College Football Preview: Clemson


What if I told you there was a college football that was a defending National Champion and consensus pre-season number one ranked team that went undefeated and ended up not still ranked number one.  Now what if I told you that team scored over 50 points in seven of twelve games, including four straight games, averaged 47 points per game, defeated their opponents by an average margin of 36 points, and not only didn’t finish ranked number one, they actually fell as far as number five before ending the season at number three?  Don’t believe it?  Meet the 2019 Clemson Tigers.

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The Tigers are perennial contestants in the College Football Playoff since its inception in 2014.  Since missing out on a berth in that first contest, the Tigers are set to make their fifth straight appearance in the Tournament when they take on Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday.  In that span they have won two championships, both times defeating powerhouse Alabama, including last year.

Clemson started the season with the top ranking, but suffered in the rankings due to a lack of quality competition.  They held the top spot early on until squeaking out a 21-20 win over North Carolina in Week 5, which dropped the Tigers to the two spot.  Despite wins by scores of 45-14 and 45-10 against Florida State and Louisville, respectively in Weeks 7 and 8, Clemson saw themselves fall to the three spot, and then the four spot after beating Boston College 59-7 in Week 9.

A 59-14 win over Wofford wasn’t enough to keep Clemson from potentially  slipping out of the Playoff and into the five spot.  Fortunately for the Tigers, Alabama lost to LSU and Penn State lost to Minnesota in Week 11, which allowed Clemson to claw its way back up to number three.

Clemson Tigers gear at Fanatics.comHead Coach Dabo Swinney was candid in his distaste for the ranking system.  "I'm not going to let anybody diminish what we've accomplished as a program," said Swinney.  "It's my job to speak the truth and stand up for this program when it's necessary.  They want to throw us out (of the Playoff) because they don't respect who we will play, which is another joke itself.

"We started the season No. 1, went undefeated in the regular season and finished third," he said. "Okay, so that's history, first time that's happened.  So congratulations on that."

Swinney is in his 12th year as the Head Coach at Clemson, and has won two National Championships and boasts a 129-30 all time record.  He is also known for his motivational speeches, so you can be certain he will play the disrespect card to have his team fired up and ready for the Playoff run.

Clemson boasts four of the Nation’s top 20 players.  Quarterback Trevor “Sunshine” Lawrence (No. 4 and second ranked QB behind LSU’s Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow).  The sophomore threw for 3, 172 yards and 34 touchdowns with eight interceptions in 2019.  He is joined in the Top 20 by linebacker Isaiah Simmons (No. 7), running back Travis Etienne (No. 13), and receiver Tee Higgins (No. 18).

Etienne accounted for 1,798 total yards (1,500 rushing and 298 receiving) and 19 TDs (17/2).  In addition to Higgins (52 receptions for 1,082 yards and 13 TDs). Lawrence also has wide receiver Justin Ross, who hauled in 55 passes for 742 yards and eight TDs.

Simmons led the defense overall number one ranked Clemson defense with 58 solo tackles and added seven sacks.  The Tigers defense allowed only 16 touchdowns all season, and an NCAA low 244.7 yards per game.

Clemson draws the number two seed and Big Ten Champion Ohio State Buckeyes.  Ohio State started the season ranked at number five, but climbed up the rankings as other more prominent programs like Alabama and Georgia fell victim to the meat grinder of competition in the SEC.  Ohio State benefitted from a comparatively weak Big Ten schedule, and ended the season undefeated.

Ohio State also features a stable of talent, The Buckeyes are also stacked offensively with quarterback Justin Field, who finished third in the Heisman voting after throwing for 2,953 yards and 40 touchdowns with only one interception.  However, Fields is injured and not expected to be at 100 due to a sprained MCL.  Running back J.K. Dobbins (1,829 rushing yards and TDs) may have to pick up some of the slack for Fields.

Defensively the Buckeyes are led by defensive end Chase Young, who finished fourth in the Heisman voting.  Young accounted for 16.5 sacks in 13 games, and is a force up front.

Ohio State is led by first year Head Coach Ryan Day, who took over the program late in 2018 and is undefeated as a head coach (16-0).  While the record is impressive, albeit short, he has no experience coaching on the big stage of the playoffs.  This is a major check mark in Clemson’s favor.

Both teams have star power, but Clemson has been gone through the playoffs enough for the players to know what to expect and for the coach to be prepared.  And while Ohio State has had some impressive wins against quality teams, they have not faced an opponent with the speed which Clemson possesses.  Expect speed to be the difference in this game.

Prediction: Clemson 42 – Ohio State 31

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Boston Sports Syndicate: College Football Preview: Clemson
College Football Preview: Clemson
Boston Sports Syndicate
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