Tag Archives: Clemson Tigers

2019 Preview – Predicted Top 35

1 Georgia The Dawgs have come so close to winning the national title in the past 2 years but one thing has stood in their way – Alabama. Georgia should be right there again, with a 3 year and now unquestioned starter at QB in Jake Fromm, who has a top RB in D/Andre Swift he can hand the ball too. Both will be operating behind one of the best o-lines in the nation. The defense only returns 6 starters, but most their 3 top tacklers return. Throw in the overall talent that HC Kirby Smart has brought into Athens and a senior K (and cult hero) in Rodrigo Blankenship, and UGA has a real chance to break through in 2019.

2 Alabama The TIde ended the 2018 season in both expected and unexpected ways – playing in the National Championship Game but losing by 20 to Clemson. Bama returns electric QB Tua Tagovailoa and their top 3 WRs from an offense that averaged over 40 ppg for the first time in modern history. Alabama always loses a number of players to the NFL draft and this year is no exception, with just 6 starters back on defense. But 6 starters is the most in recent years. The schedule is not as difficult as one would think, with OOC games vs Duke, New Mexico State, Southern Miss and Western Carolina and no regular season games against the East’s two ranked teams, Georgia and Florida. Tide will be hungry after last year’s title game flop and are as usual, one of the top contenders for the national championship.

3 Clemson When we last saw Clemson they were destroying Alabama in the national title game. Both QB Trevor Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne return and are each Heisman Trophy candidates,. The Tigers were #4 in the nation last year in scoring offense at 44 ppg, but could top that number in 2019. The defense loses everyone up front from a unit that held opponents to 13 ppg and overall, only returns 4 starters. The overall level of talent is so high though, the potentially less dominant defense will likely not matter in a regular season, where Clemson will be a big favorite in every game. The Tigers are the team most likely to make the playoffs, but I think the losses on defense will matter in the playoffs (although not until then).

4 Michigan The offense is loaded with QB Shea Patterson in his 2nd year, 4 starters on the o-line and experienced WRs. New OC Josh Gattis, previously at Alabama, will introduce a more up-tempo style so this may be one of the best offenses of HC Jim Harbaugh’s tenure. The defense has some issues though following a ghastly end to the season (surrendering 103 points in the final 2 games) and only returning 5 starters. Harbaugh is 2-7 vs Ohio State, Michigan State and Notre Dame but gets all 3 at home this year (and ‘that team down south’ is rebuilding their coaching staff)… can the Wolverines take advantage?

5 Oklahoma Ho Hum, another season, another record setting QB wins the Heisman (Kyler Murray). The Sooners got the most coveted transfer in QB Jalen Hurts – can HC Lincoln Riley get another high level performance? It will be harder this year with the top o-line in the nation (JOe Moore Award) only returning one starter. The defense took a step back in 2018, allowing 46, 47, 40 and 58 points in a 4 game stretch. New DC Alex Grinch has a great reputation and 8 starters back, so some improvement is expected. Can HC Riley, the QB whisperer get as much out of Hurts as his previous 2 QBs? That will make the difference between a playoff run or simply a Top 10 finish.

6 LSU Not much was expected of the TIgers last season, but transfer QB Joe Burrow was solid and with the typically good defense, LSU ended with 10 wins and a #6 ranking. Burrow in his 2nd year as a starter and with the move to a more RPO style offense, should put up better numbers; and it doesn’t hurt that his top target WR Justin Jefferson returns. The defense has to replace a few key starters that are now in the NFL, like shutdown CB Greedy Williams, but 8 starters back is a lot for this program that cranks out NFL defenders. LSU has a tough OOC game, at Texas in week 2, and is also on the road vs Alabama, but this is a team that has a shot at 11 wins for the first time since ’11 and a spot in the playoffs.

7 Ohio State HC Urban Meyer is gone but in steps former co-OC Ryan Day, a highly regarded assistant who also coached under Chip Kelly. Day will get his opportunity right out of the gate to prove his offensive prowess, as record setting QB Dwayne Haskins was a first round NFL draft pick, and only 4 starters are back on the offense overall. Day will have a transfer in former 5* QB Justin Fields to build around, but the reason Fields is in Columbus and not Athens is that he wasn’t able to beat out Jake Fromm. The defense had a down year in ’18 but with 10 starters back should improve. The schedule is manageable with Cincy as the toughest OOC game and Mich St, Wisc and Penn State all come to Columbus. As per usual, the division will likely come down to the match up in the Big House vs Michigan to end the season.

8 Notre Dame Irish made the playoffs last year behind a dynamic QB in Ian Book and a solid defense. Book is back for ’19 and may be even better with the additional experience but his top RB and WR have moved on. The defense loses several key playmakers and both K and P. The schedule gets more difficult with trips to Stanford, Michigan and UGA. Irish still could win double digit games again this season, but the personnel losses suggest a step back from last year’s playoff appearance.

9 Florida HC Dan Mullen did an amazing job with the Gators in ’18, a stunning 6 victory improvement from the previous season. Maybe even more amazing, he somehow coaxed good QB play out of Felipe Franks. Franks is back and could be better in the 2nd year in the system, but Gators are completely rebuilding their o-line. The defense loses a few key playmakers but does return 7 starters to a side of the ball that had a lot of talent and finished #20 in the nation in scoring defense last season. UF was +12 in turnovers last season, #7 in the nation, but that’s hard to replicate year after year. Mullen has dramatically improved the program in just one year, but Georgia will be hard to catch in the division. Still another double digit win season appears likely.

10 Utah Kyle Whittingham has been with Utah for 15 years and compiled a 120-61 record, but last season was their first as a division winner in a Power 5 conference, losing to Washington in the Pac 12 Championship game. Both their starting QB Tyler Huntley and their star RB Zack Moss missed the end of the season due to injuries, but both are back for 2019. And QB Jason Shelly, who filled in during Huntley’s absence, is also back to give added depth. The Utes have 7 starters back from a defense that surrendered only 19 ppg in 2018. The schedule is a little kinder as both Oregon and Stanford from the North Division are skipped this year. No team from the Pac 12 South finished in the rankings last season, so this is the Utes chance to win the division again, and will be right there with the powers from the North in the conference championship race.

11 Texas 2018 was the breakthrough year Horn’s fans had been looking for since Mack retired, with a 10 win season wrapped up by an impressive upset win over #6 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Sam Ehlinger is the top returning QB in the BIg 12, but he will operate behind a rebuilding o-line. Although the most production WR and RB are gone, there is a lot of talent (and production) from both groups ready to step up this season. The defense played well in the Sugar Bowl but struggled at times during the regular season, and only returns 3 starters for 2019. The overall talent continues to improve in Austin, but the Horns return the fewest production of any power 5 team. The schedule features a monster early season showdown vs LSU, but at least its in Austin and HC Tom Herman gets his teams up for the big games. Herman definitely has the program on the rise but there may be a minor setback this season.

12 Oregon Ducks got a big boost when QB Justin Hebert decided to forgo the NFL and stay at Oregon and he is one of a whopping 10 returning starters on offense. D wasn’t great in ’18, but improved significantly from ’17 and HC Mario Cristobal signed a top 10 class that can help contribute to the already upward trajectory. The biggest challenge may be the schedule – Ducks are hard to beat at Autzen Stadium but starting with the opener vs Auburn in Dallas, most of the tough games are away from home, including trips to Washington, Stanford, USC and Arizona St.

13 Nebraska The Huskers started the Scott Frost era 0-6 but weren’t as bad a team as the record would suggest. The 4-2 finish confirmed that program was on the right track under their former iconic player. The offense avg 36 pts per game during the 2nd half of the season, and now SO QB Adrian Martinez, should be even better in 2019. The D wasn’t great but did improve over 2017 and another year in the scheme should help. The schedule is favorable with Iowa, NW and Wisky at home and no Michigan, Michigan State or Penn State. Frost did such an amazing job in turning around UCF in 2 seasons (0-12 to 12-0) that another huge jump in record is possible here too.

14 Miami Miami’s 2018 could not have gone much different (or much worse) compared to the expectations. A pre-season #8 ranking was blown up in the opener vs LSU, then a 7-5 finish was capped by a blowout loss to Wisconsin in a lower tier bowl. And HC Mark Richt retired at the end of the season. The good news, is the “Canes moved quickly and got their man to replace Richt, former DC Manny Diaz. No coach took more advantage of the transfer portal than Diaz. The top prize was former Ohio State QB Tate Martel. Diaz’s defense last year was physical and lead the nation in tackles for loss. The offense on the other hand was dreadful, and QB play was either inconsistent or dreadful. The defense loses most of the secondary, but otherwise, a lot of starters return to make a formidable force up front. It all comes down to the QB play and new OC Dan Enos, former Alabama QC coach. If Miami could just get decent QB play to go with that offense, the coastal division is ripe for the taking.

15 Washington Washington HC Chris Petersen has done a great job as the Huskies won 10 games for the 3rd year in a row. A 4th will be challenging after losing QB jake Browning and the entire D line (only 2 defensive starters back). The good news is the transfer QB Jacob Eason brings talent and experience to the most important position, and may ultimately be an upgrade over Browning. More good news is the schedule – in the unbalanced Pac-12 with 4/5 or 5/4 road/home games, this season SC, Oregon, Utah and Washington State all come to Seattle.

16 Texas A&M A&M brings back QB Kellen Mond who threw for over 3400 yards in ’18 and has 3 o-line starters back. TE Sternberger now in the NFL is a loss, but the next best receivers all return. DC Mike Elko cut A&Ms ppg allowed from 30.7 to 25.3 but he’ll have some work to do this season with only 4 starters back. Jimbo has recruited at an elite level so the talent across the board is rising but the challenge this year is a brutal schedule. Aggies face LSU, Georgia and Clemson all on the road in addition to Alabama at home. The program overall is trending up but it probably won’t show up in the record this year.

17 UCF 2019 looks to be an interesting year for the Knights as star QB McKenzie Milton still out from his gruesome injury, the starter will likely come from former backup Daniel Mack Jr or Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush from ND. Mack played well filling in for Milton at the end of last season, but broke his ankle in practice. The defense only returns 5 starters and just 2 of the top 6 tacklers. Memphi and Cincinnati will be tough in the ACC and UCF has an interesting OCC game with Stanford in Orlando. There’s a reason Wimbush isn’t the starter at ND anymore, so think there will be some drop off at QB play and the defense has questions. But this is still the best program in the AAC and expect another double digit win season and run at the Group of 5 NY6 bowl bid.

18 Washington State HC Mike Leach , after 3 years of solid 8 or 9 sin seasons, had the big break through last year, with 11 wins including a victorious bowl game. Leach appears to have found another budding star at QB in Gabe Guburd, a graduate transfer from FCS power Eastern Washington. Four o-linemen return as well so the offense should continue rolling. There are some losses on D, but the defense overall has improved significantly from earlier in Leach’s tenure, so a slight step back wouldn’t be make or break. The bigger challenge is probably the schedule, which features games vs Houston, Utah, Oregon and Washington all on the road.

19 Missouri HC Barry Odom landed an impact transfer in Clemson’s Kelly Bryant to replace Drew Lock. The Tigers return a deep backfield and three starters in the trenches. Guard Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms is among the SEC’s top returning linemen and anchors a unit that allowed only 13 sacks in 2018. Defense improved dramatically in 2018, after allowing 31.8 points a game in ’17, the Tigers held teams to 25.5 in ’18. The schedule is also manageable. Missouri plays Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina at home, while catching Ole Miss and Arkansas in crossover play. It’s hard to say how the team will react to the bowl ban (as of this writing), but with Bryant’s experience, the Tigers are a dark horse in the SEC East.

20 Auburn Under HC Gus Malzahn, AU has been hard team to forecast – a 12 win team in his first season, mostly 7-8 win seasons, then a 10 win campaign that ended with 2 losses year before last. The strength of this years squad should be on the d-line, fortified by both Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson who would have been high draft picks but returned to school. QB is a question mark after last season with Sr QB Jarrett Stidham was underwhelming, the Tigers will have a new signal caller in 2019. Whomever it turns out to be, should be a better dual threat than Stidham which fits Malzahn’s offense better and oddly enough it seems like he has more success will first year starters. The schedule features an interesting opener vs Oregon in Dallas, but the Tigers get Bama and UGA at home. Could this team repeat the magic of 2017 and make the SECCG? With Malzahn you never know but the pick here is enough talent for a good but not great season.

21 Iowa HC Kirk Ferentz is the longest tenured coach in the FBS, but in this decade (2010-2018), last season was only the 2nd 9 or more wins in the 9 year stretch. The Hawkeyes QB Nate Stanley returns from the squad that upset Miss State in the bowl game but for the first time in history for any program, had two TE’s drafted in the first round. Still a lot of talent returns on offense. Defense is the bigger rebuild with only 4 starters returning and losing their entire front 4. Schedule wise, the in-state rival Iowa State will have about as talented a team as they ever do, and the Hawkeyes draw Michigan and Penn State from the East division. This Big Ten West is hard one to rank, but looks like Iowa is one of several teams that will be in the race for the division title.

22 Army What a season for Army in 2018! They won the Commander in Chief trophy for the second straight year, set the school record for wins with 11 and finished in the AP rankings for the first time since ’96! QB Kelvin Hopkins returns with 6 other starters on offense, potentially improving on their 33 ppg output in ’18. The defense was great last season, but looks to take a step back with only 4 starters back. Army put a very big scare into Oklahoma last year, losing in OT. Can the Knights pull off the monumental upset against Michigan in the Big House this year? Probably not, but Army is clearly the class of the service academies at this time and another double digit win season and final ranking is within sight.

23 Virginia Two QBs in FBS ran for over 800 yards and threw for over 2500 – Heisman winner Kyler Murray from Oklahoma and Bryce Perkins from Virginia. HC Bronco Mendenhall has taken the Cavaliers from a 2 win team his first season to an 8 win squad with a both win last year. Perkins returns this year but his two top playmakers, their leading RB and WR, will need to be replaced. The defense improved by more than a full TD in points allowed from ’17, and with 8 starters back should be very good again. UVA has a tough OOC game vs Notre Dame, but otherwise does not face any other ranked teams in the Coaches preseason poll. Hoo’s had a very frustrating loss to rival Va Tech to end last year, this is their chance to finally end the very long losing streak in the series.

24 Penn State The Nittany Lions will be breaking in a new QB after losing Trace McSorely to the NFL after he became the program’s all time leader in wins (from a QB). The story took a weird turn when expected incumbent Tommy Stevens transferred during the off-season. But HC James Franklin has recruited well and although it’s young, there is talent. Meanwhile the defense has 5 of the top 6 tacklers back, and should be good enough to keep the Lions winning, as the likely first ranked opponent isn’t until week 6. The OOC schedule is manageable with rival Pitt (7-7 in ’18) the toughest of the 3. The challenge remains the division foes of Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State which swept Penn State last year.

25 Iowa State HC Matt Campbell has done a phenomenal job with the Cyclones, taking them from 3-9 his first year to 8-4 in the regular season, a 5 game conference winning streak and back to back bowls. 8 starters are back on a defense that was one of the Big 12’s best, giving up less than 23 ppg in 2018. QB Brock Purdy, which set a number of school records in his Fr year, will operate behind a very experienced o-line. Prudy’s improvement in his 2nd year as a starter should help overcome the loss of star RB David Montgomery and their big playmaker at WR Hakeem Butler. Iowa State has only had 3 straight seasons of at least 8 wins once in their history, they have an excellent chance for this to be their second.

26 Cincinnati The Bearcats enjoyed a huge breakthrough in HC Luke Fickell’s second season, going from a 4-8 season in ’17 to last years 11-2 record and #24 ranking. This year 7 starters return on offense, including dual threat QB Desmond Ridder, the 2018 AAC rookie of the year, plus their top 3 RBs. The defense improved dramatically from ’17 and with 7 returning starters should continue the upward trajectory. Cincy has two games circled on the calendar – the OOC game at Ohio State and the home game with UCF. The Bearcats went to Orlando last year ranked in the Top 20 and were blown out.. they are looking for revenge and a chance to topple UCF for the AAC crown.

27 Baylor HC Matt Rhule has taken the Bears from 1-11 to 7-6 with an upset win over Vandy in Texas Bowl. Baylor returns an experienced QB in Charlie Brewer and a good WR in Denzel Mims and the o-line is better. The defense was not good in 2018, but did improve and with 8 starters back, should be the best unit Rhule has had since he’s been in Waco. The OOC schedule features Stephen F Austin, Rice and UTSA so the record will depend upon the success in conference play. Baylor won’t threaten OU or Texas to win the Big 12, but should now be competitive with the middle of the conference.

28 Syracuse A stunning 2018 for the Orangemen, with a 10 win season and a final Top 20 ranking. QB Eric Dungey was big key to their success, as he not only threw for almost 2900 yards but he was the team’s leading rusher (not counting sacks). The challenge for HC Dino Babers is that Dungey is gone, along with 3 starters on the o-line. The defense did improve although at 64th in scoring, it was the offense most responsible for the wins. The schedule is not too tough with Clemson coming to the Carrier Dome (the Cuse beat the TIgers last time there) and Pitt and Duke in crossover games. The OCC schedule is not challenging and consists of Maryland, West Michigan, Holy Cross, and Liberty. While Babers has done a great job building this program, I don’t think they can replace such a dynamic QB without a drop off. Still, another 8 win season and a bowl is very much in reach.

29 Michigan State The Spartans were a hard team to watch last year, with an offense so dreadful that they lost twice while giving up 9 points or less. The good news is that part or most or this was due to a large number of injuries and better health in ’19 could easily lead to dramatic improvement. Meanwhile the defense was excellent, allowing only 17 ppg even with the inept offense. with 8 starters back, the defense should be stout again. The schedule does not feature a ranked OOC opponent but does include trips to Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State. If HC Mark Dantonio could just get a pretty good offense to pair with this great defense, Sparty could surprise big in 2019.

30 Boise State For Boise’s standards, 2018 was not a great season, as the Broncos did not win the conference (lost in the Mountain West conference championship game) and was blown out in their one game vs a Power 5 program (21-44 at Oklahoma State). Boise did finish with double digit wins and a Top 25 ranking though. To do so again in 2019 will require new stars to emerge on offense – the 4 year starter at QB (Brett Rypien), the leading rusher and top two WRs all depart. The good news however, is a solid and experienced offensive line will help with the transition. The Broncos finished #30 in scoring defense and with 8 starters back, could improve on that number. The Mountain West does not look quite as strong as last season, Boise has a good opportunity to win the league in 2019.

31 Wisconsin Big things were expected of the Badgers last season, evident by the #4 preseason ranking. But the 3rd game of the year was a shocking loss at home to 22 pt underdog BYU, and the season went down the drain from there. The offense with a lot of starters back got worse and the defense surrendered 9 ppg more. Now the QB has left (Alex Hornibrook transferred to FSU) and the o-line is rebuilding with only 1 returning starter. The one piece of good news on offense is their workhorse RB Jonathan Taylor returns after 2200 yards on the ground in ’18. The defense does return 6 starters and with better health can get back to the standards of recent years. The schedule is tough, as Wisky draws Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan from the other division and goes to Nebraska, the favorite in the West. This team won 10, 11, and 13 games the past 3 years, so a big rebound would seem likely, but questions remain on offense and a much more difficult conference schedule may limit the turn around.

32 FSU The first year of new HC Willie Taggart was a disaster, with FSU ending the season 5-7, the programs first losing year since 1976! Previous HC Jimbo Fisher had left the program in a much worse state than realized, and Taggart made a number of mistakes with his coaching staff and how he prepared players for game conditions. Year 2 is a restart, with new OC Kendall Briles who was at Houston last year and FAU the year before. Briles and his new OL coach will have a tremendous challenge to work around a poor o-line although both have been very successful in their recent stops. On defense, last season was expected to be a rebuilding year, but the inept offense and terrible return teams meant FSU’s opponents had the best starting field position in FBS. With more experience and 8 starters back, the defense should improve on ’18’s numbers. The schedule features 2 trickly early games, opening with Boise State in Jacksonville, followed 2 weeks later by a trip to Virginia. Games at Clemson and Florida look unwinnable, but improvements on both sides of the ball should lead to a modest improvement in overall record and return to a bowl.

33 USC USC had double digits win season in HC Clay Heston’s first 2 seasons, but lost their last 3 games in 2018 to end the year with a losing record for the first time since 2000. There is hope in Troy though as QB JT Daniels was a rare starter as a true freshman, and he wasn’t bad; with the hiring of “Air Raid” guru Graham Harrell as OC, the offense could make a big jump this year. The defense struggled last season, but a lot of that was due to injuries. Even with only 5 starters back, a more healthy unit should be improved. The road ahead is challenging with Washington, Oregon and Stanford all on the schedule, with no gimmes in the OOC – Fresno, BYU and Notre Dame. Helton is on the hot seat, but this program still has tons of talent, so a rebound is very possible.

34 Virginia Tech The only aspect of Virginia Tech’s 2018 season that was more shocking than finishing with a losing record, was seeing a Bud Foster defense give up 49 points at home to ODU in route to a 31 ppg average on defense. The good news is a lot of youth and injuries lead to the poor performance on D last season, this is a much more experienced group for 2019 so look for significant improvement. Meanwhile the offense had its ups and downs last season, having to switch QBs to transfer Ryan Willis in mid season. Willis returns for this year and with 4 of his top 5 WR’s back, the passing offense should be better. The schedule is manageable and in this division, VA Tech is one of the teams that will contend for the opportunity to lose to Clemson in the ACCCG.

35 Ohio HC Frank Solich is the oldest coach in FBS at 74 and looks to lead Ohio to their first MAC title since 1968. The lofty goals rest on the arm of QB Nathan Rourke, leading the Bobcats to their highest scoring average in their history last season. Although their is turnover on the o-line, having the best QB in the conference should be enough for another good year offensively. Solich is known for his solid defenses and after a rocky start last year, the Bobcats D was solid. They ended the season with a shutout, 27-0 win over SDSU in the Frisco Bowl,. The schedule features one game vs a power 5 team, on the road against Pitt; but the 45-31 loss to UVA and 34-30 loss to Cincy last year, suggests the Bobcats will be competitive with Pitt.