Regular Season Records: 9-3, 10-2, 10-2, 9-3
SRS Rankings: 23, 14, 11, 31
Talking Point: ACC Favorite? Florida State faces a down year, with Winston’s departure. Clemson, next team in the ACC pecking order, received the ACC media nod as preseason favorite. The Tigers will hope to break through the 9-10 win ceiling and reach the playoff. They have the quarterback. They also have a number of questions. They also have a long way to go to catch up to Florida State. Side vote for Dabo Swinney’s wardrobe, slowly creeping into the modern era. We may see him break out a hoodie or some regular fit khakis this season.
Why To Like Them: Deshaun Watson put up inhuman numbers as a freshman. He completed 68 percent of his passes, averaged 10.7 yards per attempt, produced a 14-2 TD-INT ratio, and added another five TD on the ground. He was on Heisman pace, however, injuries limited him to just four full games. The Tigers have two excellent young receivers in Mike Williams and Artavis Scott. RB Wayne Gallman returns after a solid freshman year. That’s enough firepower to get people besides Dabo dancing. Players are also banned from social media. We all know how detrimental the social media can be.
Why Not To Like Them: The offensive optimism contains caveats. Clemson has substantial rebuilding to do on the line. They also lose offensive mastermind Chad Morris, now the head coach at SMU. The Tigers did have the No. 1 FEI defense in 2014. But, that unit loses virtually the entire defensive front besides Shaq Lawson. Six players with eight or more TFL in 2014, including star Vic Beasley (12 sacks and 21.5 TFL) won’t be there in 2015.
Schedule: Clemson has benefitted soft schedules in years past. This won’t be a year they can do that. Notre Dame and a road trip to South Carolina in the non-conference slate. In conference, the Tigers have to play at Lousiville on a Thursday night, to play Georgia Tech in a let down spot and face Florida State after a back-to-back road trips to Miami and N.C. State.
Throwing Darts: Everything hinges on Watson. A healthy, breakout season could put Clemson in the playoff. An injury could crush them. Not sure the pieces all fit together yet. It’s hard projecting them into that next echelon when we’ve never seen it. Noteworthy: Dabo is 2-8 against Florida State and South Carolina since 2010. We spy another 9-10 win season where Clemson is relevant but not quite there.
Random Alum: James Michael Tyler (Guenther on Friends)
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