As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each week over the summer. SU will continue its 2016 ACC schedule when it plays Clemson on Nov. 5.
CLEMSONING NO MORE: Look up “Clemsoning” on Urban Dictionary, and you’ll see this definition: “The act of delivering an inexplicably disappointing performance, usually within the context of a college football season.” To be sure, that may have been true for the Tigers under coach Tommy Bowden, but Dabo Swinney has completely changed the culture at Clemson, so much so that “Clemsoning” may eventually be defined as a compliment instead of a pejorative. The 14 wins in 2015 were the most in a single season the long history of the school, with the Tigers giving Alabama all it could handle in the National Championship game. With a Heisman candidate under center this season, the Tigers should once again be front and center in the championship conversation.
WHO TO WATCH FOR: Any conversation about Clemson this season has to start with quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Heisman hopeful is the reigning Davey O’Brien and Manning Award winner after a dream 2015 season when he amassed 4,104 yards and 35 touchdowns through the air while rushing for 1,105 yards and 12 more touchdowns on the ground. He’s got plenty of offensive weapons around him, with running back Wayne Gallman and wide receiver Artavis Scott returning. Though defensive coordinator Brent Venables is returning only five starters from last year’s team, one of them is elite linebacker Ben Boulware, who led the team last year with 82 tackles.
PREDICTION: The scariest thing about this year’s edition of Clemson? They may be even better than last season. A trip to Florida State on Oct. 29 will test their championship hopes, but if Clemson is once again able to turn an inexperienced defense into a legitimate force, there’s no reason why the Tigers can’t win it all. SYRACUSE 21, CLEMSON 51.