Perhaps Clemson is the team of destiny this year.
It sure looked like it Saturday.
Just when it looked like the Tigers would suffer their first loss – one that may well have derailed their national championship aspirations – something improbable happened. With the game tied at 17 with two seconds remaining, North Carolina State kicker Kyle Bambard’s potential game-winning 33-yard chip-shot field went wide right, giving Clemson new life.
The Tigers made the most of their second chance, scoring on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson to Artavis Scott on the first possession of overtime to go up 24-17, and sealed the game when Marcus Edmond picked off Ryan Finley in the end zone on the ensuing possession.
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After the missed field goal, the camera showed coach Dabo Swinney crouched and slapping the ground with his hands in an exclamation of relief. Like one of the commentators said of that picture, Dabo does indeed have some luck on his side.
However, as we shift into early week football talk, I guarantee you there will be debate over the validity of the Tigers (7-0, 4-0 ACC), who should be sitting here with one loss.
It doesn’t help that Clemson’s Houdini act came on a day where fellow national powers Alabama and Ohio State beat top-10 teams. The top-ranked Crimson Tide humbled No. 9 Tennessee 49-10 in Knoxville, while the second-ranked Buckeyes outlasted No. 8 Wisconsin 30-23 in overtime.
To all that talk, I channel my inner Aaron Rodgers and say “Relax.”
The Tigers turned the ball over four times against N.C. State, and you’re going to have a hard time winning against anyone when you don’t take care of the ball.
And also don’t discount the fact that the ACC actually looks like it’s not the cakewalk it previously was.
Just ask Louisville. Favored by oddsmakers upwards of 35 points against Duke, the Cardinals struggled to a 24-14 win Friday night.
But some could – and probably will – make an argument to the opposite, saying that it’s more of a reflection of how Clemson and Louisville (5-1, 3-1) have come back to earth.
I just don’t buy it.
I still believe both teams have a good shot at making the College Football Playoff. There’s just too much talent on those teams, as we saw when they went head-to-head two weeks ago, with the Tigers surviving 42-36 in that game despite turning the ball over five times.
But in Clemson’s case, it proves that no matter how talented you are, you have to take care of the football or you’re likely going to lose.
That is, of course, unless the football gods are watching your back.
The Tigers have escaped twice while playing with fire. They just better not be counting on having a full nine lives.