One of the many things you have to admire about the Clemson football program is how every single player on the roster seems to be bought in. In a year in which we've seen so many players opt-out, Clemson's two big stars Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne, remain. Hell, Etienne could have left for the NFL Draft after last season and been an early-round pick. The fact he came back at all was somewhat remarkable, but not entirely out of character with what we see Clemson players do. Of course, we already know Lawrence will not be following that script.
Still, after watching the first real-ish weekend of the college football season, I think Clemson should consider opting out of the regular season and just skipping ahead to the College Football Playoff. It's going to be there, so it might as well save everybody some time and prepare itself for the real competition to come.
I know it's hard to avoid overreactions to the first week of any college football season, but I'm confident I am not overreacting here. Even with the addition of Notre Dame, the ACC didn't look any different from the last few years. And neither did Clemson.
It was a sloppy Saturday all over the country, which was expected to be the case. Teams had their entire offseasons disrupted by the pandemic, and preparation for the 2020 season was unlike anything that had come before it. You knew that teams playing their first game of the season weren't likely to look that sharp.
But then Clemson showed up and looked just like Clemson always looks: dominant. Lawrence barely broke a sweat as he threw for 351 yards and accounted for three touchdowns (one passing, two rushing). Etienne did that thing where he's ridiculously efficient, finishing with 149 total yards on only 20 touches (7.45 yards per). The defense unleashed some new monsters as freshman Myles Murphy led the team in tackles with seven and had two sacks. Meanwhile, Bryan Bresee -- one of the top recruits in the 2020 class -- picked up a sack on his first defensive possession as a college player.
The final nail in the coffin was B.T. Potter. We'd spent the entire morning and afternoon watching special teams units struggle all across the country, and then Potter stepped in and drilled all three of his attempts for the Tigers. One of them was a 52-yarder that might have been good from 60 and split the uprights.
While placekickers across the country are converting at a 63.2% rate, Clemson's got a guy making kicks some NFL kickers can't.
And then there's the rest of the ACC. No offense to Notre Dame, but while it might just be the second-best team in the ACC this year, nothing I saw from its 27-13 win over Duke made me believe it's a team that could seriously compete with Clemson. The same can be said about either of the ACC's other impressive teams on Saturday: Louisville and North Carolina.
The ACC is a race to be beaten by Clemson in the ACC title game.
Childhood Story of the Week
I grew up in Chicago during a time when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were international icons. Like many kids in Chicago and around the world, I idolized Jordan. Still, I never had a pair of Air Jordans and desperately wanted one. I always asked my mother (or Santa) for a pair, but never got them. While I had more than plenty of others, my family was never in a position where it could afford to spend that much on something so frivolous as a pair of shoes.
But then one year, a pair came out that I absolutely had to have: the Jordan Concord 11s. So I begged my mother harder than ever before. When she rebuffed me, I worked on my dad. If I could convince him, maybe he could convince my mother.
It didn't work, but there was a brief moment in time when I thought it did.
One day, my mom came home with a pair of shoes for me. She knew how badly I wanted the Concords, but she also knew she couldn't spend $125 on a pair of shoes for her adolescent son. So she compromised. She went to a Payless and bought me a pair of some knockoff brand shoes that looked like the Concords.
"Nobody will know the difference," she told me as I opened the box.
Bless her heart, because she probably thought she was right. But she didn't know kids my age anymore. They all knew the difference.
Maybe when they first saw me in the hallways from 100 feet away, they thought they were the Concords, but once they got up close, they knew the shoes weren't the real thing -- just a facsimile.
Anyway, I've thought about that story a lot in the last couple of weeks while watching college football.
Breakout Star of the Week
One of the silver linings of the way the 2020 season is shaking out is that it will offer exposure to a lot of players and teams that wouldn't ordinarily receive it. For instance, there's Arkansas State receiver Jonathan Adams.
Through two games -- both broadcast on major networks, including one in primetime -- Adams has caught 14 passes for 163 yards with three touchdowns. He's been so remarkable that some of his best catches were deemed too good to count.
OK, maybe that's not why that one didn't stand, but still, that's an idea of what Adams is doing.
What's made Adams' story all the more remarkable is that he was not a highly rated recruit out of high school. A glance at his 247 recruiting profile shows that Adams was a two-star athlete out of Jonesboro, Arkansas. The only scholarship offer he had was from Arkansas State ... in Jonesboro, Arkansas. There was some interest from Arkansas but never enough for an offer.
It's a nice reminder that players aren't finished products out of high school and that given a chance to shine, some will always take it and run with it. Or, in this case, catch it. It's not crazy to think that Adams is playing his way to an NFL career right now.
Familiar Feeling of the Week
Isn't it fun when you get yourself hyped up about a team possibly breaking through in a new season, and that hype is thoroughly washed away by end of that team's first game?
Hello, Florida State! I had spent most of the offseason trying to temper expectations for the Seminoles in 2020. While Kentucky's Mark Stoops was my first choice for the school, I thought getting Mike Norvell from Memphis was a great hire. I still do. It's just, at the time, I knew that it wasn't going to be an easy fix.
But then the last few weeks happened, and I suddenly found myself in the "hey, don't be surprised if Florida State turns out to be the third best team in the ACC this year" lane of the Hyperbole Highway.
Well, it turns out my two biggest concerns about Florida State that I conveniently decided to ignore in recent weeks -- QB play and the offensive line -- are definitely still concerns. Concerns that can't be overcome by hope and optimism alone.
And all it took was a 16-13 loss to a Georgia Tech team that went 2-6 in the ACC last year while being outscored by an average of 15.4 points per game to remind me. Thanks for a valuable lesson, Noles.
Punt Return of the Week
Cognitive Dissonance of the Week
Am I the only one who couldn't help but crack a smile on Saturday when news began to leak that the Big Ten was going to have a revote on whether or not to reconsider postponing its season? Not because I was excited about the idea of the Big Ten playing this fall -- I am! -- but because of the timing of the news.
We had three of next week's biggest games postponed on Saturday due to COVID-19 cases and contact tracing. We saw Georgia Southern announce shortly before its game that it would be without 33 players for reasons it did not share. Although few were watching because the game was on pay-per-view, Oklahoma beat writers reported that there were possibly 20 players missing on the Sooners Saturday night.
And while all of this is happening, the Big Ten has decided that maybe its time to reconsider the decision it abruptly made a month ago.
Maybe it will, and maybe it won't. Perhaps it's already decided as you read this. It's just, as badly as I want it to happen, I don't know what's genuinely changed in the last month to cause the conference to change its mind. And I'm not sure why seeing the conferences that are playing have to readjust on the fly continually makes the decision any more appealing.
But, you know, fingers crossed!
Celebration of the Week
Coastal Carolina beat Kansas in the final game of the weekend on Saturday night. It's the second-straight season the Chanticleers have gone to Lawrence and beaten the Jayhawks. I'm starting to think that Kansas should reconsider scheduling Coastal Carolina. It definitely shouldn't move the game to a 9 p.m. local kickoff when it's the only game going on and every college football fan desperate to watch more college football can then watch Kansas lose at home to Coastal Carolina.
Prediction of the Week
Louisiana coach Billy Napier was already on pace to become a hot name in the coaching carousel this offseason, and the Ragin' Cajuns' coach only added to his CV when his team beat Iowa State 31-14 in Ames on Saturday. The Cajuns look like they'll be competing for a Sun Belt title again in 2020, but while that's what Napier is focused on, I'm already trying to figure out where he'll be coaching next year.
It's hard to know what the coaching market will look like this offseason. Will coaches on the hot seat already get a bit of a free pass due to the circumstances? How might a lack of normal revenue affect the ability to buy coaches out of their contracts? I'm not sure, but here's what I do know.
If South Carolina has a disappointing season and Will Muschamp is fired, it will be Billy Napier replacing him. It makes too much sense not to be. Napier was born in Georgia but played his college ball at Furman in Greenville, South Carolina. After his playing days, he began his coaching career as a grad assistant at Clemson before becoming QB coach at South Carolina State. Then it was back to Clemson for five years, the first three of which were as an assistant alongside Dabo Swinney, and then as an assistant under Swinney. Since leaving Clemson in 2011, Napier has spent six seasons working for Nick Saban at Alabama.
If the South Carolina job comes open, I don't see how it doesn't go to Napier.
Pregame Ritual of the Week
Well, that's certainly one way to get yourself ready. You do you, Peter Agabe. You do you.
Quote of the Week
"In our running game, we have the outside zone and inside zone. And it's kind of like making bread. You just have to start caressing it a little bit. Rubbing it here, rubbing it there. Put it in there, let it rise, and that's the beauty of it. We never got impatient with it. We just had that bread, kind of rubbed it a little bit here and there, and it rose right to the top."
Mmmm, warm, delicious outside zone fresh from the oven.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
Until the next Monday After!