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Clemson is ready for another run at the National Championship after falling just short a season ago to Alabama. The Tigers have the offense to win the ACC once again led by Heisman-favorite Deshaun Watson. But will the new faces on defense be enough for them to carve out wins against better teams? Either way, the offense could be more explosive than it was in 2015 when they scored 38.5 points per game.
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Watson is the main reason for that, obviously, after he was a Heisman finalist last year, completing 67.8% of his passes for 35 TDs and 13 INTs to go with 1,105 rushing yards and 12 more TDs on the ground. He was unstoppable and the reason Clemson only last by five points against Alabama, as he threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns. The pieces around him are just as good too with top receiver Artavis Scott (93 receptions, 901 yards, 6 TDs), Deon Cain (582 yards, 5 TDs), tight end Jordan Leggett (525 yarsd, 8 TDs) and Hunter Renfrow (492 yards, 5 TDs) all in tow, among others. And there's still Mike Williams who was injured early last year and could be one of their better receivers.
Wayne Gallman (1,527 yards, 13 TDs) will have all of the work in the backfield. But similar to quarterback, the Tigers are lacking a true backup at either position. If one of those guys gets hurt, there could be issues. The offensive line was great last year and return three starters from that group with left tackle Mitch Hyatt and center Jay Guillermo the most important pieces. They shouldn't have too much trouble filling the two spots.
But defense is where the questions start to come in as they only return four starters from last season with most of those guys moving onto the NFL. They need to reload on the edges, an area that is often a strong suit for this team. Sophomores Austin Bryant and Richard Yeargin are the next in line to fill that role for coordinator Brent Venables. Linebacker is also an unknown outside of Ben Boulware, who will lead the group.
Secondary is probably Clemson's biggest question after losing so many guys to the NFL and they lost another corner to an ACL tear in the spring. Cordrea Tankersley is the lone returning starter back there and he has big shoes to fill. Venables has shown he can reload on defense every year, so there's no reason he can't do so again.
The quest to the College Football Playoff is a little tougher for the Tigers this season and that starts with a road game at Auburn. They'll likely find some resistance in their ACC opener at Georgia Tech, but the big game for them comes at the end of October at Florida State. That game will likely decide the Atlantic Division. If they can get past that one unscathed, it could be looking like another CFP appearance for Clemson and there's no reason to bet against that with Watson and the talent around him.
2016 Clemson Tigers Football Schedule
Sept. 3 at Auburn
Sept. 10 vs. Troy
Sept. 17 vs. South Carolina State
Sept. 22 at Georgia Tech
Oct. 1 vs. Louisville
Oct. 7 at Boston College
Oct. 15 vs. NC State
Oct. 29 at Florida State
Nov. 5 vs. Syracuse
Nov. 12 vs. Pittsburgh
Nov. 19 at Wake Forest
Nov. 26 vs. South Carolina
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