Clemson Tigers Season Wins O/U Pick
Clemson enters 2019 coming off their second National Championship victory in the past three years. They have won four consecutive ACC Championships while putting up a 58-4 overall record in that period. There are some questions to be answered with just four starters returning on defense from their star-studded 2018 lineup, but with head coach Dabo Swinney back for his 12th season in Clemson and a stacked offensive squad, the Tigers appear to be in line for another dominant season. Below you will find a breakdown for both sides of the ball along with an in-depth look at how their schedule should unfold.
Leading the way at quarterback for the Tigers is sophomore Trevor Lawrence, who left no doubt that Swinney made the right choice in handing over the reins to him after he guided his team to an undefeated record and an NCAA title a season ago. Lawrence threw for 3,280 yards with 30 touchdowns compared to only four interceptions. The star quarterback is already considered a near-lock for the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and should continue to pad his resume this year with a bevy of weapons at his disposal.
THE HIGGINS AND ROSS SHOW
At wide receiver, the Tigers return two likely first-round talents in junior Tee Higgins and sophomore Justyn Ross. Higgins had 59 receptions for 936 yards, and a conference-leading twelve touchdown catches a season ago, while Ross put up 1000 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 21.7 yards per catch. The unit took an overall hit with the departure of Hunter Renfrow and the loss of Amari Rodgers in the spring thanks to a torn ACL. But, with Lawrence making the throws and two of the nations best in Higgins and Ross lined up alongside him, it would be no surprise to see both their star wideouts improve on last years’ impressive stats.
RETURN OF ETIENNE
It seems almost unfair, but the Clemson offense also features one of the nations’ best running backs in Travis Etienne. Last season, the junior Etienne ran for 1,658 yards 4, while scoring an NCAA best 26 total touchdowns and averaging 8.1 yards per carry. He will again benefit from running behind one of the best offensive lines in the country featuring John Simpson, Sean Pollard, and Tremayne Anchrum, and with backups Adam Choice and Tavien Feaster both having graduated, Etienne could be in line for an even better season in 2019.
CAN THE DEFENSE RELOAD TO DOMINANCE
The losses were heavy for a defense that ranked in the top five in the country in scoring, rushing and overall yards allowed per game. Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Austin Bryant, Tre Lamar, and Trayvon Mullen have all moved on to the NFL, leading the Tigers with just four returning starters and plenty of production that needs to be replaced. Junior linebacker Isaiah Simmons led the team in tackles last season with 97 and will be relied upon heavily to start the year as the only returning starter to the front seven. Upfront Clemson will look to Xavier Thomas and Myles Pinckney to cushion the blow of the loss of the three first-rounders in Ferrell, Wilkins, and Lawrence. Thankfully for the Tigers, they have ample talent in their defensive backfield, highlighted by cornerback AJ Terrell and senior safeties K’Von Wallace and Tanner Muse. Despite the many losses to the professional ranks, Clemson is one of those upper-echelon teams that more so reloads each year, and should still feature one of the conferences’ and possibly nations’ top overall units.
ANOTHER UNDEFEATED REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE
This year’s schedule lines up very well for Clemson for multiple reasons. They have only five road games compared to seven home games, which is a great benefit for a team that has only one loss as host over the past five seasons, and get two of their toughest games in Texas A&M and Florida State both at home. The Tigers also avoid the three top teams in the ACC Coastal division in UVA, Virginia Tech and Miami. The only two possible road challenges are Syracuse and rival South Carolina, a team they have beaten in five straight seasons by an average of 23 points per game. Clemson has eclipsed their preseason rank the last nine years in a row, and with a very manageable schedule that should see them favored by double digits in every game. I think the best bet you can make on their preseason odds is taking them to eclipse their set mark of 11.5 wins as they again put themselves in position for yet another run at a National Championship.
Speaking of picks: Get more of Mann’s game analysis each week through the regualr season, by visiting our CFB Picks section.