Mike Hlas is an award-winning columnist with the Cedar Rapids Gazette and force behind The Hlog. Each week he will break down the biggest mismatches in college football. Considering the number of Bowl Championship Series teams tanking at this point in the season, Mike's task is more challenging than getting a 7 p.m. flight out of Chicago that has been delayed to 8:30 to leave by 10:15.
You could understand if traditional football power Clemson and traditional football footwipe Duke had the same record after one game of the college football season. Maybe Duke had beaten a I-AA team in Week 1 and both were 1-0.
But after nine games?
Duke is 4-5. Clemson is 4-5. They clash Saturday at Clemson in the national Game of the Weak. This is done with no disrespect whatsoever to Duke, which deserves praise and not scorn for elevating its performance this season after years of being lost in the tall trees of Raleigh-Durham. The Blue Devils were 5-42 over their previous four seasons.
David Cutcliffe has done a masterful job in his first season as Duke’s coach, guiding the team to two ACC victories that includes a win over Virginia. The Blue Devils have also downed Navy and Vanderbilt, no small feats this year.
Clemson, on the other hand, is a wreck. It was the preseason favorite of many to win the ACC, but the Tigers are a sad 1-4 in league play.
Darkness descended on Death Valley as soon as the season started. The Tigers opened in Atlanta against Alabama and didn’t compete. Bama won, 34-10, and Clemson never recovered. It won its next three games, yes, but two were against I-AA opposition. After losses to Maryland and Wake Forest, coach Tommy Bowden was ousted.
It was Bowden’s 10th season, and none of them produced losing records. But none of them produced ACC titles, either, and Clemson people had their fill of him. Clemson’s last three bowls were the 2005 Champs Sports, the 2006 Music City, and the 2007 Chick-fil-A. Hardly the stuff of an elite program.
Usually when a coach gets sacked, his players rue the unfairness of it all. Not Clemson senior quarterback Cullen Harper.
"I'd call it karma," Harper said. "I thought it needed to be done. I think anytime a head coach or someone in a leadership position starts to place blame on his coaches and players, it weakens their respect on the team. His past experiences have shown he's done that."
Bowden got paid for the rest of this season and will get a $3.5 million buyout to boot. Cutcliffe is an ACC Coach of the Year candidate for a team that is 1-4 in the conference.
College football is crazy.