Deciding to hand over the long term job to the interim guy, as Clemson did, is always problematic. By definition, Interim Guy worked for the previous coach and thus was a part of the Big Time Failure Staff Oh No. Everything just kind of feels and smells the same unless Interim Guy manages to take a definitive step forward in a hurry, or at least drops some sick burns on his predecessor during a press conference. Dabo Swinney has yet to do either of those things, so it's not surprising that Clemson fans have a short fuse, even after an ACC championship game appearance.
After an impressive showing at Auburn in September, the Tigers lost three of their next five games, including last Saturday's debacle at Boston College. Sounds familiar.
The problem isn't the defense, which is allowing 4.7 yards per play in conference games, just as it did a year ago. They've held four of five opponents under 5.0 yards per play. (They limited Carolina to 3.9 and still lost that game.) Their last three opponents have been held under 17 points.
The problem lies with an offense that's gone off a cliff. Through five league games, Clemson ranks 11th in yards per play and 10th in total offense. Last season, they ranked 5th and 7th, respectively. The difference is more than a yard and a half per play, nearly 80 yards per game.
For whatever reason, it took the coaching staff a while to realize that Andre Ellington is awesome, way more awesome than Jamie Harper. Ellington is now sidelined with injury. And Kyle Parker has been terrible in conference play, again, for whatever reason. Perhaps the weapons he had around him last year made him that much better, but I doubt it.
Parker in ACC games ('09): 59.2 comp%, 7.3 yds/att, 15 TD, 9 INT, 133.62 rating
Parker in ACC games ('10): 51.0 comp%, 5.2 yds/att, 2 TD, 5 INT, 92.23 rating
I think we'll be in pretty good shape if we can keep Clemson's ground game at least somewhat contained. And they've struggled to run the football over the last month. But that's the thing about Clemson--no matter how big of a train wreck they are, they're always very talented because their recruiting is impervious to their on-field disappointments. Certainly they'll have the talent edge on Saturday. While they've struggled over the past decade to mold that talent into an efficient machine, it never seems to matter when they play us. (Except 2004, when we were all "here's a trillion mistakes, enjoy this win!") Since TOB arrived in Raleigh, Clemson has beaten NC State by an average score of 37-17.
Of course, a lot of things are different for TOB this year. Maybe we can add this to the list.