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NCAA Team Preview: Clemson Tigers

The Clemson Tigers come into the 2014 season ranked 16th in the country in both the Associated Press and the ESPN pre-season poll. Clemson looks to get back to being the class of the Atlantic Coast Conference, but have a huge hurdle in their way. Besides the ups and downs of their own team, the defending National Champion Florida State Seminoles stand in their way. Clemson will have plenty of questions that they will need answered, but the things we do know  – Dabo Sweeney is going to have himself another talented team in 2014. Can they get through the meat of their schedule untouched is the question of the day.

Many would argue the meat of the Clemson Tigers schedule comes in their first four games. The Tigers will open up the season on August 30th at the Georgia Bulldogs. What a huge non conference game between two ranked teams. Following that, it eases for one week, as they take on South Carolina State. Following that, the Tigers will play in a good old fashion ACC battle against Florida State; on the road. After that, Clemson comes home and will host the North Carolina Tar Heels. The next seven games for the Tigers are against teams that come into the season unranked. Clemson will host North Carolina State and Louisville, before playing at Boston College. A home game with Syracuse comes before two more road games; at Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. The final two games of the season for the Tigers come at home; with Georgia State and then against yearly rival and Top 10 foe South Carolina.

Last year the Tigers finished 11-2 and won 7 of 8 against ACC foes. Clemson won their first six games before getting blasted by 37 points to Florida State. The Tigers then won their next four, before losing 31-17 at South Carolina. Clemson went on to win the Orange Bowl 40-35 over Ohio State. Tajh Boyd was the offensive stud for the Tigers as he led the way with 29 passing touchdowns along with 9 rushing touchdowns. Boyd threw for over 3,400 yards, with Sammy Watkins being his top target. Watkins was drafted by the Buffalo Bills, so a new weapon will need to emerge for Clemson. The Tigers ranked 9th in all of the country with 40.2 points per game.

Gone is Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. So what can the Tigers hang their hat on in 2014? Defense. The defensive line and the secondary should both be really good. The line did not lose a single player from a season ago, and the backfield has a ton of experience. Guys like Martin Jenkins, Robert Smith and Bradley Pinion will man the secondary, while Corey Crawford, Josh Watson and Vic Beasley are studs up front. Slowing down guys like Jameis Winston will not be easy, but look for this defensive unit to make quite the effort.

Some question marks for Clemson remain. A few that come to mind at the forefront of course is replacing both Boyd and Watkins. Cole Stoudt looks to get the nod behind center, while D.J Howard and Zac Brooks are going to get the bulk of the carries.

 

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