Commentary: Clemson's Road Through ACC Just Got More Difficult

by - Correspondent -
Charlie Whitehurst avoids the safety against Furman.

CLEMSON - So did we learn anything new about Clemson this week?

Honestly, no.

All Saturday's 28-17 win over Division I-AA Furman proved is that this particular Tommy Bowden team still has a long, long way to go if it hopes to finish in the upper half of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings by year's end.

It's bad enough that the Tigers couldn't put away the Paladins despite jumping out to a 14-0 lead with nearly three minutes to play in the first quarter. That Furman was able to stand toe-to-toe with Clemson after the early onslaught shows that Clemson still isn't as mentally focused as it should be, not to mention the on-field problems which carried over from week one.

Now comes evidence that certain other teams in the ACC - most notably Wake Forest and Georgia Tech - appear to be considerably better than most experts thought entering the 2003 season.

One week after upsetting Boston College on the road, the Demon Deacons stunned visiting North Carolina State Saturday afternoon, 38-24. Meanwhile in Atlanta, Georgia Tech shocked Auburn by a 17-3 score in a game very few - including Tech's own fans - gave it a chance to win.

Does that necessarily mean that both teams are better than Clemson?

No. But it does throw into doubt the perceived strength of the conference.

Try to picture Clemson, playing as it has in the season's first two weeks, winning in Winston-Salem later this season given the way Wake Forest performed Saturday. Or better yet, just two weeks from now the Tigers travel to Grant Field in Atlanta to face the Yellow Jackets, a site which has produced more than its share of headaches for Clemson in the recent past.

The future is impossible to predict, and stating flatly that both Wake and Tech have moved ahead of the Tigers in the ACC is something that can't be done until the teams meet later this year.

But early indicators are showing that Clemson is going to be in for a considerable fight if it wants to finish even as high as fifth in the ACC. That's what the first two weeks of the 2003 season appear to be showing us.

Then again, maybe it's all an aberration.

Perhaps when the Tigers take the field at Death Valley next Saturday vs. Middle Tennessee State everything will come together. Maybe the offensive line will start opening holes, and maybe the running backs will find them.

Maybe the passing game suddenly will turn more vertical, letting loose the talent Clemson has at wide receiver so we can see if they will ever live up to their full potential.

Maybe Clemson fans calling for Bowden's head will have reason to pause for a bit and reconsider their stance.

Of course, if the first two weeks are an indication none of that will happen.

As the old saying goes, we shall see what we shall see.

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