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College football preseason top 25: No. 1 Clemson Tigers

The college football season can’t come soon enough. With every season comes new faces and possibilities. Who will be the teams to watch out for this season? This will be the last of many posts covering the top 25 teams in the country and will cover the no. 1 Clemson Tigers.

Overview

Clemson won 12 games last season, but lost to Alabama in the College Football Playoff (CFP) semi-final. They have solidified themselves as an elite program under Dabo Swinney and that doesn’t look like it will change this season. With 15 returning starters, which includes a lot of future NFL players, Clemson should be one of the favorites to make it back to the CFP.

Offense

The offense ranked 32nd in scoring, 35th in rushing and 61st in passing last season. The passing numbers will need to improve this season if they want to win a National Championship. Seven starters return on this side of the ball for Clemson in what should be an improved unit.

Kelly Bryant returns at quarterback for the Tigers. He threw for 2,892 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions on 65.8% completion. The completion percentage may seem impressive, but his 7.0 yards per attempt make that misleading. He does offer a threat on the ground with 665 rushing yards. If Bryant doesn’t improve his passing downfield, Swinney will be ready to insert highly-rated recruit Trevor Lawrence.

Clemson Tigers top 25
Hunter Renfrow (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

The wide receiver unit will be loaded. Hunter Renfrow is back for his senior year, after seemingly being at Clemson for a decade. He is a great possession receiver, who had 602 receiving yards last season. Tee Higgins and Amari Rogers are great replacements for Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud. Milan Richard is also back at tight end.

A stable of running backs will give Clemson a great ground game. Tavien Feaster, Travis Etienne and Adam Choice will all get carries. The trio combined for 1,761 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns. They will join Bryant in giving Clemson multiple weapons and looks out of the backfield.

Mitch Hyatt is one of the best left tackles in the country and will be playing in the NFL soon. Two other starters will rejoin him in the starting lineup this season. Their recruitment over the last few years ensures there will be no depth issues.

With Tony Elliot and Jeff Scott as offensive coordinators, there is reason to believe that this offense will be way more productive with the talent getting one year older.

Defense

The Tigers ranked second in points allowed per game, 12th against the run and fourth against the pass. The crazy thing about those rankings is Clemson should be even better this season. They have eight returning starters and should look forward to shutting down every opponent on their schedule.

Clemson’s defensive line will be one of the best in the history of college football. Three potential first-round picks decided to forego the NFL Draft for another season of college football. Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell man the end positions for the Tigers and had 8.5 and 9.5 sacks last season respectively. Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence play defensive tackle and eat up blockers like it’s their job.

Clemson Tigers top 25
Kendall Joseph (Photo by independentmail.com)

Kendall Joseph and Tre Lamar are great college linebackers. Joseph led the team in tackles with 96, while Lamar had 50. Both are versatile enough to stop the run and cover well. They will be joined by Jalen Williams in the starting lineup and should be a great unit overall.

The secondary features Mark Fields and Trayvon Mullen at cornerback. Both have had plenty of playing time over the last few years. Fields has played in 20 games, while Mullen broke through last season with three interceptions. Tanner Muse is back at safety and will have K’Von Wallace lining up beside him. Both are solid at the back end of a defense.

This defense has the potential to put up more points than some teams’ offenses this season and can elevate the whole team’s play.

Outlook

Clemson plays Furman (home), Texas A&M (away), Georgia Southern (home) and South Carolina (home). Texas A&M and South Carolina will be difficult games, but the Tigers are a much better football team and should be able to come out on top.

In conference, they will face tough games against Georgia Tech (away), Wake Forest (away), NC State (home) and Florida State (away). While these are tough teams, Clemson is clearly on a different level than their competition in the ACC this season.

Making the CFP should be the goal and expectation this season for the Tigers. They may drop a game, as going undefeated is hard, but Clemson will be in the disussion for the CFP at the end of the season.

 

Make sure to check out our college football page for more updates and rankings.

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