In part two of the series Seldom Used Reserve’s editor Marty Coleman and Recruiting Editor/Contributor Chris Cox rank the Tigers games from easiest to most difficult. The work was done independently without knowledge of how the other ranked these games. Today we feature games 6-1. Games 12-7 can be found here.
CC – Miami: Kyle Parker finding Jacoby Ford across the middle to seal a victory over #10 Miami still resonates fresh in my memory. Since that game The U has put together a 39-30 record. Way to go KP. Al Golden’s seat is hotter than a August noon kickoff in Death Valley, which may be part of the reason his sweat destroys dress shirts like it’s going out of style. Brad Kayaa quietly put together one of the best freshmen campaigns of the 2014 season and I expect him to produce again this year. If Joseph Yearby can find a way to fill the size 20 shoes that Duke Johnson left, then the Canes will be tough to slow down. The crowd shouldn’t be too much of a factor unless Miami starts paying fans to come to the games.
MC – Miami: I’m not as sold as others are. The Hurricanes seem to be the Clemson of the past – good recruiting, lots of preseason hype, several very good players, 5 or 6 losses. It’s in Miami, so the “crowd” is not something to worry about, but perhaps the silence will be.
MC – South Carolina: This is a tough one. The OBC is on edge, the quarterback is new and the schedule is tough. Not sure what happens with the Gamecocks this season, but the track record indicates it won’t be easy and the game is in Columbia. Despite Spurrier’s protestations the Gamecocks don’t appear to have the talent of past seasons. How well they hold up through a tough SEC season and their frame of mind on the last Saturday in November will be the question. Whatever confidence they gained in the 5 preceding games, ended in fireworks at Death Valley last November.
CC – South Carolina: Steve Spurrier. Williams-Brice Stadium. 2001. Sandstorm. High school smoke machines. Need I say more? The staff claims not to have put an emphasis on this game, but we’re no fools. The Tigers finally got the monkey off their back last year with a lob-sided victory at home. Clemson hasn’t won in Columbia since 2007, but to me this game is pretty simple: the Tigers are just better. Last year the Tigers put up 35 points with a one-legged quarterback. Can you imagine what they will do if he has two? Goodness. Unless Spurrier finds another Connor Shaw, it will be a long season in Columbia. The enemies are knocking on the door and Steve is scared.
CC – Georgia Tech: NEWSFLASH: Clemson does not perform well in Bobby Dodd Stadium. Well it’s a good thing that the Ramblin’ Wreck have to make the trip up I-85 to come to Death Valley this year. When they roll into town you can be sure that they will bore you to death with Paul Johnson’s triple option and that knees will be targeted. Returning at QB is the ACC’s premier athlete in Justin Thomas who is the best signal caller PJ has ever had. The Yellow Jackets do have to replace 3 players from their backfield, but returning 4 offensive linemen, who are now black belts in chop blocking, should help their cause. Tech returns several playmakers on defense, but the story of this game will likely be which offense outperforms the other. Clemson’s air “Raid” attack makes me feel better about exterminating the Yellow Jackets.
MC – Notre Dame: 19 returning starters, 10 on defense and a dynamic offense, puts the Irish at #4. Might be close to the top if game was in South Bend. Perhaps the name on the jersey is getting too much credit (shocked, shocked I say), because this team has been 8-5 in 3 of 5 years under Brian Kelley.
MC – Louisville: The Cardinals return less starters than Clemson and only 4 on defense, but Bobby Petrino is confident (go figure). It’ll be a short week, Thursday night game in Papa Johns – all the ingredients for an upset and the Tigers are only a three point favorite at the moment. Louisville opens with Auburn, so that’ll tell us something.
CC – Louisville: The first true test of the season will come when the Tigers make the trek up to Papa John’s Stadium on a Thursday night. Clemson has never played at Louisville and word around the water cooler is they sell beer in their stadium meaning you don’t have to go back to your tailgate at halftime. Talk about convenient. Back to football, Petrino will have to find his QB out of the four that are all competing for the No.1 spot. On the other side of the ball, Todd Grantham’s band of misfits will have the potential to be pretty good if they can stay out of the local police department. A name to keep an eye on here will be former Big 12 Defensive POY Devonte Fields, who could be matched up against true freshman OT Mitch Hyatt. Thursday night, on the road, and a hostile environment (with beer) is a daunting task for the Tigers. If they can find a way to squeak out a win here then watch out.
CC: – Notre Dame: The Irish coming to Clemson will mark the first ever “Bourett Bowl.” You can be sure that Notre Dame grad Tim Bourett, aka Clemson Google, will have some ridiculous stats ready to fire off during game week. Sophomore QB Malik Zaire looked impressive in his limited action last season and should be one of the nation’s better signal callers by season’s end. At his disposal he will have an elite talent at WR in Will Fuller who exploded for 15 TDs in his sophomore season. The Irish defense really struggled down the stretch of 2014 as they ended up allowing over 400 YPG and 29 PPG. If both teams come in unscathed the College Gameday crew will likely be in attendance, which probably means they will have to scramble to find another guest picker who has nothing to do with Clemson at all.
MC – Florida State: The King of The ACC Hill. Think things were chaotic with Jameis on campus? It’s been an offseason full of off field issues for Jimbo and the Seminoles, including the suspension of star running back Dalvin Cook. Yet, talent abounds in Tallahassee, there’s no doubt about that. Is that enough to overcome the loss of Cook (perhaps) and an inexperienced quarterback in Death Valley against a dynamic Clemson offense? The game is not until the first Saturday in November and both teams have room to trip up prior, but it could be a magical night in the Valley.
MC – Georgia Tech: The Jackets return only 5 offensive starters, but they are perhaps 5 of the most important on the team – quarterback Justin Thomas and 4 offensive linemen. 8 Georgia Tech defensive starters return, but let’s face it, with Deshaun Watson at the helm the offense will have a different look than in Atlanta last season. Clemson is rebuilding the nation’s top defense, but remember defense wasn’t the problem in this game last year – 2 pick sixes were. That won’t happen in 2015. Still, the Jackets are the most dangerous team on the schedule sitting here in early August.
CC – Florida State: The Seminoles have broken the Tigers hearts’ the past two years and they remain Clemson’s primary obstacle in the way of an ACC Championship berth. The Seminoles have plenty to replace on both sides of the ball with Jameis “Crab-Legs” Winston being the primary departure. Sean Maguire faired okay in his start against Clemson last year, but it’s a foregone conclusion that ND transfer Everett Golson will take over the reins sooner rather than later. Criminole RB Dalvin Cook is also currently suspended and if he is ruled out for the season the Jimbo’s may be in serious trouble. The defense is lacking experience on the line, but preseason All-American CB Jalen Ramsey marking Williams or Scott should be a fun matchup to watch. There are too many question marks to know what kind of team FSU will bring to Death Valley this Fall, but at this point who cares. Just win baby.
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