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When all was said and done, North Carolina finished one play away from upsetting Clemson. North Carolina, the team that won seven games over the past three years, took the defending national champions to the brink. The Tigers held on, but questions arose. What’s wrong with the Clemson Tigers? It’s not like they lost a ton of talent everywhere. Something’s ailing them, and they need to get it fixed.
Clemson Tigers lack of intimidation
Dabo Swinney’s team knows how to win despite great expectations. Putting a target on their backs doesn’t scare this team. So why are they struggling after dominating their way to a national championship last year. The first thing is teams know they have nothing to lose when facing the champs. Take North Carolina for example.
Mack Brown’s injected life into the program, and they played their hearts out. At one point, wide receiver Dyami Brown signaled to quarterback Sam Howell to throw him the ball before the play even started.
BEFORE THE PLAY!
AGAINST THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!
Brown signaled for the ball against AJ Terrell, one of the Tigers best cornerbacks. That’s some Randy Moss type confidence against a team that was favored by 27 points. North Carolina didn’t care, and that’s a challenge the Tigers face going forward. Clemson’s not instilling much fear in teams, and that becomes a problem facing an underdog with nothing to lose. There’s trouble in paradise as the team finds new starters, but it’s not like they don’t have talent to do it.
Trevor Lawrence’s struggles
You could make the argument that Trevor Lawrence was the key to Clemson’s national championship last year. His play as a freshman elevated the offense to new heights not seen since Deshaun Watson. Now, he’s struggling (relatively). After throwing just four interceptions last season to his 30 touchdowns, he’s already thrown five passes to the other team to just eight touchdown passes.
North Carolina sat back and dared Clemson to run the ball against them, and still managed to get pressure on Lawrence. Although he didn’t appear rattled, the offense only produced 21 points. Questions about playcalling already surfaced, and there might be some merit to that argument given the amount of playmakers on the depth chart. One thing that must change is Lawrence’s ball security. He hasn’t thrown a pick in two games, but he’s also not dominating like many predicted either.
What does Clemson do?
Clemson played poorly and found a way to win the game. In the long run, this game showed why teams shouldn’t fear Clemson. That remains the biggest difference between Clemson and Alabama. We know there’s a distinct gap between the Clemson Tigers and the rest of the ACC, but those teams don’t care anymore. It’s a new year, and that means Clemson must find a new identity. They’re still favored to win every game going forward, but teams will take plenty away from this North Carolina game. It may not make a different now, but they’ll get exposed in the playoff by better competition. There’s still no need to panic, but things need to change if another championship is the goal.