A few have mentioned Clemson as a dark horse playoff contender in 2015 but I don't agree with this. It seems like a lot of national pundits ignore our deficiencies each year. We have poor offensive line play most years and that probably won't change in 2015 with what we lose and more importantly with what we already have. Many Clemson fans are expecting Mitch Hyatt and Jake Fruhmorgen to come in and be the saviors of the o-line. Very rarely, if ever does a true freshman make a significant impact or play at all. On the offensive line they generally need a redshirt year to prepare for the college game and just to get their body ready.
Next year we also have a starting quarterback who has shown that he is injury prone and poor depth behind him. Lightning rarely strikes twice and while Deshaun Watson was outstanding as a true freshman, I wouldn't expect Kelly Bryant or Tucker Israel to duplicate that success. Watson is a once in a lifetime kind of talent. This is coupled with huge personnel losses on defense, particularly the front 7. You don't lose an Anthony, a Jarrett and a Beasley and not take at least a small step back. I said the same thing about losing a Watkins, a McDowell and a Boyd on offense last season and I was right.
Then there is the ultimate wildcard. Two new offensive coordinators. You have to allow for the outside chance that the Oklahoma game was a fluke. My initial early thought on next season was an 8/9 win type of year. That was until I saw how the schedule shook out. If both x-factors go in our favor (Watson's health and our co-OC's success) then we can win out against this schedule. We would have to win out to get to the playoff and even then it's not a sure bet. Not in the conference we play in. Florida State set the precedent that an undefeated ACC team does not equal a playoff caliber team. We would need the ACC to show out this year to help us out as well. If Deshaun is injured most of the year or "Scelliot" turns into another "Dapier", we could be looking at an 8/9 win year even with this schedule. Now onto the schedule itself.
|SATURDAY||SEPTEMBER 5TH||WOFFORD TERRIERS|
|SATURDAY||SEPTEMBER 12TH||APPALACHIAN STATE MOUNTAINEERS|
|THURSDAY||SEPTEMBER 17TH||@ LOUISVILLE CARDINALS|
|SATURDAY||SEPTEMBER 26TH||BYE WEEK|
|SATURDAY||OCTOBER 3RD||NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH|
|SATURDAY||OCTOBER 10TH||GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS|
|SATURDAY||OCTOBER 17TH||BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES|
|SATURDAY||OCTOBER 24TH||@ MIAMI (FL) HURRICANES|
|SATURDAY||OCTOBER 31ST||@ NC STATE WOLFPACK|
|SATURDAY||NOVEMBER 7TH||FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES|
|SATURDAY||NOVEMBER 14TH||@ SYRACUSE ORANGE|
|SATURDAY||NOVEMBER 21ST||WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS|
|SATURDAY||NOVEMBER 28TH||@ SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS|
|SATURDAY||DECEMBER 5TH||ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME|
The pros are easy. We have 7 home games and 5 away games. The toughest teams we face are at home. Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Florida State all come to the Valley. The "tough" road teams are shadows of their former selves. Louisville, Miami and South Carolina ain't what they used to be. I could easily see NC State being the toughest road game for us. We get at least two automatic wins and a chance to start off light to see what we have and tinker with some things first. We won't have to go too heavy in the first two games and that will limit injuries to starters. Last but not least, we get a patsy option team to start the year off. Wofford's "Wingbone" offense will give us an extra look at the similar "Flexbone" that Georgia Tech runs.
The cons aren't too bad either. The bye week is a little too early in the year for my liking. It wastes what could be a good opportunity to get healthy later on in the year and extra time to prepare for a team like Florida State or South Carolina. We also aren't going to get very much national respect with this schedule. We have two OOC cupcakes, one of which is an FCS school. Playing in the ACC won't help us here. I can only see two teams on our schedule being ranked before the season starts; Florida State and Georgia Tech. I'm also not thrilled about the early turnaround against Louisville. With it being a road game and a Thursday night game, I'm hoping the fact that we start off with two cream puffs will negate this and we put a little extra thought into Louisville in the weeks prior. I'm really grasping for straws here but we didn't exactly get the two easiest cupcakes in the world either. We got Wofford's triple option and the upset kings of App State.
The final verdict? We have a clear path to the ACC title game. FSU is down and they may drop one or two. Beating them at home and getting the tiebreaker in case we lose one is crucial to getting to Charlotte. The only two road games that concern me as far as getting in the way of winning out in conference are @ Louisville and @ NC State. The latter being a trap game and the former just being tough period. As far as home games go, Boston College also stands out as a possible trap game. They've played us tough at home before and they seem to be getting better every year. We will be coming off what should be a hard fought home stand against the Irish and the Yellow Jackets. South Carolina has no bearing on an ACC title game berth but I do expect us to continue the streak at the upside down cockroach.
We play very well at home under Dabo so we should go 3-1 at worst against FSU, Notre Dame, BC and Georgia Tech. Assuming Watson stays healthy for most of the year and "Scelliott's" performance against the Sooners was the real deal, we could and should run the table. Things are never as good or as bad as they seem though. It will be somewhere in between. Tony and Jeff will have some growing pains and I suspect Watson will miss at least some time due to an injury or two. We should be able to win 10/11 games.
The hope here is that our losses will be to an OOC opponent or just one conference opponent that does not include Florida State. I'm almost positive the Seminoles drop one and if we beat them at home, then we will be Charlotte bound. Not the playoff but an ACC title should be the minimum expectation from here on out with Dabo himself saying that we are a championship caliber team. Next season is a failure in my opinion if we do not at least win the conference. We could be looking at a playoff contender in 2016 though with the recent talent influx and having an extra year for the rebuilt offensive line to come together. Again all this hinges on Watson's health and if we made a successful OC "hire."