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After a 2-2 start, including a double overtime loss to NC State on Saturday, ESPN analyst Paul Finebaum is ready to pull the plug on Clemson and head coach Dabo Swinney.
During an appearance on Wednesday’s edition of GetUp, Finebaum claimed that the run of six straight College Football Playoff appearances and two National Championships is over.
Finebaum said the dynasty is over and there might be some truth to that. The strength of Clemson has always been its coaching staff, which has largely stayed together during Swinney’s tenure. The biggest reason for that is the administration has supported Swinney and allowed him to pay his assistants top dollar. This was done to prevent his assistants from taking potential head coaching vacancies.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables has been long rumored to be a candidate for many head coaching vacancies, but he has stayed through the years. It’s easy to see why, as Venables is the highest paid assistant in college football with a salary of $2.4 million. Third on that list is offensive coordinator Tony Elliott. Elliott has been on many opposing teams’ head coach wish list, but has made a cool $2 million to coach Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence over the years.
However, the first crack in the armor occurred last offseason, when co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott took the head coaching gig at USF. Scott’s departure was the first of any major Tigers coach, and Finebaum believes that loss was more important than most people thought. Scott’s departure has left Elliott as the lone play caller, a new role for him. The offense has gone from 10th in the FBS last year, to 122nd this season, averaging just 295.5 yards per game and 21.8 points per game.
It’s not the same offense and the result is the first two losses in August or September since 2014. Clemson has virtually no shot to make the Playoff for the first time in seven years.
It’s no different in recruiting for Clemson, where the 2022 class is currently second in the ACC and 11th in the nation. That’s a slip compared to recent seasons and Florida State, who is 0-4 and in the middle of a rebuild, has now passed the Tigers. FSU has the second overall rated recruit in Travis Hunter and a top-10 class in the nation.
While it’s normal to overreact to what we see in August and September, Clemson’s 2-2 start is an outlier compared to the past decade. A deeper dive shows there might be more to it and that Finebaum’s words have credence.