CLEMSON – Ashes to ashes, dust to “Clemsoning.”
The almost boringly consistent Tigers rolled to a 55-31 Atlantic Coast Conference victory over Georgia Tech on Thursday night at Death Valley. They solidified their No. 8 ranking, and moved closer to an at-large Orange Bowl bid.
Loudly acknowledging the underrated predictability of their favorite team, Clemson students late in the game sent a mean-spirited chant into the chilly air.
“Jes-se Pal-mer!” they nagged the ESPN color analyst, formerly a star on “The Bachelor” and a quarterback for Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators.
“Jes-se Pal-mer!” they shouted.
The derogatory term was a misrepresentation of recent history in the first place. But thanks to the drumbeat of Palmer, a few other analysts and rival fans, Clemsoning has gone from the broadcast booth to the Urban Dictionary: “The act of delivering an inexplicably disappointing performance, usually within the context of a college football season.”
That is, a heavily favored team losing. As Clemson used to do against Wake Forest or Duke.
Or slipping up against an inferior foe and blowing some kind of golden opportunity.
Steady Clemson is 9-1 this season, 20-3 over the last two years with losses only to Florida State (twice) and South Carolina.
That’s not Clemsoning.
“To me ‘Clemsoning’ is establishing a consistent, winning program,” quarterback Tajh Boyd said. “I never listened to any of that other stuff.”
Not since 2009
The Tigers took it to Georgia Tech from the first snap – a 12-yard Roderick McDowell run, through Martavis Bryant’s career-best receiving game (176 yards) and more flash from Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins.
“We’ve prepared well for every game we’ve played,” defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. “If we keep doing that, we’ll be fine.”
Not bad for a team hampered by a pair of fundamental flaws: Clemson doesn’t run the ball well for a top 10 team, and doesn’t stop the run well enough.
“We’ve been one of the top five most consistent programs in the country, and that’s a credit to Coach (Dabo) Swinney, Coach (Chad) Morris and Coach (Brent) Venables,” Boyd said, crediting Clemson’s head coach and highly-paid coordinators. “I don’t think you can name five programs more consistent than we have been the last two years.”
Clemson sort of did some Clemsoning in 2011. The Tigers had a promising 8-0 start, only to lose at Georgia Tech (31-17) and later at N.C. State (37-13).
But the Tigers weren’t favored by double-digits in either of those games. The last authentic example of you-know-what came early in 2009, a 24-21 loss at Maryland when Clemson was favored by 12 points. The Tigers went on to play in their first ACC Championship Game.
Clemsoning, by any other name, is still as unsweet.
It happens to some of the best programs.
Gamecocking: Stumbling at Tennessee last month. It might not cost South Carolina an SEC East title the way a home loss to Auburn did in 2011, but Knoxville remains on the potential haunt list.
Stanfording: Blowing a sweet shot at this season’s BCS Championship Game with a loss to the Utah Utes, presently 1-5 in the Pac-12.
Seminoling: See Florida State’s loss at N.C. State last season.
Yes, three verbs no more deserving than another.
Of course, to stand accused of Clemsoning or whatever, a program first must position itself. Morris smiled when he was asked about the Palmer chant.
“We’re 9-1 right now, that’s all we are,” he said. “Our goal is just the month of November, nothing else.”
Swinney continually preaches playing each week against a “nameless, faceless opponent.” He borrowed that approach from former Clemson defensive ordinator Kevin Steele, who got it from Nick Saban ring a stint at Alabama.
Steele, by the way, is back at Alabama working as director of player personnel. Wonder if he has any Saban advice for Clemson on how to win league and state titles.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff