Dabo Swinney and Clemson did the unthinkable: They beat an SEC team! They won the Chick-fil-A bowl! They showed America and the world that they were legit! This Clemson team can take down anyone, any time, any place. If you thought otherwise you were just plain wrong.
Swinney and the Tigers already knew this of course. Swinney himself has been saying for months, years even, that Clemson can play with and beat anyone. So when they knocked off the big, bad LSU Tigers it couldn’t have come as a surprise to him, right? It was a great win and worthy of a stoic but forceful “I told you so!” from Dabo, right? Wrong. Dabo full on WWE and even threw in some tears for good measure. If this the celebration you get for winning the Chick-fil-A bowl I’m almost afraid to see what happens if the Tigers win a BCS bowl game. The ESPN sideline reporter will probably have to take out a restraining order prior to kick off.
I’m not trying to rain on Clemson’s parade. That was a heck of a win, and it was extremely big in terms of shedding some labels about Clemson football and the ACC. But it is still just one game, and it’s the Chick-fil-A Bowl, not the BCS National Championship. Winning the game was big, but it doesn’t mean you’ve arrived as a power broker in college football. It means you won the Chick-fil-A Bowl. When Utah beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl or when Boise State beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl it didn’t mean those two programs were suddenly on pair with those two programs.
Swinney’s hugs and tears didn’t really exude an air of confidence about his program. If Clemson is ready to take the step forward as national championship contender as Swinney says it is, he might want to start acting like he’s been there before. Acting like you just won the Super Bowl after an upset in the Chick-fil-A Bowl seems a bit over the top. It certainly isn’t something you’d expect from a truly elite team.