Countdown clocks and becoming elite - it starts with FSU

by - Senior Writer -
Clemson's countdown clock has already reset
Clemson's countdown clock has already reset

CLEMSON – Four consecutive seasons of at least ten wins. Top five recruiting class. Dynamic young quarterback. Upgraded facilities. Energized fan base.

The passion and excitement surrounding Clemson football at this point seems to be at an all-time pitch, and as the short days of winter morph into spring and then as spring turns into our summer of waiting the anticipation and excitement will surely grow.

Welcome to big-time college football.

The Clemson program appears to be on the cusp of greatness, of becoming the elite program that head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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desires. It isn’t there. Not yet. But it’s close. In order for that program to take that next step, however, it won’t take a win over South Carolina or breaking the streak – it means putting an end to Florida St.’s domination in the ACC, making it back to the ACC Championship Game and beating the ranked teams on the schedule.

Allow me to explain. During the early portion of spring practice last March, quarterback Cole StoudtCole Stoudt
Sr. Quarterback
#18 6-4, 231
Dublin, OH

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told the media that Swinney had installed a countdown clock in many of the team’s meeting rooms in the WestZone. The purpose of the clock? To remind the team it had a five-game losing streak to arch-rival South Carolina, a not so subtle reminder that beating the team from the middle part of the state was still one of the team’s big goals.

Did it work? Clemson won, but somehow deep down inside of me I think Clemson’s win over the Gamecocks had less to do with the countdown clock and more to do with talent – Clemson was simply the more talented team and looks to be more talented over at least the next few years.

I’m not discounting the countdown clock as a whole. The seniors are told us that its constant presence was a reminder through the summer months of the game that was at the end of the season, and that there were pictures taped to the clocks of South Carolina fans throwing five-bombs on Clemson’s players and coaches when the latter were trying to be gracious and grant photo requests. All of that mattered.

I walked into the WestZone two weeks after the win over South Carolina and the clocks had all been reset. The countdown is back on, and if Clemson is to indeed take that next step and become the elite program that Swinney wants it to be a win over South Carolina will certainly be a part of the recipe. But so will a win over Wofford. And Appalachian St. And Boston College. And N.C. State. And Louisville.

The target, if there is to be a target, needs to be Florida St.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, the Tigers have four consecutive seasons of at least ten wins and big bowl wins over teams like Ohio St., LSU and Oklahoma during that span. What has been missing, however, are wins over the best teams on the schedule. In the past that has included South Carolina and Florida St., but likely means wins over Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Florida St. next season.

Clemson has been good, but the one team that has really stood in Clemson’s way of obtaining national prominence hasn’t been South Carolina – it’s been Florida St. The Seminoles have used three consecutive wins in the series as the impetus in reaching the ACC title game. Wins in your conference title game mean more in today’s national landscape that just beating your rival. All you have to do is look at South Carolina for confirmation – the Gamecocks just completed the best five-year run in the history of the program yet have just one SEC East title and zero SEC titles to show for all of the success.

The simple and stark truth is that Florida St. owns Clemson right now, having won four of five contests in the series. More than one of those wins was in convincing fashion. The road to the College Football Playoff – and elite status – means winning the ACC. That means beating Florida St.

The Seminoles won the national championship a year ago and are recruiting at a high level. They aren't going away. The clear and present danger to Clemson's title chances resides in Tallahassee.

Other teams can feel free to circle Clemson all they want, and that’s ok because Clemson typically gets everybody’s best shot. Now it’s time for Florida St. to get Clemson’s best shot. The countdown is on to elite status.

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