The beautiful purple and gold bow Clemson tied to their season on New Year’s Eve, coupled with the appeal of an old rival on the docket to begin 2013 have made for a very long and anxious offseason. In fact, I think most Clemson fans would say this has been one of the most anxious offseasons in memory (although if anyone can remember another, please say so in the comment section below).
Even before my freshman year at Clemson and the infamous “Matt Ryan Game” that left Tommy Bowden’s squad just a win short of an ACC Championship Game berth, my goal for the Tigers has always been to win the ACC. It had long been an elusive goal until 2011, when Dabo’s group broke through as the Tigers claimed their first conference title since 1991. That year obviously culminated in the Orange Bowl disaster we all want to forget.
So I write this now to keep myself and other over-anxious Tiger fans grounded and sane. After that Orange Bowl, well after the pall it cast cleared, I set a new goal for our program. Many fans, sane and grounded at the time, likely set the same goal. It wasn’t just to win another ACC Title, nor was it to leap all the way into the BCS National Championship, but to win a BCS bowl game. Fittingly, this is our last chance (as the BCS is making way for the new College Football Playoff).
The long offseason has made for a lot of hype–too much really. I’ve even fallen victim to the excitement, writing Six Reasons Clemson Could Play in the 2013 National Championship. It feels like Clemson may never lose again, but it’s time to reset and avoid excruciatingly high expectations.
Clemson hasn’t won a BCS-level bowl since ’81. Obviously, anything short of winning the conference would be an utter failure, but with one of the toughest schedules in the nation, despite the NCAA’s SOR rank of 45. A season opening loss isn’t a season-ruiner. Going undefeated, even though I believe we’ll be favored in 11 if not all 12 games this season, would be a statistical shocker. That’s why when it comes time for this year’s season preview, I’ll be listing “Victory Likelihood Percentages.”
Going into my second decade as a Clemson fan, I’ve never experienced so my hype or excitement for a season to arrive, nor have my expectations grown this large. I do remember the 2008 season though (my sophomore year), when expectations rose to near this level only for the season to start with a loss to Alabama and end at just 7-5.
At this time, It’s important to set realistic goals, and not allow inflated expectations to ruin what will be a great season. I stand behind my previous post stating that the Tigers have a legitimate shot at a trip to Pasadena, but I won’t be at all let down if the season ends at different BCS Bowl (it should go without saying that an appearance in the National Title game would trump a victory in any other BCS Bowl). A BCS Bowl victory is the next step for our program. I think we can and will achieve that goal this season. Once the College Football Playoff starts, we can figure out what the new goal for the program will be, until then this is it.
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