Clemson saw their ACC and national title dreams hit a bump in the road Friday night at Syracuse, but the larger focus was not on the loss to the Orange but the status of quarterback Kelly Bryant. A week after being taken out of a game with an injured ankle, Bryant was once again removed from the game due to injury. This time it was a concussion from the turf in the Carrier Dome in the first half of Clemson’s road game at Syracuse.
On Monday, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Bryant has shown some positive sides in the concussion protocol, which should be encouraging for Clemson and Clemson fans hoping to see Bryant back on the field as soon as possible.
Clemson is off this week with a bye, which gives the Tigers a little extra time to get in better shape, regroup from the loss, and focus on the next objective. Clemson returns to action on Oct. 28 at home against Georgia Tech before a road trip to NC State in what looks now to be the key game in the ACC Atlantic Division. The Wolfpack are the last unbeaten team in the division and have already taken out Florida State and Louisville. A win against Clemson could potentially lock up up a spot in the ACC Championship Game for the first time in program history.
With time at their leisure before their next game, Clemson can play it extra safe with Bryant moving forward. The bye week could not have come at a better time for the defending national champions given the current circumstances.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is expected to be in Tuscaloosa on Saturday for Alabama’s home game against Arkansas. The Tigers coach is not adding fuel to the fire as a potential replacement for Nick Saban whenever the time comes for finding a new coach for the Crimson Tide. Instead, Swinney will be in attendance as Alabama pays tribute to the 1992 national championship team.
Swinney, an Alabama native, was a walk-on wide receiver at Alabama in 1989 and later earned a scholarship and was a member of Alabama’s 1992 national title team. Swinney will be able to attend because he will not have to coach a game on Saturday for the ACC frontrunners. Clemson will be playing on the road Friday night against Syracuse, leaving Swinney plenty of time to fly down to Tuscaloosa to meet up with his former teammates.
You can’t help but wonder how Swinney will be received by the masses considering Swinney just coached Clemson to a national championship victory over Alabama last season, but Swinney seems to be a well-liked coach just about everywhere, and Alabama fans are well aware of Swinney’s fondness and respect for Alabama after playing there and getting his coaching career started with the program.
But will Swinney be wearing his most recent championship ring around his old teammates and the Alabama faithful? He totally should.
Syracuse fans, did you think you might get a chance to play Clemson in the Dome this weekend without their starting quarterback, Kelly Bryant? Well, Dabo Swinney has some bad news for you.
Swinney said he expects Bryant to be ready to play on Friday night at Syracuse. That would be an encouraging tidbit considering Bryant had to leave Saturday’s game with an ankle injury. Clemson is playing it safe with their starting quarterback as he recovers from the injury, but Swinney suggested his plan is to have Bryant available for this week’s ACC road game up north.
“He came in a little sore but was actually moving around pretty good,” Swinney said, according to David Hale of ESPN.com. “I think he is going to be just fine. He’ll be limited today, but when we get going, I think he’ll practice. If he’s ready to play, he’s going to play. If not, we’ll play the next guy.”
Bryant left Saturday’s home game against Wake Forest with an injury that seemed to leave him a little gimpy. He did not return to the game and Clemson played the rest of the day with a few different backup options. On Saturday, Clemson gave both Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson some playing time, but Swinney did not suggest how he would go about the game if Bryant is unavailable.
Even if Bryant does have to miss this week’s game, the sentiment from Swinney seems to suggest Bryant will not be out of action for very long, and that would be key to Clemson and the program’s pursuit of another ACC title and berth in the College Football Playoff to defending their national championship reign. Clemson still has games to play against NC State and Florida State, so staying at full strength as much as possible is vital.
When you really think about it, a watch list for a college football award is nothing more than a way to keep public relations staffers in college football programs busy this summer. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it is nice to have a number of key players for the upcoming season highlighted whenever possible (unless you are a Big Ten team going to Big Ten media days). But a watch list is generally pretty pointles sin the long run for most awards. This is especially true for a watch list of college football coaches.
The Dodd Trophy watch list was released today with a list of 19 coaches from many of the top programs around the country. Yep, a watch list for head coaches. Silly, right? It really is the easiest watch list to put together.
The award watch list, compiled by the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, includes four coaches from the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, two coaches from the Big 12 and one from the American Athletic Conference. You know all of the names, like national championship coaches Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, and Dabo Swinney; household names like Jim Harbaugh, Mark Richt, Bill Snyder, and Chris Petersen; and conference championship coaches like David Shaw, James Franklin.
Some notable names not on the list? How about Jimbo Fisher of Florida State? Fisher has a playoff contender in Tallahassee and is the ACC favorite. He also has a national championship ring. Not having Fisher on a preseason watch list for top coaches seems like a bad oversight. Not having new Big 12 coaches Tom Herman (Texas) and Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma) also feels like a swing and a miss if pulling together a list of potential coach of the year candidates. If we are not going to just list all 130 head coaches in FBS, it seems silly to have such a weird collection of watch list candidates when Butch Jones is on the list.
Five coaches on the watch list are former winners of the Dodd Trophy; Snyder, Petersen, Swinney, Saban, and Paul Johnson. Paul Chryst, Ken Niumatalolo, and Petersen were finalists for the award last season as well.
2017 Dodd Trophy Watch List
- Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
- James Franklin, Penn State
- Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
- Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
- Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
- Clay Helton, USC
- Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
- Butch Jones, Tennessee
- Gus Malzahn, Auburn
- Jim McElwain, Florida
- Urban Meyer, Ohio State
- Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
- Chris Petersen, Washington
- Mark Richt, Miami
- Nick Saban, Alabama
- David Shaw, Stanford
- Bill Snyder, Kansas State
- Dabo Swinney, Clemson
- Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has had to claw his way up the ranks since taking over the Clemson coaching gig, but today he rests comfortably among the elites in college football. Swinney coached Clemson back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter against the previously unbeaten Alabama Crimson Tide to deliver Clemson’s first national championship since 1981.
Swinney has left no doubt he now belongs firmly in the conversation when discussing the top college football coaches in the country, although he was likely already there based off the last few years. Swinney is now the fifth active coach to own a national championship, joining his division rival Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and, of course, Alabama’s Nick Saban. As it just so happens, Swinney now owns head-to-head victories against the other four.
That’s a pretty remarkable feat, and has to be pretty rare. Saban has wins against Meyer, Swinney and Stoops, but has yet to face Fisher (that will be handled in the 2017 season opener in Atlanta). Meyer has wins against Saban and Stoops but is 0-2 against Swinney and has not faced Fisher. Stoops has wins against Saban but not against Swinney or Meyer and he has never faced Fisher. So yes, Swinney is currently sitting in exclusive company as the only head coach to own wins against all other active head coaches with a national title.
Swinney has been chipping away with a heavy hammer and chisel at how he has been perceived in recent years, but a national championship changes everything. Swinney has long since put behind the idea that Clemson could not win a big game, and now he has coached the Tigers to the biggest win possible. Getting to a championship game is no easy feat. Doing so two years in a row is even more difficult. Just to pull that off is remarkable in itself and speaks volumes about what Swinney is doing with the Clemson program. But to come from behind to win the national title in the fashion they did, against an Alabama defense that had shutdown opponents all season long, this had to be extra special for the Alabama graduate.
Welcome to college football’s elite Swinney. Make yourself comfortable, because you will be here for a while.