By Cory McCartney, SI.com
ATLANTA -- Already, Clemson?
We've come to expect the annual face-plant when it comes to these Tigers, but could Tommy Bowden and Co. do the unthinkable and choke in Week 1?
So far, they're doing just that.
It's arguably the most talented team he's had in nine years at the program, but at halftime, Clemson has managed just 89 yards to Alabama's 245 and four first downs to the Tide's 17. Thus explaining the 23-3 deficit facing Clemson.
The most glaring hole in Clemson's game has been its offensive line. The rebuilt unit, which returns just one starter in center Thomas Austin, has been completely ineffective against the Crimson Tide pass rush.
On the Tigers' only solid drive of the opening half, Clemson had a first-and-10 on the Alabama 14. But the drive ended with a 33-yard Mark Buchholz field goal as the line collapsed around C.J. Spiller on a one-yard loss and then Cullen Harper was sacked for an 11-yard setback.
Clemson hasn't done itself any favors, either. On the opening drive, Harper was nearly picked off on his first pass attempt, then James Harper coughed up the ball on the Tigers' 31, propelling Alabama to a 3-0 lead. Later in the half, Clemson was flagged for back-to-back pass interference penalties. And then Harper threw a pick with 1:48 left in the half.
The clock still says there's time to regroup and make a game out of this, but with the way Clemson played in the opening half, it appears doubtful. The team the ACC so badly needs to help rebuild its credibility may instead be delivering the conference another setback.