The 2010 Schedule was released today by the ACC, as usual about a month after everyone else in the Universe has theirs, because Swoffy has to try to find a way....
|Sept. 4||North Texas|
|Sept. 18||@ Auburn|
|Oct. 9||@ UNC|
|Oct. 23||Georgia Tech|
|Oct. 30||@ BC|
|Nov. 6||NC State|
|Nov. 13||@ FSU|
|Nov. 20||@ Wake Forest|
|Nov. 27||South Carolina|
Open date is Sept. 25. There are no Thursday night games, which is good for me since we suck on Thursdays. I'd rather not have the Open date quite that early, and I'd really prefer it before GT but its not a big deal.
Like last year, I see 8-9 wins on the schedule with some good probables but its considerably harder than 2009. We start off easy enough with North Texas and PC, renewing one of our ancient rivalries, but I wish the AD would've been able to pull in tougher competition than PC. I'm not one of those who likes to play the hardest teams out of the gate, because I want the offense to get it together, but I'd prefer a Furman-flavored cupcake to PC or a spread-offense to prepare for what Auburn throws at us in the next game. Clemson should come out of the gate 2-0.
Now, @ Auburn is a tough one to pick. Auburn went 8-5 under new coach Gene Chizik (former Danny Ford GA) who built the national championship defenses at Texas and shouldve-been-2004 Auburn. They started out 2009 5-0. However, their defense really let them down this year going down the stretch after losing so much to the NFL and graduation last year. Additionally, the type of offense that Gus Malzahn runs does not allow the D to get much rest on the sideline, and I doubt they become a real force over the season, but in week 3 that really doesnt matter so much. Clemson fans have seen an offense with a high pace during the early 2000s, but maybe not this quick. We'll be previewing the Malzahn offense later on in the offseason, but I think we have the players on D to slow it down. I can go ahead and tell you that if we don't learn to stop a zone-read play, we're not going to win. I cannot see Chizik, after pulling in a consensus Top 5 recruiting class, with a defense that remains as bad as it was in 2009. I think they'll be a 9-10 win squad when its over.
I also see Clemson improving much in the LB corps and I think we'll be playing our best defense at this time. However without Ford and Spiller, I can't say we have a gamebreaker to make a play to win this one. Right now, with it being a road game, I'm going to call it a close loss, though Dabo may pull some Bama magic. Clemson goes to 2-1.
Miami comes to the Valley, and I'm not sure what to expect here. Jacory Harris will have another year of reading defenses under his belt and we all know the amount of raw speed on their squad. I think their offense will continue to improve over last year statistically, as should their defense. This one is a toss-up to me.
On the road in Chapel Hill, we'll face the best defense in the ACC, I would still say they have the best defensive front 7 in the conference and likely the country if you look at them as a whole. We'll need to throw the ball to win this one. However, UNC's offense is nothing to be afraid of and they have a penchant for coming out of the gate slow. I'm calling UNC a toss-up.
Maryland better be destroyed, thats all i'm going to say. Clemson W at home. Possibly the Homecoming game.
Georgia Tech I will call a W this time around. I think Clemson's defense will have better LB play and we'll be able to stop them a few times, now that they have lost Dwyer and Thomas. I do not expect us to shut them down, and they will likely still get 200-250 yards rushing. They still have a QB, so the offense will still go, but he doesn't have the supporting cast that I know of. Playing an option team this late can be dangerous and I'd prefer it if we'd played them in week 3-4 instead of midseason. An option team really picks up in execution as the season goes on.
BC will have Mark Herzlich back and the best LB corps in the ACC, and their zone defense gave us fits last year, but Parker will have a whole year and half this season to figure out how to attack zone. BCs offense doesnt scare me in the slightest, so I will pick this one a W.
Between NC State and FSU, we'll see the two best QBs in the league. We're going to lose one of them. I like Tom O'Brien as a fundamentals coach, and his 2009 team was decimated by injuries. NC State will score points, and they play a VK-style defense. I believe Clemson will win the game at home.
FSU will have Christian Ponder back along with one of the best offenses nationally, and at home. We dont know if Jimbo Fisher can do it as the head man, but his offense should be able to do something with a talent like Ponder. I expect them to be at least Top 30-40 on defense next year, but expecting them to be a 10-11 win team with that far to go on defense is unrealistic. You can't fix that much with fundamentals in one season, but you can go pretty far with a Stoops calling the shots on D. I think this one will be a slugfest but given that its on the road, I'll call it a L.
WF will lose Skinner, and though Grobe has generally given us a terribly difficult game in Winston-Salem, they don't have more talent or skill than we do, and this should be an easy W for Clemson leading into the post-Thanksgiving beating of the Cluckers, which is also a W.
So thats 8 wins, 2 losses and 2 toss-up games I can see going either way to make or break the season. I said last year, when Dabo was hired, that my expectation was 10 wins for 2010, no ifs or buts, and I'm sticking to that. 2009 was his "gimme" year. These toss-ups should go in our favor. Swinney should win 10 games simply because we have more talent on roster than these teams. Going back 5 years in Rivals/Scout/ESPN recruiting rankings only Auburn and FSU have more, though Miami is right there. I have no patience for mediocrity, we've been on the 7-9 win plateau for a decade and the '10s better change it.
North Texas and PC are the gimmies for this year’s team, and they come right out of the gate. I have some mixed feelings about these two from a scheduling standpoint, but understand the AD is trying to maximize profits with the extra home game and these teams were willing to travel.
At Auburn is an interesting football game. For the second straight season, we will face a pretty good OOC opponent only this one will be played on the Plains, not in Clemson. Gene Chizik did an admirable job in his first season and was also able to land a fantastic 2010 recruiting class. Honestly, I think these two teams should play this one close, and thus I have to put a question mark beside this one.
The Miami Hurricanes will continue to rise this season. I fully expect the ‘Canes to improve on last year’s performance. I am worried about this one due to the tremendous improvement that we have seen out of the U under Shannon. Miami can be beaten, and Clemson has enough talent to get it done. I am concerned about this game after seeing the start of the rise of this Miami group last season. This is a toss up.
Going to Chapel Hill will be another tough test against a team that should be improved over last season. With quite a few returnees on defense, UNC will build upon one of the best defenses in America. The Tar Heels struggled on offense last season, and I really don’t see them improving that much in 2010. We will not be able to run against these guys and their guys in the box will be able to get after Parker in passing situations. Parker’s poise will be the deciding factor here. Fortunately (based on ‘09 and projected ‘10 results), 13 points by the Tigers may be enough to pull this one out. This is a toss up.
Clemson gets Maryland at home. This (AGAIN) is a bad UMd team and after a poor performance in College Park in ‘09, the Tigers should take this one in a cakewalk.
Georgia Tech should not as good offensively in ‘10. With Dwyer out and Clemson getting absolutely shredded by the Jackets in the ACCCG, I will expect this team to play much better defensively. I am really hoping that Steele’s difficult scheme will finally click for our linebackers and we can play better against the veer. Ga Tech is in Death Valley and will lose to the Tiger for the first time in a long time.
At Boston College, Clemson should be able to win this one. Boston College improved its offense after last season’s CU game, but I don’t think it will be enough. I am not sold on the Eagles even though they will bring in a pretty good defense again to face the Tigers. This will not be enough. Clemson wins.
NC State will definitely be improved this year. Tom O’Brian is a pretty good football coach and his teams generally get much better as the season progresses. That being said, I wish that Clemson could catch them earlier in the year. We also cannot count on NCST having half their team injured again this year. I think that Clemson will be able to harness Wilson and get a win against the Pack.
Clemson travels to Tallahassee to face the ‘Noles. Jimbo Fischer has not messed around down there. He has their offense rocking and rolling fixing the Jeff Bowden debacle with authority. With all the controversy and drama gone, I really expect this team to be improved overall since last year. Also, there is no way that FSU is really that bad on defense, and will be improved there this season. I think the ACC needs to watch out because it looks like Jimbo is moving in the right direction both offensively and on the recruiting trail. These improvements coupled with the fact that their defensive effort cannot get any worse leads me to believe FSU is poised for great things over the next few years and will defeat Clemson this season.
Clemson traditionally struggles with Wake. Not this year. Tigers roll.
Clemson has not lost back to back games against USC since Tom Suggs was in school and don’t look to start now. Clemson will beat South Carolina.
I really don’t think there were too many surprises in my list. This season will incorporate a group that lacks its three best offensive performers from a year ago. Thus, we will see what Napier has in terms of play selection and combinations. We will also see if our linebackers just needed an extra few months of Steele’s guidance due to the complexity of this defense. If this is not the case, Clemson will be in deep trouble because the opposition will attack the Tigers’ backer corps relentlessly. There are a lot of questions that need answering and I really think that 8 wins is an easy target. I really think that FSU will be vastly improved and I have them slotted as the ACC Atlantic pre-preseason favorites. Miami is improved and will give the Tigers a run for their money. Butch Davis is a great coach and will have UNC shooting for ACCCG contention this year. Auburn, while not even close to being the best team in its own state, showed dramatic and surprising improvement last season and finished off a nice recruiting class. Playing at their place doesn’t help our cause.
Thus, we are about where we were this time last season with less experienced firepower (no Spiller, no Ford). Swinney and Napier are, however, more experienced and this should help this staff avoid the offensive stupidity that was the first half of the ‘09 season. Even with the personnel losses, Clemson will have to improve on its win total from last year for me to be happy, as mediocre will not be accepted here.
If I had to make a hard prediction about the upcoming year, I really see Clemson going 9-3, but would not be surprised with a win differential of one either way.