Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers entered the 2021 season, fully knowing that they would be forced to adjust to life after Trevor Lawrence. The program saw their star quarterback go No. 1 in the NFL Draft and turned the reins over to physically-gifted sophomore, D.J. Uiagalelei.
But, the start of a new era at Clemson got off to a rocky start on Saturday evening.
The No. 3 Tigers fell to No. 5 Georgia in a defensive struggle on Saturday in Bank of America Stadium. A 74-yard interception return for a touchdown by Bulldogs defensive back Christopher Smith proved to be the difference in the 10-3 victory for Kirby Smart’s program.
The Georgia defense made life difficult for Uiagalelei and the Clemson offensive line all night long. Constant pressure from the Bulldogs experienced and talented defensive front resulted in the Tigers quarterback getting sacked seven times. He was forced to make throws under duress throughout the game, with his worst mistake coming on the pick-six.
The two teams traded field goals in the second half, but it was too little, too late for Clemson to mount a comeback. The Tigers ended the game with just two rushing yards and 180 yards of total offense, which was indicative of how difficult it was to move the ball against the swarming Georgia defense.
The match-up between the two top five programs was expected to be a battle, but few fans predicted Swinney’s Clemson program to get completely shut down. With consecutive losses, dating back to last season’s exit in the College Football Playoff, the Tigers have attracted their fair share of skeptics around the college football world.
I bet on Clemson… for whatever reason I just couldn’t bet against Dabo with the Drippppp..
They haven’t been able to do a damn thing.. pic.twitter.com/S15rfairVX
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) September 5, 2021
I will hear no more talk of Clemson playing in the College Football Playoff this season. None.
— RJ Young (@RJ_Young) September 5, 2021
— Mandy Edwards (@memktgservices) September 5, 2021
Dabo swinney going to ncaa headquarters to Propose a 12 team playoff this year after seeing dj uiagalelei without Trevor Lawrence on campus pic.twitter.com/IdGvsNFu8G
— jw (@iam_johnw2) September 5, 2021
Clemson 0-1 pic.twitter.com/BITIDuuzTt
— Barstool OSU (@BarstoolOSU) September 5, 2021
well folks, dabo *did* threaten to quit if players started getting paid
— Matt Brown (@MattBrownEP) September 5, 2021
Although Swinney and the team’s offensive line is deserving of some criticism, Clemson should be just fine moving forward. The Tigers scheduled their most difficult game first, but will now get a chance to play through a relativity easy ACC schedule. That should give Swinney a chance to fix issues and give Uiagalelei a chance to build confidence before playing another major opponent.
Although Clemson should still feel good about their chances at a CFP berth, the program won’t have much leeway. Due to their subpar strength of schedule, the Tigers will likely need to win out to feel confident about earning a spot in the postseason tournament.
Clemson will look to get back on track next Saturday at home against South Carolina State.