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In 13 seasons at Clemson, Dabo Swinney has amassed a record of 140-33. There is no reason to assume the winning won’t continue in 2021 for the Tigers. However, there are some concerns that the boys from Death Valley haven’t faced in the past few years.
Offense: Offensively, there are a lot of replacements that need to be found as only 4 starters return from last year with the most important loss being No.1 NFL overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence. Those are some very big shoes to fill for sure and assuming that D.J. Uiagalelei is going to automatically step in and be as good is a bit presumptuous. His upside is as high as it gets but he hasn’t shown he can be effective for an entire season. There is also a top running back that needs to surface to fill the void for first rounder Travis Etienne. The receiving corps should be fine and the offensive line looks solid so maybe the offense won’t miss a beat but one would think it will drop off some.
Defense: The defense should be the strength of the team till the offense gels. 9 starters return including Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee, 2 D-linemen who are emerging stars. Senior linebackers James Skalski and Baylon Spector also return with plenty of experience. The secondary gave up too many big plays last year and need to take steps to improve. This unit is coached by veteran D-Coordinator Brent Venables and he will find a way to improve their performance. Expect another physical, tough in-your-face bunch.
Schedule: When assessing a team’s prospects for the upcoming season the schedule is always a factor.
9/4 Georgia (at Charlotte)
9/11 South Carolina State
11/27 at South Carolina
The opening game against Georgia at a neutral site will be the best game of the opening weekend. The Bulldogs aren’t replacing a QB and could win this one especially early in the season. The rest of the games are easily winnable.
9/18 Georgia Tech
9/25 at NC State
10/2 Boston College
10/15 at Syracuse
10/23 at Pittsburgh
10/30 Florida State
11/6 at Louisville
11/20 Wake Forest
The Conference schedule is not particularly tough with the only possible pitfall being a road test in Raleigh against NC State in late September. The Tigers don’t play Miami or North Carolina from the Coastal Division and they are the two favorites from that side. It is likely that they will cruise through the conference undefeated.
Summary: It is always scary when starting a season with a question mark at QB and running back but even with a drop-off the Tigers with the strength of their defense and a soft schedule should remain a Top-5 team. They are the face of the ACC and will be until someone can dethrone them. They could go 11-1 and maybe end up undefeated and not be near as good as they have been.
Projected Finish: 1st in the Atlantic Division
Overall Regular Season: 11-1
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