Paul Finebaum believes Dabo Swinney's luster has 'worn off' at Clemson
ESPN college football analyst Paul Finebaum did not hold back his criticism of Dabo Swinney after the Clemson Tigers lost in astonishing, 27-21, overtime fashion to the N.C. State Wolfpack on Saturday — in fact, he believes that the most recent loss should end Clemson’s mini-dynasty.
“The luster [has] worn off,” Finebaum said Monday on McElroy and Cubelic in the Morning. “I think it’s going to be fascinating to see what happens as a result. Clemson was like a comet seven or eight years ago. … I think two or three years from now, we’re going to see this moment being an inflection point, being somewhat of the end of what has been a mini-dynasty at Clemson.”
With the loss, Swinney and Clemson picked up their second loss in just four games, and fell to No. 25 in the AP Top-25 poll. With the demotion in the polls, Clemson’s 97-week streak in the AP top-25 — which was tied with Alabama for the longest current run in college football and the second-longest in the history of the AP poll (behind just Miami’s 137 in the 1980s) — was snapped.
“I don’t think Clemson will fall off overnight,” Finebaum said. “But watch the recruiting. If you’re one of those can’t-miss five-stars, and you have the predictable Clemson, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma and Ohio State on your list, are you more likely or less likely to go to Clemson in the future? I think you’re less likely.”
N.C. State forced Swinney’s quarterback, D.J. Uiagalelei, into a fourth-down incompletion to clinch the overtime win, and Uiagalelei’s inability to pull Clemson back into the game was consistent with his play all night. Uiagalelei managed to complete just 12 of his 27 passing attempts, throwing for 111 yards in the air, two passing touchdowns and one interception, finishing with a quarterback rating below 50.
Finebaum echoed these thoughts on ESPN’s College Football podcast, saying Clemson is a program that’s trending downwards. He believes Swinney’s team won’t have the same glow it used to with a generational quarterback, especially playing in an ACC conference that Finebaum said is far from exciting.
“Really, since the Georgia game a month ago, we’ve been talking about [Clemson’s] issues, especially on the offensive line, D.J. [Uiagalelei] being shaky and not being Trevor Lawrence and they kept willing their way through,” Finebaum said on ESPN. “You knew this was a trap game, but you kept thinking to yourself, ‘N.C. State — didn’t they just lose to Mississippi State, which has lost to pretty much everyone now?’ I mean, what an epic game.”
Clemson’s rushing attack was no more effective than Uiagalelei under center, as Uiagalelei happened to also be Swinney’s leading rusher with nine carries for 63 rushing yards. Freshman Will Shipley, who had 11 carries, only turned it into a meager 36 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown.
“They have come so close, so many times. Four or five years ago they had the game won until the final four or five seconds,” Finebaum said of Swinney and Clemson on ESPN. “I think the real question that has to be asked now is where does this Clemson program go? And I’m not suggesting the dynasty of the last six years is over. But if you’re a 17-year-old making a commitment, and you’ve got all the usual suspects, that program just doesn’t look the same today.”