Quite literally, Clemson can play with anyone.
This includes Florida State, Tennessee, Miami, and Texas A&M.
This also includes Duke, Wake Forest, and select intramural football teams.
The best bring out the best in Tommy Bowden’s Tigers- this much has been made clear over the past three years. Spot the ball against the nation’s elite and more often than not Clemson looks like a program poised to be an ACC and BCS contender.
Spot the ball again one week later against a perennial bottom-feeder and watch the Tigers morph into an ACC also-ran. Hopes dashed, swagger lost, fans angry and astonished once more as the vicious cycle continues.
For lack of a better term, Clemson football under Tommy Bowden has become bi-polar.
Were it not for the flashes of brilliance, the ride wouldn’t be nearly as painful for Tiger fans. Considering that Clemson came within an eyelash of surviving perhaps the toughest opening month in school history undefeated, one would be inclined to believe that the Tigers’ on-field talent is at worst within shouting distance to that of Miami, Texas A&M, and Boston College. While finishing that four-game stretch at 2-2 wasn’t cause for a parade, it certainly gave fans reasons to be optimistic heading into a “softer” month on the schedule.
Cue a struggling Wake Forest team with limited talent and resources and a home-field atmosphere as intimidating as a sleeping bunny. For most moderately talented teams (i.e. Vanderbilt and Maryland), the ideal setting for a road win and the perfect antidote for a two-game losing streak.
For the Tigers, it proved nothing more than another opportunity to defy logic.
Finding a football program as obscenely inconsistent as Clemson’s over the past three years would be a difficult- if not impossible- chore. Such a cycle of heartbreak and hope ultimately takes a toll. Simply put, the Tigers under Bowden have become an excruciatingly difficult team to trust. Wrap your arms around them and they belch in your ear. Try to walk away and they knock off another Goliath, crush their in-state rivals, and then pull infants and puppies out of a burning building.
And so the cycle begins again.
Love him or hate him, Clemson has made progress during Bowden’s tenure. Talent continues to improve, particularly this season as the Tigers are stocked with impact freshmen and sophomores. But until Bowden can break the cycle of matching landmark victories with landmark losses, Clemson will continue to tread water in a sea of mediocrity.