by Bovada Sports on
Despite an embarrassing loss to West Virginia in their season finale last January, the Clemson Tigers are once again a team to fear in the ACC. Whether they’ve truly overcome their gut-wrenching 70-33 loss or not will be one of the major factors in how the team starts the 2012 campaign. Fortunately for fans on campus, although the Tigers may have their work cut out for them, they also have the tools with which to do it.
Junior quarterback Tajh Boyd will face increased pressure in his second year as the club’s starter. He’ll be expected, along with a lauded receiving core and running back Andre Ellington, to fuel one of college football’s deadliest offenses. Last season the Tigers average 33.6 points per game, a number that could continue to rise as offensive coordinator Chad Morris settles in during his second year with the school.
If the Tigers can shake off the disappointment of the onslaught they endured in the Orange Bowl, big things could happen at Clemson Memorial. It’s not guarantee with the Florida State Seminoles breathing down their neck in the conference, but it’s well within reason. Although they slipped up toward the end of last year, losing three of four before winning the ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech, the roster is only one year older and more experienced this time out.
2011 Record: 10-4-0
2011 ATS Record: 8-6-0
2011 O/U: 6-7-0 (this is from the spread sheet Marc Raymond sent, but is this right?)
Key Additions: Travis Blanks (Freshman), Kellen Jones (Transfer), Germone Hopper (Freshman), Chad Kelly (Freshman)
Key Losses: Andre Branch (NFL), Dwayne Allen (NFL), Brandon Thompson (NFL)
Provided their offensive line holds up, the Clemson Tigers could sport one of the finest offenses in college football this year, and certainly the ACC. Junior quarterback Tajh Boyd will enter his second year as the team’s starter, giving him momentum heading into the season without the pressure of a senior tour. Not only does Boyd’s serve as his school’s on-field leader but as a candidate to win conference MVP.
He’ll have a trio of qualified receivers to target in returners DeAndre Hopkins, Jason Brown and especially Sammy Watkins. The Boyd-Watkins connection will be one of the major focal points of Clemson’s offense as coordinator Chad Morris settles into his second year on campus. Watkins, who was slowed toward the end of last year, caught 12 touchdowns in 2011 and could even top that total with a healthy 2012.
The Tigers’ attach, however, won’t be limited to the air. Though he too came up limping toward the end of last season, running back Andre Ellington could help take some of the pressure off his club’s highly touted receivers. They won’t need him to do much up the guts, but capitalize when the opportunities present themselves.
A new defensive coordinator in Brent Venables will be charged with the task of fixing a unit that left a lot to be desired in 2011. Venables’ zone-heavy scheme is said to be simpler and more easily digested by players at this level. The Tigers will miss a few pieces from last year’s defense, but given their track record (opponents topped 30 points seven times last year), that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
If the new squad can click and make stars out of the likes of linebacker Stephone Anthony and safety Jonathan Meeks, that may be all Clemson needs to make a run at the ACC’s top spot. A place in the nation’s top 10 is well within reason if the defense meets its modest expectations, so look for Venables’ impact early.
Clemson will be successful in 2012 if…
The defense can be at least average. Given the fact that there’s no shortage of offensive weapons on this roster, their success on the field will come down to whether or not they can limit their opponents on the scoreboard. Although incoming coordinator Venables will be able to get away with more than most defensive coordinators thanks to his “run support”, it will only be wasted if this team can’t improve upon last year’s 29.3 points per game allowed.
Clemson will show signs of struggling in 2012 if…
They can’t stay healthy. Although they did win the ACC Championship in 2011, there’s no denying that Clemson’s second half left a lot to be desired. Much of that can be attributed to the failing health of Ellington and Watkins. The injury that limited Watkins late in the season seemed to have a similar impact on Boyd, at least production-wise. Boyd threw nine interceptions in his teams’ final six games, after the entire team produced only eight total in their first eight games.
Regular Season Win Total: 8.5
Odds to Win the BCS National Championship: TBD