Finally got some to sit down and write about what I saw yesterday from Clemson and Georgia Tech in their landmark bowl wins yesterday. In both games I saw similar things from both schools that could bode well for the future.
Obviously beating programs like LSU and USC is a nice shot in the arm for the ACC, but before I declare the ACC bowl season a success Florida State must beat Northern Illinois. A loss for FSU would be embarrassing for Seminoles, and a black eye for the conference. That said back to Clemson and Georgia Tech…
* editors note * Florida State beats NIU 31-10 for an Orange Bowl win
Both schools had a history of losing significant OOC games. Clemson hadn’t won a bowl game since 2009 and Georgia Tech hadn’t won one since 2004. The last time Clemson beat a top 10 OOC opponent was the 2003 Chick Fil A Bowl against Tennessee. Even Clemson’s win over Auburn this season had to be validated as those Tigers ended up 3-9.
Georgia Tech had not beaten a big name OOC opponent since Georgia in 2008. Clemson was trying to recover from the 2011 Orange Bowl debacle, and Georgia Tech was trying to put a 2011 Sun Bowl meltdown behind them.
In order to win these games, both schools had to get better at the line of scrimmage. You can have stylized offenses, and tons of skill position talent, but where you win games against teams like USC and LSU is in the trenches. To a lesser extent this one of the gaping holes in the ACC in recent years, quality play at the lines of scrimmage. There’s been a lack of physical of play that lacked.
This is what I saw yesterday that was the most eye opening. Clemson and Georgia Tech went toe to toe with the uber talented teams of LSU and USC. If you want to argue the Trojans were unmotivated and LSU went brain dead on several offensive drives, you can, but these numbers don’t lie.
USC was the pre-season number 1 ranked team in the nation and hasn’t had but 1 recruiting class ranked outside the top 10 in more than 5 years. With future NFLer Silas Redd a running back the Trojans ran for 98 yards, while Georgia Tech ran for 294 yards. Often these rushing yards were earned running into the teeth of the USC defense. That’s physical football.
Clemson faced an LSU defense among that the nation’s best. The Tigers had 445 yards of total offense while giving up only 219 yards, and just 99 on the ground. These numbers proved both schools at least held their own in the all-important battle upfront.
Paul Johnson was able to remove a 10,000 pound bowl monkey off his back. My opinion of Johnson is the same. He can coach, but he must improve on the recruiting trail. If he can bring better athletes on both sides of the ball Georgia Tech can be a top 20 level program.
His triple option offense can and does work at the FBS level. They grinded the Trojans into the ground. Defensively you could see improvements being made since the dismissal of DC Al Groh. Charles Kelly has brought more attacking schemes, and the Yellow Jacket defense has looked light years better than they did during the middle of the season.
Beating a legit SEC heavyweight in a physical hard-hitting game proves Dabo Swinney is moving Clemson in the right direction. Quietly Clemson went 2-1 against the SEC this year, and even in the loss went into the 4th quarter in the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Depending on who returns the Tigers could open next season in the top 10.
We’ll see if both programs can use these bowl wins as springboards into next season, but playing physical upfront which both schools did yesterday is a good sign.