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Clemson Tigers

College Football

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Coming off a National Championship season, there’s only one way to go but down for Clemson, especially with a new quarterback at the helm. Still, the Tigers had the 10th-best odds in the spring to win the College Football Playoff (+3300 at 5Dimes Sportsbook), mostly due to a defense that returns a good portion of its starters.

But without Deshaun Watson, things will be the opposite of easy. Clemson will likely spend most of the fall and maybe even the season deciding who will be its top quarterback. Kelly Bryant has some experience as a junior, but freshmen Hunter Johnson and Zerrick Cooper could win the job due to being better passers. The receivers will be mostly new as well with Deon Cain (724 yards, 9 TDs) and Milan Richard stepping into bigger roles with the same being said for H-back Ray-Ray McCloud. Wayne Gallman is gone in the backfield, but all signs point to a trio leading the way with Tavien Feaster, C.J. Fuller and Adam Choice. To help, the offensive line returns four starters, so the ground game should be just as potent even with the top skill players gone.

The defense returns seven starters and should be just as good if not better than a year ago when the Tigers gave up 18.4 points per game. The line remains loaded with Austin Bryant healthy to go with Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence. Replacing leader and linebacker Ben Boulware will be tough, but Clemson has guys like Kendall Joseph and Tre Lamar to pick up the slack, while Shaq Smith steps in on the outside. The secondary returns almost everyone so it’s hard to see that group dropping off between safety Van Smith and corner Mark Fields.

The question will be what the offense can do. That’s going to be answered fairly early in the season with a game against Auburn followed by a trip to Louisville. If the Tigers can get out of those two games unscathed, that would start up the repeat talk as Clemson gets to host Florida State this season. But that’s the best-case scenario. The Tigers still don’t know their quarterback and will need to score against a good Auburn defense and keep up against Lamar Jackson and Louisville. To go with that, a September trip to Virginia Tech could be harder than expected after the Hokies challenged Clemson in the ACC title game last year. Even the season finale against South Carolina won’t be easy, pending on how the QB situation plays throughout the year.

Because of the quarterback situation, Clemson has the second-best odds at +350 (behind Florida State) to win the ACC. While they host the Seminoles, it’ll still be tough to bet Clemson to win the conference simply because of quarterback. Watson was everything to this offense for two seasons, so it’s a wonder what they’ll look like without him.


2017 Clemson Tigers Football Schedule

Sept. 2 vs. Kent State
Sept. 9 vs. Auburn
Sept. 16 at Louisville
Sept. 23 vs. Boston College

Sept. 30 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 7 vs. Wake Forest
Oct. 13 at Syracuse

Oct. 28 vs. Georgia Tech
Nov. 4 at NC State
Nov. 11 vs. Florida State
Nov. 18 vs. The Citadel
Nov. 25 at South Carolina

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