Record: 61-26 (6 Seasons)
Last Year's Record: (10-3, 6-2), defeated Oklahoma in Russell Athletic Bowl, 40-6
Review of 2014 Season- Other than JT Barrett and Cardale Jones up in Columbus, Ohio not too many other QBs made a bigger splash on the national scene than Deshaun Watson last season. Talk about game-changers and you have to mention #4. Clemson literally had the best defense in the nation last year and combined with an explosive offense, the Tigers made it difficult against their opponents in 2014. They came up short on the road at FSU in a game where they made so many mistakes, to be frank, they honestly didn't deserve to win. Had the #1 team on the ropes but couldn't ever deliver the final blow to finish them off. The Tigers finally got back on track against arch-rival South Carolina and ended the season with quite an eyebrow raising thumping of Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl is one of the most dominating performances against a respectable opponent that I can remember seeing out of Clemson in quite a few years. Dabo Swinney with newly appointed Co-Offensive Coordinators Tony Elliot and Jeff Scott along with Defensive Coordinator will look to make even greater strides in 2015.
Key Losses-DE Vic Beasley, DT Grady Jarrett, LB Stephone Anthony, OG David Beasley, WR Adam Humphries
Key Returners- QB Deshaun Watson, RB Wayne Gallman, WR Artavis Scott, WR Mike Williams, DE Shaq Lawson, CB Mackenzie Alexander
Returning Starters: Offense-7; Defense-3
September 5th Wofford
September 12th Appalachian State
September 17th Louisville* (Thursday Night)
September 26th OPEN
October 3rd Notre Dame*
October 10th Georgia Tech*
October 17th Boston College
October 24th Miami
October 31st North Carolina State
November 7th Florida State*
November 14th Syracuse
November 21st Wake Forest
November 28th South Carolina*
#- Home games in BOLD
*-denotes key game
Overall as a fan of the Tigers I'm "okay" with how this year's schedule is set up. The two opening games should, in theory, be blowouts and allow the offense and defense to get a little momentum and back into season mode. Unlike the last two years opening with UGA and having so much on the line, this year's opener will be more relaxed and allow the chance for some of the younger guys and second and third team guys to get some early season reps. That should pay off down the road. The Louisville game is a big one and could be extra tricky especially when you add in the Thursday night road game factor. Last year's game (minus a Watson) came down to a Tiger goal line stand in on The Hill end of the stadium. I point that out because I don't think many understand how loud that place was pre-snap before that play. Still, I see Clemson being the favorite and taking care of business on the road Sept. 17. The early open date hurts a little but being well rested and extra prep for what could be a College Gameday showdown against Norte Dame can only help the Tigers. GT will be a challenge but they get the Jackets at home along with Florida State the first week of November where payback for the last few years will be in order. The Tigers will be due for a win over the Seminoles. Finally, Clemson will head back down to Williams Brice in hopes of making it two in a row over the Gamecocks and the first win in Columbia since 2007. Yeah...it's been that long.
Yes, the defense lost 8 starters but for those that follow the program closely you'll know that's not as clear cut as what you see on paper. Many of this year's starters saw significant playing time last year (LB Ben Boulware and DE Shaq Lawson to name a few) and have the experience in big time moments of big time games already under their belts. 8 of the 11 played at least 200 snaps last season. Most of the hits to the defense came up front on the defensive line but the secondary has the potential to be among the nations best which will help out the defensive line and hopefully make the QB hold on to the ball longer than he'd like. If Mackenzie Alexander, Jayron Kearse and company can hold their ground it will only help the guys up front. The loss of Korrin Wiggins to an ACL injury hurts but next man in line. Tigers should be fine as long as they can stay healthy moving forward.With seven returners on offense and an assumed healthy Deshaun Watson under center along with newcomers such as wideouts Deon Cain and Ray Ray McCloud, #4 will have plenty of options and help around him to move the ball down the field.
Cautious optimism. You'll hear me saying this throughout the season. This could be a very, very special year in Tigertown. The pieces are in place and lined up for a very successful run towards an ACC Championship and contend for a playoff spot. One game at a time and as long as they stay focused at the task at hand, they should be perfectly fine. One major area of concern however is the offensive line. A lack of depth makes even one injury upfront detrimental to the Tiger's future. The loss of Isaiah Battle at left tackle hurts, but reports out of camp have been positive in regards to the stability of the offensive line. At first glance, it seems like the Tigers could be favored in each game this year. If the bowl game against Oklahoma was any indication, the offense will be just fine without former Offensive play-caller--Now Head Coach at SMU--Chad Morris this year as Tony Elliot and Jeff Scott take over the driver's seat of this offensive locomotive. Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables has told the media he likes what he's seen out of his squad thus far. The sky is the limit in 2015. Clemson has been knocking on the door of going from good to great and its time to smash that door down in 2015. The time is now.
Regular season Prediction: 10-2