As we countdown to kickoff in August, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each Tuesday over the summer. SU will open play in the ACC against Clemson in Week 5.
IS THIS THE YEAR?: Clemson is poised for a huge season, and expectations are running high in South Carolina. One season removed from an impressive victory against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Tigers are the odds on favorite to win the ACC and are thinking about lofter goals this season. With six starters returning on an offense that averaged 41.0 points last season (6th in the NCAA), including Heisman candidate QB Tajh Boyd, there is legitimate reason to think that head coach Dabo Swinney can bring the program’s second national championship back to Death Valley.
WHO TO WATCH FOR: No question about it, the biggest story line in the offseason was Swinney convincing Boyd to return for his senior season. The ACC Player of the Year threw for 3,896 yards and 36 touchdowns (which set the single-season ACC record), while rushing for 514 yards and another 10 touchdowns on the ground. Also, keep an eye out on senior tailback Roderick McDowell. With Andre Ellington gone, McDowell has become the lead back after nearly transferring two years ago. As a backup last year, he collected 450 yards and five scores. If McDowell doesn’t turn into a featured back, D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks are capable rushers, as well. They will be running behind an offensive line that returns four starters, though losing center Dalton Freeman was a big blow.
PREDICTION: This will be a rude welcome to playing in the ACC at the Carrier Dome. Though the Clemson defense gave up 24.8 ppg last year, 2012 Freshman All-American Travis Blanks should help sure up the secondary and the defensive line returns all but one starter from last year. CLEMSON 42, SYRACUSE 21.