Mr. CFB: No. 2 Clemson
When Dabo Swinney was elevated to Clemson’s full-time head coach in 2008, he made a public promise: He would not build a team at Clemson. He would build a program.
He believed all the pieces were in place to make Clemson a team, like his alma mater Alabama, that would be in the discussion for the national championship every single season.
So how’s that working out?
Last season Clemson finished 14-1, losing to LSU in the CFP national championship game. It snapped Clemson's 29-game winning streak.
It was Clemson’s fifth straight trip to the playoffs. It was the Tiger’s fourth appearance in the national championship game, winning the title in 2016 and 2016.
Under Swinney, Clemson has won 10 or more games for nine consecutive seasons, an unprecedented run of success in school history.
And you know what? The Tigers are going to win double-digit games again, go to the playoffs again, and play in the national championship game again this season.
They are that good.
At quarterback Trevor Lawrence returns for his third and certainly his last season for Clemson because next April he’ll be the No. 1 overall player taken in the NFL Draft. You’ll recall that he got off to a slow start as a sophomore last season but then threw for 22 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last eight games.
Over his career Lawrence has completed 65 percent of his passes for 6,945 yards and 66 touchdowns. He had eight picks against 36 touchdowns last season.
Lawrence shares the backfield with one of the most underrated players in America. Travis Etienne has rushed for 4,038 yards and 56 touchdowns in three seasons. He can do it all.
Not everything is perfect on offense. Four starters on the line need to be replaced. And the Tigers will be without Justyn Ross, their best receiver, who is recovering from surgery. But there is talent waiting in the wings.
And the defense? Not a problem as long as DC Brent Venables is there. He always finds a way to take the talent at hand and form them into a Top 10 defense, which he has done in each of the past six years. And he’ll do it again this season.
The schedule is pretty clear. The Tigers are going to roll to a 7-0 start and then they go to South Bend to play Notre Dame. Win there and Clemson just might get the Fighting Irish again for the ACC championship in December. Remember that the ACC did away with divisional play for this unusual season.
Clemson will win the ACC championship game in Charlotte and reach the College Football Playoffs again. The Tigers will win their semifinal game and then play Alabama for the national championship on Jan. 11 in Miami.
Who wins? Come back to this space on Tuesday.