But Clemson lost two of their final three games in 2022 and showed the clearest signs yet their stranglehold on the conference is loosening with a 28-7 loss at Duke on Monday night to open the 2023 season.
Clemson continued last year’s late downward trend in Week 1, while now-No. 4 Florida State followed up a 10-3 season by shellacking LSU 45-24.
On ESPN’s “Get Up” on Tuesday morning, College Football insider Paul Finebaum said what seems clear to all who watched this weekend.
“Dabo’s dynasty is done.”
Whether its college football or the NFL, the aftermath of Week 1 can produces some massive overreactions, and while that could be the case regarding Clemson, there is plenty more than just an ugly score that suggest serious problems for the Tigers.
The transfer portal has changed they way rosters are constructed and created an ability for teams to improve immediately. Deion Sanders stripped the Colorado roster that went 1-11 in 2022. They traveled to national runner-up TCU in Week 1 and promptly won.
Swinney, meanwhile, brought in just one player via the portal: former Arizona State quarterback Paul Tyson. The coach decided to roll with Cade Klubnik as QB1.
Despite the limited incoming transfers, Clemson lost 12 players to the portal per Athalonsports.com. While Swinney is trying to get production out of prospects right away, other staffs across the country are benefitting from adding players who come in ready to produce.
Dabo is also dealing with coordinator turnover for the first time in his run of dominance.
During their run to six straight ACC titles, Clemson had the benefit of stability not just at head coach, but offensive and defensive coordinator as well. But in December 2021 DC Brett Venables vacated the position he’d held since 2012 to become the head man at Oklahoma.
Days later, OC Tony Elliott left to take the head-coaching job at Virginia.
Wes Goodwin is back for his second year in relief of Venables, and the defense in his first year was generally up to the standard set by his predecessor, finishing in the top 15 in yards allowed per carry, sacks and tackles for loss while allowing 20.9 points per game.
The offense is a different story.
Brandon Streeter was promoted to offensive coordinator after years as an assistant for Swinney. While the numbers were decent, Streeter failed to get nearly what was expected out of quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei and was fired after the season.
In game one with Garrett Riley as offensive coordinator and first-year starter Klubnik, the Clemson offense looked hapless. Two missed field goals, two red-zone fumbles and a late interception left Clemson with just seven points on the board in Durham.
Yes, it is early.
But the rapidly changing landscape of the sport combined with the first real internal turmoil in the CFP era are a dangerous two-headed monster that may just bring down a pillar of the coaching world.