With quarterback Tajh Boyd turning down the NFL for one more season at Clemson, the Tigers are poised to make a run at playing for a national championship.
Even though receiver DeAndre Hopkins left for the NFL, Sammy Watkins is poised to rebound after a disappointing season and emerge as one of the top playmakers in the nation. In addition to Watkins, Clemson has plenty of other talent in the receiving corps, led by juniors Adam Humphries and Charone Peake.
With a down year ahead for the ACC, Clemson has a chance to run the table and finish with an unbeaten mark in conference play. However, if the Tigers finish 8-0 against ACC opponents during the regular season, SEC contests against Georgia and South Carolina will determine their place in the national title landscape.
The 2013 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.
Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.
Clemson ranks as Athlon's No. 6 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.
What Will be Clemson's Record Against the SEC in 2013?
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’d pick Clemson to split it’s two SEC games with the opener against Georgia the most troublesome. I like Georgia a lot, but it’s going to be tough for a Bulldogs’ defense that underachieved last season to open the year on the road against Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and a veteran offensive line. Georgia returns only three defensive starters, and the up-tempo offense will be an immediate test for conditioning. As for the finale against South Carolina, Steve Spurrier just has Dabo Swinney’s number. No matter what’s going on with the Gamecocks -- injuries to Marcus Lattimore, uncertainty at quarterback -- South Carolina finds a way to beat Clemson. And that’s largely on the strength of the defense. The Tigers haven’t scored more than two touchdowns in a game against Carolina since 2008. That said, I could easily see Clemson winning both SEC games or losing both. A split, though, seems the most likely.
Ryan Tice (@RyanTice), TheWolfpacker.com
Clemson could very well be the class of the ACC next fall with quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins back to lead an explosive offense. That should serve the Tigers well and keep them in most games, but two questions sit front and center in my mind — can that prolific offense keep pace against SEC defenses and can the Clemson defense make strides from last year?
I can see the Georgia offense simply producing more than Clemson in the season-opening showdown behind experienced signal caller Aaron Murray and two-headed tailback monster Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. I think it will be close since the Bulldogs must replace the majority of last year’s defense, but I don’t know if Clemson can stop the UGA ground attack.
I do think Clemson has a much better chance of getting a win at South Carolina, despite the game’s location — but if I had to place a wager, I would still be more inclined to take the Gamecocks. I expect Clemson, Georgia and South Carolina to all be ranked in the top 15-20 this year, at the absolute worst, but I also think the SEC squads are a little stronger, and the league will continue to flex its muscle on the ACC. Mark me down for predicting Clemson to go 0-2 against the SEC.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
If Clemson manages to win both of its games against the SEC this year, there’s a good chance the Tigers will be ranked in the top five or even higher in the final BCS standings. However, winning both contests will be no easy task.
Clemson catches Georgia in the season opener, which is a good time to play the Bulldogs. With Georgia breaking in eight starters on defense, the Tigers' offense - led by likely All-Americans in quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins - should have the edge in that matchup. While Clemson has the edge against Georgia, I'm not sure they can get by South Carolina. The Gamecocks have won four in a row over the Tigers and the outcome of each of those contests wasn't really close. South Carolina’s four consecutive victories have come by at least 10 points or more, including a 34-13 win in Columbia in 2011.
Clemson is a national title contender, but I can’t see the Tigers knocking off both South Carolina and Georgia, so a 1-1 split seems like the most likely outcome.
Fittingly, Clemson opens the season (Georgia) and closes out the regular season (South Carolina) against SEC East teams. The Bulldogs and Gamecocks figure to battle with Florida for supremacy in the East, while the Tigers are the early favorites not only in the ACC Atlantic, but to win the conference title and earn the league's automatic BCS bid. Fortunately for Clemson, these two SEC games have no impact on the ACC race whatsoever, but obviously a win or two would go a long ways towards building confidence and beefing up its BCS resume.
To that end, I'll say Clemson breaks even against the SEC, which is nothing to be ashamed about, especially given the competition. I think Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs will put up just enough offense to get by the Tigers in the Georgia Dome on Aug. 31, but the in-state battle against Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks on Nov. 30 goes Dabo Swinney's way for the first time since he took over as head coach back in 2008. Honestly, if you were to ask Swinney he would probably say he would be OK with 1-1 for these two games, as long as that W came against that other school in the Palmetto State.
Related College Football Content
2013 College Football Countdown: No. 6 Clemson
2013 College Football Countdown: No. 15 Florida State
Ranking the ACC Quarterbacks for 2013
Ranking the ACC Running Backs for 2013
Ranking College Football's Top 25 Dynasties of the BCS Era
Which Team is the Favorite to Win the ACC Coastal Division in 2013?
Ranking the Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
Ranking the Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era