Paper Tigers

c01-sline-logo-30_001-4_32006 Ohio State.  2012 Notre Dame.  2014 Florida State.  What do those teams have in common?  They all went undefeated and were granted a chance to play for the national title.  In each instance the zero in the loss column was more important than any sort of evaluation of how good the team actually was.  In all three seasons, the undefeated (and untested) teams were obliterated in the post season.  Get ready to add another name to that list: 2015 Clemson.

Usually teams like this don’t make it to the national championship.  Most years they lose a game, either by an upset or by a better team.  But sometimes they make it through.  Sometimes the schedule isn’t hard enough and doesn’t provide enough tests and we get an undefeated team that is not elite.

Why aren’t more people talking about the lack of quality on Clemson’s schedule?  Why are the Tigers getting a pass?

There are some teams whose schedule is so weak they never get a shot at the Playoff.  Take a look at a team like Temple. The Owls lost to Notre Dame two weeks ago, but even if they had won that game, they weren’t going to the Playoff.  If Temple had gone undefeated, they might have earned a berth in one of the other bowls chosen by the Committee, but they were never going to sniff the Top Four.  And they shouldn’t.  Their schedule wasn’t hard enough to make them deserving.

In fact, on closer inspection Temple’s schedule is remarkably similar to Clemson’s.  Both teams played Notre Dame at home, and both play a Power Five school out of conference (Penn State for Temple, South Carolina for Clemson).  In conference both schools play one ranked team (Memphis and Florida State).  In a conference championship game each might draw a third ranked team, probably North Carolina and Houston.  Actually Temple seems to have the harder schedule, and they were never in consideration.  Clemson gets no questions.

Being undefeated is not enough to be deserving.  With only 12 games, we don’t know enough about the team.  In almost any other sport there are enough games to know that being undefeated actually means something.  Being undefeated in basketball puts you among the elite teams of all time.  Never do you see an undefeated team bow out of March Madness in a first round blow out.  We see it in college football.  Look at those teams listed above.  It happened to them, and Clemson is setting up to do it again.

2000px-Clemson_University_Tiger_Paw_logo.svgClemson has made their reputation on beating weak ACC teams.  They are the big fish in their small pond.  Their proponents point to the Notre Dame win as proof of their merit.  They did stop a Notre Dame two point conversion at home in a monsoon.  That game should be more reason to doubt them than to validate them.  Would it have been different if Notre Dame wasn’t playing their back up quarterback?  What about the weather aided turnovers; anyone remember those?  This is the type of game we will look back on and say “of course, we should have known.”

There are other red flags on Clemson’s resume too.  We’ll look back at the NC State game, where the Tigers gave up 41 points and remember that we should have known better.  41 points is the most NC State has scored in an ACC game this season.  It’s more points than they’ve scored against anyone other than South Alabama and Troy.  That’s not good company for the Tigers.

Florida State’s Dalvin Cook nearly rushed for 200 yards on Saturday.  Good defenses don’t give up 194 yards to anyone.  75 of those yards came on one play, so without that, the defense was good, right?  No, without that one run, Cook rushed 20 times for 119 yards, almost 6 yards an attempt.

But isn’t Clemson is led by their offense?  Yes, and you can use that if you want to believe Clemson is elite.  Their offense isn’t bad, but it isn’t part of a complete, number one team.  The Tiger offense is built to put up big points against bad teams and to create avalanches when things get out of control.  That’s the beauty of the offense, once it gets going, it piles up the points.  But it doesn’t always get going.  23 points against Florida State, 24 against Notre Dame and 20 against Louisville will be what we look back on.  When the Tigers get to the college football playoff don’t expect them to put up more than 20 points.  What has the offense accomplished against a good defense that would make us think otherwise?

Unfortunately for Clemson they won’t get to find out whether they are actually good or if they are just ACC good.  They’ll beat Syracuse, Charleston Southern Wake Forest and the last place team in the SEC East, South Carolina.  Then they’ll beat a UNC team whose resume is just as thin as their own.  They’ll be feeling good; Dabo will be dancing, and they’ll be in the playoff.  They’ll add their name to the list of pretenders who got to play for a national championship, their spot having been secured by their schedule rather than their merit.  And when they are blown out, we will look back at their entire season and say, “of course, we should have known, these are just paper tigers”

About Billy Koehler

Billy Koehler is the founder of and a contributing writer at He has been covering college football since 2006. You can follow him on twitter @billykoehler.
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42 Responses to Paper Tigers

  1. Anonymous says:

    You don’t even have your facts remotely close to correct. Strength of schedule for Clemson is #9 currently. Out of all of the top 25 teams, a 6% chance would be given to them to complete Clemson’s schedule undefeated. You don’t even know Clemson’s remaining three opponents. So get your facts right before your trash talking biased opinion goes live.But, Hey, Thanks for the motivation – Sincerely, Clemson

    Liked by 1 person

  2. tigerman78 says:

    “Why aren’t more people talking about the lack of quality on Clemson’s schedule? Why are the Tigers getting a pass?” Here…we’ll give you the reasons why…most are smart and do their research, when they aren’t sponsored by the SEC, pushing an agenda while laying off 350 people:

    Clemson SOS: #9 per Teamrankings

    Clemson SOS #19 (per ESPN): (FYI, Clemson was #18 last week with LSU at #28…due to Bama’s win and Clemson beating Fl State, obviously LSU’s SOS moved up, Clemson’s moved down..but LSU is listed as #17, only 2 positions from Clemson. Want to question their SOS while you are at it??)

    Team Efficiency: Clemson #1 (#9 TE Offense, #2 TE Defense (Bama only team leading them)

    Total Defense: Clemson #5

    Total Offense: Clemson #20

    Winning Percentage: Clemson #1


  3. Anonymous says:

    Man, they’ll give just any moron with a computer a blog these days, huh?

    Just curious, we’re implicitly arguing Alabama has the harder schedule right? ‘Cause that SEC East–whoo–gangbusters… And good thing Memphis, Toledo, Texas Tech, and Jacksonville State aren’t in the SEC West.


  4. Allen says:

    You’re a fraud and an absolute lunatic. You display very little FACTUAL or STATISTICAL information about our strength of schedule. You ignore how many points we put up against top 5 defenses. Oh, and ND gave up over 200 yards to out RB and QB. I guess by your butt-hurt logic ND isn’t very good either. We played in the same conditions they did and FORCED their turnovers. Get your head out of your @$$ and get a real job for a column that requires you to write the truth. If you think you know what’s best for the playoff, why aren’t you on the committee? Probably because you are not quite smart enough to deserve to be there. But hey! Thanks for the bulletin boards material. Later SCHMUCK!


    • Rick says:

      LMAO top 5 defenses????? Where were those? NC State??? Who before Clemson played noone with offense ranked in the top 40 let alone had enough of a pulse to really challenge them. Louisville (68th), Va Tech (86th), Old Dominion(88th), Troy (96th), Eastern Ky (FCS), South ALabama (80th) and Wake(112th).. Thats the total offense rankings for teams NC State played prior to Clemson. Hell Memphis and Houston are ranked higher than any ACC team in terms of total offense and they are both AAC teams. And lets look at ND shall we LOL.. Texas (101st), Virginia (90th), GA Tech (62nd) and UMass (59th). So the two defenses you claim to hang your hat on played noone in the top 40 in terms of total offense before they played Clemson. Also you signature win in truth is App State who is ranked 26th on total offense and 21st in total D. But with a schedule like Howard, Old Dominion, Wyoming, GA State, LA-Monroe, Ga Southern, Troy and Arkansas St. and the only team with a offense ranked in the top 40 besides Clemson is Ga Southern at 35th. SO its not just delusion that the person who wrote this. Fact is even Clemson hasn’t really played a real D yet and probably won’t till it makes it to the playoff.


      • Tigerman1 says:

        What defense is in the playpff lol. Dare I say Alabama? Ohio State? Notre Dame who we’ve already beat? Alabama is the only real threat there. Should I dare ask about Ohio States strength of schedule? That’s what I thought. My guess is you’re a butt hurt big10 or big12 fan or maybe even the pac12 which is the biggest joke of them all. The only good defense is Alabama who smuggled against the spread. Should I mention Ole Miss who isn’t looking so hot anymore. Actually pay some attention before you make conclusions. Nothing you just said was fact based.


      • tigerman78 says:

        You forgot Boston Cpllege coincidentally…the team that still has the #1 total defense in the nation… Currently…NC State #9, Louisville #15, Fl State T@ #32, ND T@ #43. And you are an idiot to try to discount the win against #4 ND and #16 Fl State…only a Gamecock hater would think that dumb.


      • tigerman78 says:

        Guess you also didn’t notice that the one team that beat Alabama this year, just so happens to be manned by DeShaun Watson’s ex-backup, Chad Kelly…so what does that tell you about how Alabama plays against a QB that runs a spread offense and was initially part of Clemson’s team?? Just a thought you might want to consider…an ex-Clemson QB that sat behind Watson in the depth chart has already beat Alabama this year….


      • Anonymous says:

        Noone isn’t a word


  5. Where were those “weather aided turnovers” for Notre Dame – were they the only team playing in the rain that day? Those turnovers were caused by a dominant Clemson defense. Regarding FSU, check the game stats for first downs, rushing and pass yards, and so on. Clemson clearly won that game and the double-digit edge put an exclamation on it. Cook broke two long runs very early. Good for him – he is great. And then our D adjusted and stopped him cold! Check his second half stats.

    Clemson is not getting a pass. The writers, pollsters, and most of the media are seeing a great team with their own eyes and they recognize Clemson as an elite team.


  6. CU2013 says:

    Just for curiosity… who among the playoff contenders looks like they are capable of turning this Clemson team into “paper tigers.” The way I see it, every team in consideration has flaws. The teams that should be taken into consideration are those who win despite their flaws. Clemson has not played a “perfect” game yet, but the best part about this Clemson team is they have yet to play their best football of the season and despite this, they are undefeated.

    If you need a recent history lesson, Clemson does not fold as of late when playing on the national stage and against ranked opponents. Also, Clemson is now on a 3 game bowl winning streak versus teams I would assume you think are much more worthy of playoff consideration (LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma). All of these Clemson wins were on the shoulders of teams that were not as good as this year’s team.

    For the sake of not filling your comment box with a “homer” defense of Clemson, I will end this rant by saying that your assertion of Clemson’s weak schedule is wholly devoid of logic as all of the playoff contenders’ schedules can have holes poked in them. In fact, I would love to see you prop a playoff team based on their strength of schedule without having to face the reality that no team in CFB plays the true “gauntlet” schedule that media pundits promote.


  7. Starman says:

    So an EPIC 2 pt conversion stop in a monsoon that BOTH teams played in is MORE reason to doubt Clemson?? What upside down universe do you live in? Obfuscating facts or just outright lying is not a way to go through life my friend. .


  8. Anonymous says:

    I am just glad that it was 70 degrees and sunny when Clemson had the ball and a monsoon when ND had the ball.


  9. tigerman78 says:

    “Good defenses don’t give up 194 yards to anybody”
    ^LSU vs Florida: Florida gave up 221 yards to FSU (the other top RB in the Nation besides Cook)

    And for the record, good defenses adjust, right? Bad ones don’t or can’t. Let’s see if you noticed how GOOD Clemson’s defense adjusted to Cook…Here’s the REAL stats, not the flubbed ones that only look at the final total:

    Dalvin Cook has 128 of his yards in the first quarter (plays of 75, 36, -3, 2, and 18)…29 in the second qtr (plays of 9, 5, 7, 1, 4, 3)…starting to see Clemson’s D adjusting already?? So 157 of his game 180 yards in the first half….majority only in the first quarter, then he starts getting shut down. Now second half. 3rd quarter, Cook runs for 26 yards total (runs of 17, 1, 8, 0, 0, 0). 4th quarter Dalvin Cool runs for 11 yards (runs of 11, 0, 0). SO 184 yards – 4 in losses through the game, but his stars was 128, 29, 26, 11…and that doesn’t sound like a good D that just gave up a few minor big plays (1 being a 75 yrd TD)?? Did they do that all game??


  10. Jim says:

    So, a U of Georgia grad who posts his college days pictures on his web site is writing an article about Clemson. What an sec homer he is. Pitiful


  11. Joey Tiger says:

    Most unprofessional article I’ve probably ever read.


  12. Bystander in Raleigh says:

    Well! Lot of hate being spewed here in the comments. Many non-sequiturs. But, ah, it’s Clemson sidewalk alumni. Of course, when the inevitable happens we will look back and say “of course, we should have known”.


    • tigerman78 says:

      Guess you missed the part about Clemson not losing to an unranked team since 2013, and a total of 53 teams thus far are out there that have done that “inevitable” since the last time Clemson did…and oh look, what’s left on Clemson’s schedule…unranked teams?? So what team exactly is going to do it, pray tell you?


      • BCapell says:

        What does that have to do with anything. The guy says CU’s schedule is cake and you are backing that up with your knee jerk response.


  13. Anonymous says:

    The facts are do not say anything but how great Clemson is no matter if they or good are completely stink or some people get crazy has been that way for years that is the fan base for Clemson great place to go to a game if you are a Clemson fan if not stay the he– away


  14. Anonymous says:

    2015 run to Final Four loss by UK was proceeded by undefeated season during regular season!


  15. TJ says:

    Please let us know the WEAK teams Alabama plays and then you claim how tough of a schedule they have. The Sec is not all that.


  16. Anonymous says:

    FSU also played virtually the same schedule, a few years ago, and pretended their way into winning it all. Mighty Bama has also lost to a three loss Ole Miss team, who in turn lost to a Memphis team, who in turn lost to a mighty Navy team. Why should they even be in the top 4 going by your thinking? Take off your garnet colored glasses for just a minute, and go back in time with me a minute. Do you remember when your mighty dirt peckers were just about ready to attain the #1 ranking decades ago? They lost to a great Navy team. Didn’t hear no dirt peckers complaining about polls then. Get a life, and how about writing about your team. There’s a bigger story. Well, maybe not!


  17. Anonymous says:

    billy koehler looks like he likes little boys


  18. Anonymous says:

    You have a smile like the Joker from suicide squad.


  19. Anonymous says:

    Alabama lost to a reject Clemson QB at home and they are #2? That is a joke.
    How many SEC teams does Clemson have to defeat before idiots like this wake up.


  20. Anonymous says:

    Hey, my cousin also graduated from south carolina. Now he is headed to middle school.


  21. This Guy says:

    Did you pay for the rights to include the official CFB logo in your amatuer blog (making it appear legit)? How about Clemson’s logo? I smell a lawsuit.

    Anyways…. did you Bama had to come back from a huge decifit vs Clemson’s would be back-up QB, at home, after half their fans left the stadium, only to make appear like a close defeat?

    Did you know ND is #4 in the country? How about the fact that Clemson went up 21-3, affording themselves the opportunity for conservative play-calling (in a hurricane), which let ND back in the game?

    You certainly must not have watched or heard every talking head in America swear up and down their lives that because ND has arguably the best and most physical O&D lines in CFB, that Clemson wouldn’t be able to keep it close in the wet weather.conditions. I’m almost certain you watched Clemson physically dominate ND in the trenches on both sides of the ball the entire night, right?

    Did you know ND is really balanced, and can run and pass the football at a vry high level, causing the D to account for more than the run?

    LSU is a fraud. They cannot pass the ball on good Defenses. Don’t let their QBs okay numbers vs garb team fool you. Bama certainly wasn’t fooled. LSU is one dimensional making them very easy for good D’s to shut down, although really bad teams like Cuse can even shut down LSU until depth and fatigue become a factor.

    Kizer’s QBR since becoming the ND starter? Yeah, that’s on par with A. Luck, Mariotta and Winston’s QBR to kick off their careers in as any games.

    Don’t get me wrong though, he’s no Chad Kelly.

    FSU will embarrass UF this year and then UF will spread bama out like ole miss, ou, and tOSU did…. and give the tide fits all night before knocking them out of playoff contention.

    FSU and Bama’s recruiting for the past 5 years have been significantly better than #3. And Clemson welcomed them into DV in underdog, disrepected, angry, fired up and confident in not having lost to clemson in 3 yrs – mode. Clemson’s first regular season game as #1. No pressure at all. FSU nothing to lose and a heisman candisate at RB and more 5 star recruits on the bench than we had in Orange uniforms. Took a punch to the gut early. Had 1st half worsts in every statistical category. Had a successful fake punt negated. Spiked the ball on 3rd down. DW missing 4 open and easy throws and still showed the resiliency and champion-esque intangibles to make the right adjustmwnts, come together, and atart making plays in the 2nd half…. and won the game. In front of the entire country praying on our downfall as they watched it unfold.

    Most battled tested team in the country, and ready to victimize whomever it is they decide should be on the field with us. Bama, I don’t think, deserves to. Not after getting blown out to a 3 loss Ole Miss and a win over a WAY over-rated 1 dimensional LSU team. Too many more derserving undefeated teams, and teams that have played against and beaten LEGIT good teams.


  22. Anonymous says:

    This writer is just a butt hurt south carolina fan who pulls for an awful team so he tries to write some stuff that makes no sense to make himself feel better. And he looks like a creeper.


  23. buck says:

    – Start blog
    – Hint that Clemson maybe isn’t as good as everybody thinks they are
    – Watch morons pour in to defend Clemson
    – See clicks go through roof
    – Count money

    Dammit Billy, genius. Pure genius.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Eric says:

    Mr. Billy here is a Gamecock. Went to USC and likely never played a down of football in his life.


  25. Buy&Hold says:

    If Clemson is indeed #1 why even comment on this article. Their play over the next 4 games will speak for itself.


  26. spacewrangler says:

    Gotta be coincidental that the succeeding entry (after this garbage) to your blog is titled “Manufacturing Controversy”.


  27. CJ says:

    If you are going to speak of BC defensive prowess, It would remiss to not mention that Boston College is dead last in college football in total offense. 127th.


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