On Saturday night, Head Coach Dabo Swinney, Heisman trophy candidate Deshaun Watson, and the rest of the Clemson Tigers will take the field in Jordan-Hare Stadium to battle with the Auburn Tigers in the first weekend of the college football season. This not only marks the start of the season for Clemson, but it also marks the start of their quest for the College Football Playoff. After suffering defeat in the National Championship Game last year, the Tigers are out for revenge.
Clemson is ranked number two in the preseason AP Poll and for good reason. The Tigers return talent on both offense and defense. Not to mention, some of the freshmen that will contribute this year. The returning talent is led by possibly the best quarterback in the nation, Deshaun Watson. Although Watson can move well, do not get him confused as a run first quarterback. Watson is a highly talented pocket passer, who makes quick decisions, and delivers accurate passes with his piercing throws. Depending on which way he decides to strike, Watson is deadly through the air or on the ground.
However, he is by far the only talent on the Clemson roster. Key returning starters for the Tigers include tight end Jordan Leggett, running back Wayne Gallman, linebacker Ben Boulware, cornerback Cordrea Tankersley, and back from an early season ending injury last year, wide receiver Mike Williams. Two excellent specialists also return in kicker Greg Huegel, and punter Andy Teasdall. High energy guys like Dabo Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables should find life a little easier with the returning talent on the roster.
The schedule is extremely manageable for the Tigers, but that doesn’t mean it is going to be easy. A few games stand out, in particular, Auburn, Louisville, and Florida State. Opening night against an SEC opponent in a hostile environment can be a challenge no matter what the perception around Auburn is. However, I see Clemson getting the season started off on the right foot, and Watson having a big night.
One possible stumble for Clemson is a home game against the Louisville Cardinals. The Tigers will be coming off a physical game against Georgia Tech, and will have to recharge quickly to be ready for Louisville and their underrated quarterback, Lamar Jackson. The Tigers should win, and the Esso Club will be rocking late into the night.
The biggest game on Clemson’s schedule and perhaps the biggest game of the regular season in college football will be the Florida State game. The Seminole fans will be busting at the seams as their team takes the field and the flaming spear gets launched into the center of Doak Campbell Stadium. Florida State is highly talented and they return their own Heisman candidate in running back Dalvin Cook. In all likelihood this game will determine part of the college football season landscape, and it could possibly be a game for the ages.
Clemson has all the pieces in place to make a historic run, the coach, the quarterback, the talent, and a workable schedule. The only question is, can they handle the pressure?