The Clemson Tigers have one goal in 2020: win the College Football Playoff National Championship.
A year after going 14-1 only to fall short in the national championship game, the Tigers enter 2020 as the pick by many publications, analysts and pundits to finish the job.
Online sportsbook Bovada has the Clemson Tigers as the +250 favorites, followed by the Ohio State Buckeyes at +400, the Alabama Crimson Tide at +500, the LSU Tigers at +700, the Georgia Bulldogs at +800, the Florida Gators at +1600 and the Oklahoma Sooners at +2500 to round out the top teams on the oddsboard.
What makes the Tigers such a popular pick to win it all this year?
The Clemson schedule last season was the third-toughest in all of college football, according to TeamRankings.com.
The Tigers add a trip to Notre Dame to a schedule that also boasts home games against a resurgent Louisville team and SEC and in-state rival South Carolina. The Tigers must also travel to Florida State.
But even with a somewhat difficult schedule, the Tigers will be favored by double digits in every one of their regular season games.
2. Trevor Lawrence
QB Trevor Lawrence, the projected first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, survived his "sophomore slump" season, as he led the Tigers to a 14-1 record.
All Lawrence has done as a starting QB is go 25-1 and appear in two national championship games, winning one. Although the offense will look a little different without wide receiver Tee Higgins, there’s no doubt that the Tigers will still be in contention to win yet another national title in 2020-21.
3. Improved Defensive Line
Clemson’s defensive line has featured great depth and talent during the team’s run of 10-win seasons.
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However, last season's lack of a dominant defensive line ultimately reared it's ugly head in the national championship game, where LSU quarterback Joe Burrow faced little pressure and had all day to find receivers running down the field.
Looking toward next season, Clemson absolutely need its defensive ends to generate more pressure on the quarterback. One look at the incoming recruiting class, and it is safe to assume they will. That class will also provide the much needed depth on the inside, as well as gaining some of that size they were missing this season.
They will get that help in true freshmen Bryan Bresee, Demonte Capehart and Myles Murphy—all three of whom expect to enter camp and immediately compete for a job.
4. Special teams
Special teams may have been the single reason the Tigers did not win the national championship game last year..
The Tigers finished the regular season ranked 108th in field goal percentage. The Tigers also ranked an abysmal 93rd in punt yardage.
The point here being, the Tigers can''t get much worse.
5. Travis Etienne's Return
Etienne has led Clemson in rushing all three of his seasons. He recorded 1,614 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns in 2019 while being named ACC Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. Etienne has also set the school and conference marks for touchdowns in his career.
“He’s got a great future ahead of him,” Swinney said. “I’m excited about that. He’s been a great leader already.”
His return also means No. 9 belongs to him for one more season. Swinney said he had 10 players lined up asking to get it for 2020, calling them “vultures” when it comes to jersey numbers.