little things right to get back to Playoff
TigerNet News®
spacer Re: TNET: Slim margin for error: Tigers have to do the little things right to get back to Playoff
74TIGER
spacer The biggest reason for our losses last year was that the turnovers, when they
76er®
spacer Re: The biggest reason for our losses last year was that the turnovers, when they
ZeeGantt®
spacer Re: The biggest reason for our losses last year was that the turnovers, when they
greene®
spacer Agreed, they were at the worst times on the field and seemed like pick sixes
colberttiger®
spacer Re: TNET: Slim margin for error: Tigers have to do the little things right to get back to Playoff
tigernation2000
spacer Re: TNET: Slim margin for error: Tigers have to do the little things right to get back to Playoff
ChestyPuller0311®
spacer Re: TNET: Slim margin for error: Tigers have to do the little things right to get back to Playoff
alfredtiger
spacer Also !!!
OhWiseOne®
spacer It wasnt the Turnovers.
rebeltigersteeler
spacer Re: It wasnt the Turnovers.
JREwing®
spacer Re: TNET: Slim margin for error: Tigers have to do the little things right to get back to Playoff
tigerlex24®
spacer Re: TNET: Slim margin for error: Tigers have to do the little things right to get back to Playoff
rockrelative
spacer Re: TNET: Slim margin for error: Tigers have to do the little things right to get back to Playoff
SpringHillTiger
spacer Carrying the football around might be a good drill for RBs, but not QBs.
Razzmatazz
spacer Re: TNET: Slim margin for error: Tigers have to do the little things right to get back to Playoff
CU1976
spacer Re: TNET: Slim margin for error: Tigers have to do the little things right to get back to Playoff
J Clarke®
spacer Re: TNET: Slim margin for error: Tigers have to do the little things right to get back to Playoff
AC Leo