In his best selling book, Good To Great, Jim Collins wrote, “Those who turn good into great are motivated by a deep creative urge and an inner compulsion for sheer unadulterated excellence for its own sake. Those who build and perpetuate mediocrity, in contrast, are motivated more by the fear of being left behind.”
While Collins spoke of the corporate world and how good companies rise above to become great companies, his words struck me this week when looking forward to Clemson’s showdown with Miami Saturday in Death Valley.
To be fair, Miami has been great. The Hurricanes recently won a National Championship and darn near won a second.
The last time Clemson reached that pedestal, some 24 years ago, none of these Tiger players had even been born. The last time a Clemson team won an ACC Conference Championship, most of our players were barely out of kindergarten.
Of course, none of that really matters Saturday when Miami rolls into town. The Hurricanes are desperately in need of a win in order to avoid irrelevance in their Coastal Division race to the ACC Championship. A second conference loss in as many games for Miami would almost be too much to overcome, if not impossible to overcome.
The chink in Miami’s armor is real, as the Hurricanes have stumbled and bumbled their way to a paltry 3-4 record since Halloween of 2004. The question is how strong is the armor? Miami is a stockpile of talent that at times seems well coached but at other times does not. Great programs ebb and flow all of the time and the Hurricane football program is certainly not immune to that.
Miami is what it is, and that is better than most programs can say. And one can argue that Miami, even with chinked armor, is a better program than Clemson right now.
So the real question about this game Saturday falls to Clemson, a team that has been “good” for several years but has failed to move the pendulum forward to become “great”.
The Tigers won’t be intimidated by Miami, having whipped the Hurricanes last year in a monsoon at the fabled Orange Bowl. Not to mention the game this year is in Death Valley, where Clemson has quietly won 12 of the last 13 games with the one exception a nightmare fluke at the end of the Georgia Tech game in 2004.
It is hard, maybe even unrealistic; to weigh the third game of the season in such a way that makes it a must win game. In reality, the game Saturday against Miami is less important than the game next week when Boston College comes to town because the Eagles are an Atlantic Division game.
At some point we hope, want, and expect this program to take a step up from good to great. In reality, all programs want this. But all programs don’t have the fan base along with the history and tradition that Clemson possesses. Clemson has, as proven in 1981, the infrastructure to be the best football program in the country.
This year, Clemson is not the best. One could even argue that at this point Clemson is not even a Top 20 program. But there is a transition that takes place when you try to jump from good to great that this team shows signs of being able to do. An experienced quarterback, good running game, great turnover margin, excellent coaching, and a favorable home schedule all are characteristics of teams that can move from good to great. And Clemson has all of those characteristics to some degree or another.
As I said two weeks before the season started, opportunity knocks for this program and this team and these fans. The first two weeks, Clemson answered the call and stepped forward directly into a good start to the 2005 season.
Now an opportunity arises to take that good start and make it great. To take this good team and make it great. And to take a good season and make it great.
Now let’s see if we are ready to take that step.
I want to take a second to commend the football fans and administration at Maryland. After spending the past few years blasting their antics for fan behavior and game day atmosphere, the trip this past week to College Park was a pleasant surprise. You can argue that the game time (12:00 noon) had much to do with that, but I sense a sincere attempt to change from top to bottom. Signs outside the stadium urged fans to treat visitors with respect. Gone was the rap and rock music in between every play. And gone was the student section spilling over into the Clemson section with bottles flying and fists throwing. I learned long ago that if you are going to criticize the wrong, you better be able to praise the right. Maryland deserves some praise for their hospitality last week. N.C. State fans, are you listening?
The four headed monster at running back became the two headed monster in week 2. I don’t expect the four headed beast to reappear.
I’m still wondering what C.J. Gaddis is doing returning kickoffs. It is becoming scary every time he touches the ball as he seems to run straight into either a teammate of his or the opposing team.
With Devin Hester coming to town, it is imperative to kick the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs and very high on punts. He can kill you all by himself if allowed to.
Death Valley is always an asset to Clemson, but this week offers even more of an opportunity for the fans to help out. None of the Miami players have ever set foot inside Death Valley and making the Hurricanes as uncomfortable as possible will help big time. With a young QB, any distraction by the environment can only help. Coach Bowden, in his Tuesday press conference, implored Clemson fans to come Saturday ready to be loud when Miami is on offense to create a great home environment. I agree.
Duane Coleman apparently is moving to the defensive secondary and may get snaps this Saturday against Miami. Mercy me.
Finally, I want to take a second to thank Kyle Browning for possibly being the most unselfish player on the team. I hope our coaching staff can find a way to reward him for his team attitude at some point during the rest of the season.
We are about to find out exactly what kind of football team we have in 2005. I’m as excited as I’ve been about Tiger Football as I have been in a long, long time.
Scott Rhymer covers Clemson as the Co-Host of the Tiger Pre Game Show on WCCP 104.9 FM. The show airs live game days on 104.9 FM in the upstate or via the web at www.wccpfm.com
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