“No one has higher expectations than Clemson,” Dabo Swinney told the assembled media in Charlotte this July.

“We won the ACC championship a season ago, which is always our first goal. We also have bigger goals, and we didn’t achieve those. No one has forgotten that, believe me,” Swinney added.

Swinney’s assurances fell flat Monday night in No. 9 Clemson’s stunning 28-7 defeat at Duke. Swinney’s explanation, that it was the “strangest game” he’s ever been a part of, did little to assuage Clemson fan anguish after Clemson looked poorly coached and prepared in the process.

“We’re not entitled to win,” Swinney said after witnessing Duke’s first win over a top-10 opponent since some guy named Steve Spurrier roamed the sidelines for Duke. “You’ve got to earn it.”

Clemson earned nothing but cynicism, a grim performance that portends more problems — and soon — for a team that welcomes ACC co-favorite Florida State to Death Valley in Week 4.

“People are going to see the score and judge this team,” Swinney said. “I love this football team and see a lot of opportunity here. A lot of people will throw us away. I ain’t throwing this team away. We’re going to bounce back.”

Perhaps they will, but taking stock of Clemson after Week 1 isn’t pretty.

Player of the Week: Jeremiah Trotter Jr., LB

The preseason All-American played like a Butkus candidate, garnering 9 tackles and forcing a fumble for a defense that gave Clemson every opportunity to win. Trotter also led the Tigers in quarterback pressures with 2 (more on that later), and registered a tackle for loss. Aside from Barrett Carter’s big whiff on a long Riley Leonard touchdown run, the linebackers were active and as advertised Monday night, which you can’t say for much of Clemson’s active roster.

Freshman of the Week: Peter Woods, DL

It took all of 1 series for Woods to show his gargantuan talent. Lining up at tackle and stunting, the freshman bulled his way past a Duke tackle and registered a 3rd-down pressure on Riley Leonard, forcing an incomplete pass. The 4-star recruit was the first player substituted into the game for Clemson and he made the most of his opportunities, tying Trotter for the team lead with 2 pressures. While Woods didn’t register a tackle, he was ready to influence the game in his debut, which is rare for any freshman along the defensive line.

Biggest surprise: Zero sacks

Clemson has led the nation in sacks 3 times in the past 10 seasons and led the country in quarterback pressures 5 times over the past 10 seasons. The Tigers have not finished a single season out of the top 10 in sacks or pressures in that span. Monday, Clemson registered 0 sacks and managed just 6 pressures. Yes, Leonard is elusive and one of the best quarterbacks in college football. But 6 pressures? Zero sacks? Those are unthinkably poor numbers for Clemson and a big reason the Tigers are 0-1.

Biggest concern: Cade Klubnik, of course

Klubnik’s numbers were pedestrian at best: 27-43 for 209 yards, a touchdown and an interception, along with 52 yards rushing. The yards per attempt number of 4.9 is woeful, especially considering Clemson ran DJ Uiagalelei out of town for 2 seasons where he never fell below 6 yards per attempt. Klubnik’s receivers didn’t help much, struggling to gain separation from Duke’s secondary for much of the night, but even when the Tigers had a step or two, Klubnik too often threw high or behind his wideouts.

Klubnik’s 27.8 quarterback rating is dreadful, too, but it doesn’t even begin to tell the story. A vital Tigers fumble came on a botched handoff exchange that was entirely on Klubnik, who couldn’t decide whether to hand the ball off or run on a goal line zone read. Klubnik also tossed a game sealing interception, and while it came on a tipped ball, the throw itself was made into triple coverage and lacked any touch. These are all correctable errors that come with time, but the reality is Klubnik is now 1-2 as a starter at Clemson, and he’s played increasingly worse with each start.

Developing trend: Losing?

Clemson has lost 3-of-4 games, which hasn’t happened at Clemson since 2011, Dabo’s 3rd season on campus. The Tigers have dropped their past 2 games by double-digits, scoring just 21 points in the 2 contests (14 in the Orange Bowl defeat to Tennessee, 7 at Duke).

Paul Finebaum said the “Dabo dynasty is dead,” and while that seems somewhat harsh to say 1 game into the 2023 season, the sentiment will feel correct if Florida State waltzes into Death Valley and dominates the Tigers on Sept. 23. There’s time for Clemson to right this ship, but it certainly feels like the Swinney ship is sailing in troubled seas, if not taking on water.

Key Stat: 58-1.

That’s Clemson’s record when they rush for at least 200 yards and throw for at least 200 yards in the Dabo Swinney era. Clemson gained 213 yards rushing and threw for 209 more against Duke but lost for the first time in Swinney’s tenure when posting that type of output. Clemson outgained Duke 422-374, and led the Blue Devils in first downs, 29-17, but lost by 3 touchdowns, thanks to 4 empty red-zone trips.

What’s next? Sept. 9 vs. Charleston Southern

The Tigers open their home schedule against Charleston Southern (2:15 pm, Saturday). The FCS foe won its opener last week over tiny North Greenville, but will pose no threat to Clemson. Look for Garrett Riley, whose play-calling moved the ball effectively between the 20s in his Clemson debut, to work on building confidence between Klubnik and the young Clemson receiving corps. The Tigers will also work to see if they can improve as a situational team after a dismal performance in the red zone.

Clemson has 2 home games against outmatched, outgunned opponents before welcoming FSU. Expect Klubnik to play heavy snaps, even with the game in hand, as the Tigers try to get some of their swagger back before a vital conference tilt with the Noles, who rolled over No. 5 LSU on Sunday night.