Clemson winning the ACC is not a novel idea. In the immortal words of Lou Brown of Major League, it has happened before. 20 times in fact, including 6 consecutive from 2015-2020. 2021 may have felt like the beginning of the end for the Tigers, as we saw major chinks in Clemson’s armor and they failed to reach the ACCCG for the first time in nearly decade. 2022 Clemson is a hurricane bearing down, and it may be best to just hunker down and ride out this storm. A return to glory for the Tigers feels...inevitable, frankly, like the natural turn of events.
Clemson kicks off its campaign in Atlanta against the Yellow Jackets on Memorial Day, and while I love my Jackets, I expect Clemson to flex its muscle and avenge last year’s game. But Austin, didn’t Clemson win last year? Yes, but they won ugly. Don’t expect it to happen again (1-0).
After week 1, Clemson returns home to face Furman and LA Tech before going on the road to Wake Forest. The Wake game just lost a bit of anticipation as QB Sam Hartman has been ruled out indefinitely with an injury. Even with Hartman a season ago, the Deacs couldn’t keep pace with the Tigers. Without him, they have little chance of avenging last year’s 27-48 loss. Clemson sits undefeated going into October (4-0).
October represents the Tigers best opportunity to vanquish last year’s demons, as they play v. NC State, at Boston College, at Florida State, and v. Syracuse. While only NC State was able to nip the Tigers a year ago, Clemson was hardly dominant, winning the other 3 games by an average of just 6 points. Going undefeated through October would quiet many naysayers, while winning in style would leave no doubt who is the class of the conference. The true test is the road game at BC, where Phil Jurkovec hopes it all comes together in 2022. The Eagles will give Clemson a scare, but fade late. After taking care of a pesky but hapless Cuse team, Clemson remains undefeated going into a showdown at Notre Dame (8-0).
Clemson v. Notre Dame has produced some of the most dramatic and captivating ACC Football of the past decade. Think Kizer v. Watson in 2015, DJU’s coming out party in 2020, or the ACCCG rematch that same season. It’s a must-see matchup, and 2022 will only feed the narrative as Marcus Freeman takes over in South Bend. While the future is unclear for Notre Dame and the ACC, for now they remain an integral part of cutting the wheat from the chaff, and Clemson will look forward to testing itself against one of the nation’s best teams. To this point, Clemson has been gotten by at 50-75% capacity, relying on its stout defense and capable offense to beat inferior talent. Against the Irish, it will take everything to come out with the victory, and though DJU had a banner night in South Bend in 2020, he’s not going to be enough in 2022. Can Will Shipley step up and take the pressure off his QB, or will the talent and mystique of ND win out? Notre takes this one in a first big win for Freeman (8-1).
Following the tilt in South Bend, Clemson finishes the season with 3 home games against Louisville, Miami, and South Carolina. After losing against the Irish, Clemson will leave no doubt against a coachless Cardinals team (9-1) before welcoming Mario Cristobal to the ACC. There may come a day when the strength of the Tigers fails, but it is not this day. Cristobal spends his afternoon rubbing his temples as Dabo runs up the score on the Canes (10-1). USC offers little resistance as Clemson wraps up yet another 10 win season and he'd to Charlotte to reclaim its crown (11-1).
In Charlotte, Clemson meets the Pitt team that took them out a year ago en route to a 2021 ACC Championship. This makes Dabo very angry, because even though it was against Wake Forest, it felt personal when Kenny Pickett faked that slide. Plus he wears two gloves. Dabo has been plotting his revenge ever since, and now the chance has come. Clemson does what it does in these spots, putting the game away early and making the second half a formality. They’ve done it, they’ve restored order and justice to the galaxy.
How do you see the Tiger’s season going?