With the 2013 college football season rapidly approaching, fans are craving any and every taste of what is to come in what should be an invigorating year. As we inch closer to the action kicking off on August 29, I'll release schedule analysis for a new ACC school every other day. For now, let's take a look at the Clemson Tigers:
Aug. 31 - Georgia
Sept. 7 - South Carolina State
Sept. 14 - Open
Sept. 19 - at N.C. State
Sept. 28 - Wake Forest
Oct. 5 - at Syracuse
Oct. 12 - Boston College
Oct. 19 - Florida State
Oct. 26 - at Maryland
Nov. 2 - at Virginia
Nov. 9 - Open
Nov. 14 - Georgia Tech
Nov. 23 - Citadel
Nov. 30 - at South Carolina
Schedule obtained from the official website of Clemson athletics
Before Dabo Swinney was extended the opportunity to become the interim head coach of Clemson in the middle of the 2008 season, it had been nearly two decades since the school had experienced any notable success.
Two Atlantic Division titles and a conference championship later, the Tigers roll into 2013 with their eyes set on national prominence and a third consecutive year of 10-plus wins.
Strength of schedule won't be an issue for this group, as Swinney's team opens and closes the season with two of the top teams in the SEC. Clemson also faces Florida State along the way and will also play host to Georgia Tech on a Thursday night.
It's tough to deny that, at least on paper, this should be the top team in the ACC. However, with a challenging road ahead, anything can happen.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd lives up to his preseason billing, and Sammy Watkins returns to 2011 form. While the veteran offensive line remains healthy throughout the year, offensive coordinator Chad Morris' system leads to another season's worth of video game numbers.
Clemson captures the attention of the college football world after opening the year with a big-time win over the Georgia Bulldogs, and Death Valley's home-field advantage also leads to victories over Florida State and Georgia Tech. A trip to Columbia only reassures that the Tigers are among the nation's elite as they take a 12-0 record into the postseason.
After claiming their second ACC championship in three years, the Tigers become the conference's first team to advance to the national championship since 2000. With one of the top offenses in the nation, Clemson wins the 2013 national championship.
The Bulldogs get the better of the Tigers to kick off the season and talks of a national title disappear in Week 1. Watkins' year looks more like 2012 than 2011, and Roderick McDowell isn't able to reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark as Andre Ellington did in each of the past two seasons.
Although the defense returns several starters, it is still unable to defend the pass. Clemson finds itself on the losing end of multiple shootouts in conference play and loses its fifth straight to the hated Gamecocks.
Eight-win years weren't anything out of the ordinary during the Tommy Bowden years, but this particular one leaves the fanbase disgusted.
This Clemson squad represents the ACC's best chance at a national title in over 10 years. Tajh Boyd is one of the top signal-callers in the country, and when healthy, Sammy Watkins is among the country's most dynamic playmakers. The two are surrounded by enough offensive talent to make this a special year.
If the Tigers want to win it all, however, they'll need a better pass defense in 2013. Aaron Murray of Georgia and Connor Shaw of South Carolina could both pose problems for defensive coordinator Brent Venables, and losing either one of those games would likely kill the team's chances of going all the way.
Considering the opponents, it's unlikely that Clemson will finish the season with a perfect record, but the possibility of going undefeated is more realistic than it has been in a long time.
Also check out:
Schedule analysis for Florida State
Schedule analysis for Boston College
Schedule analysis for Wake Forest
Schedule analysis for NC State
Schedule analysis for Maryland
Schedule analysis for Syracuse
Follow me on Twitter at @MarkCCarroll