5 Bold Predictions for Clemson's 2014 Season

Zach Gilliland@@ZachGilliland93Featured ColumnistAugust 27, 2014

Whether it's claiming a team's player will win the Heisman Trophy, or stating the squad will beat the in-state rival, bold predictions are always a fun way of projecting the outcome of the season.

For the Clemson Tigers, there are mixed emotions from analysts over how many wins the team can pull off in 2014.

Bold projections don't always come true, but these are five things we think have a good chance of happening this fall.


Cole Stoudt Puts Up Numbers Similar to Tajh Boyd's from 2013

Tajh Boyd had a big season last fall, putting up 3,851 passing yards and 34 passing touchdowns. The one area Cole Stoudt likely won't match Boyd is rushing, but I think we could see fairly similar passing numbers from the senior this season.

Offensive coordinator Chad Morris' system will allow Stoudt to put up solid numbers in 2014. If you break down Boyd's numbers from last season, he averaged about 296 yards passing a game and averaged 2.6 passing touchdowns a game.

There are still talented weapons for Stoudt to utilize, and Morris will set up situations that are beneficial to the quarterback's statistics.

Charone Peake, Adam Humphries, Jordan Leggett and Mike Williams are all reliable targets for Stoudt to throw to this season, not to mention the talent of the freshmen who could compete for time.

Boyd's completion percentage in 2013 was 68.5 percent, but you should expect Stoudt to top that number this season.

As the backup last season, Stoudt completed 79.7 percent of his passes, while also recording a 166.7 passing efficiency rating.

While Stoudt won't throw as many deep passes as Boyd did in his career, the senior will still have solid numbers because of his ability to get the ball in the hands of the big targets.


Clemson Breaks the Gamecocks' Winning Streak

This is the prediction that Clemson fans certainly hope comes true this November. The Tigers have been unsuccessful at beating in-state rival South Carolina the last five seasons, but that will change in 2014.

Why? Because this year is a home game for Clemson? No, Dylan Thompson beat the Tigers in Death Valley two years ago.

Is it because the Gamecocks are without Jadeveon Clowney and Connor Shaw? No, the Gamecocks look to be a dangerous team, even without those two players.

The difference in 2014 will be the Clemson defense. Last year's game was frustrating for the Tigers because of the way in which the defense gave up yards. Clemson held Mike Davis to a season-low 22 yards, but Shaw was able to generate production on the ground.

Thompson doesn't have the mobility of Shaw, so the Tigers could take away the run game if they play like they did in the game last season.

The front seven for the Tigers is going to be really good, so they may be able to generate enough pressure to keep Thompson from throwing many deep passes.

This will be another great game that comes down to the final quarter, but an early look shows that the Tigers could turn the series around this season.


The Tigers Give Florida State a Close Game, Give Analysts a Surprise

Not many people are giving the Tigers a shot in this one, but a few analysts will be surprised next month. While I don’t think the Tigers will win this game, I do feel that the matchup could be a lot closer than most are expecting.

ESPN’s recent vote showed that all 23 college football experts picked Florida State to win the ACC, likely meaning they all think the Seminoles will beat Clemson.

The Tigers had the talent to compete with Florida State last season, but turnovers really hurt them, especially in the first quarter.

After a weeklong buildup by ESPN, the Tigers finally took the field in front of a huge national audience in the season’s first Top Five matchup. That pressure likely caused the Tigers to play timid early, and Jameis Winston took the comfortable lead and ran with it.

I expect to see fewer mistakes this season with Stoudt behind center. He manages the ball well and doesn’t turn it over much, throwing just one interception in his Clemson career.

The Tigers also don’t have the pressure of being the favorite this season. The position the Tigers were in last year—being ranked as high as third in the nation—will be the position Florida State finds itself in this season.

The Seminoles are the overwhelming favorite to repeat as national champions, so the bar is set very high for them in 2014.

Ultimately, Florida State’s offensive and defensive lines will be too much for Clemson in the fourth quarter, but I think the Tigers will be able to hang around for a few quarters in this game.


D.J. Howard Won't Be the Tigers' Leading Rusher

This is probably the “least bold” projection on the list, but some still might find it a surprise. Howard is the starter at running back for now, but we could very likely see one of the backups lead the team in rushing.

Wayne Gallman, C.J. Davidson and Adam Choice should all be solid contributors at the position this season, and they will see the field even more with gained experience throughout the season.

I would say Gallman and Davidson have the best shot at piling up the most rushing yards, but don’t be surprised to see Choice inch up there.


The Tigers End the Season With a First-Team All-ACC Wide Receiver

Clemson having an all-conference wide receiver has become an expected occurrence, but this season isn’t as promising.

The ACC has some very talented receivers, such as Florida State’s Rashad Greene and North Carolina’s Quinshad Davis, who should both have big seasons.

Don’t sleep on the Clemson receivers, though. Between Humphries, Peake and Williams, the Tigers will see one of those guys be selected to the first team.

With the absence of Martavis Bryant and Sammy Watkins, Clemson desperately needs one of the three to emerge as the No. 1 target.

Humphries could likely total the most receptions, but Peake and Williams could end the year among the ACC’s leaders in receiving yards or touchdown catches.

So there you have it, five bold projections for this season. We should have more clarity on these predictions after Saturday’s showdown with the Georgia Bulldogs.

Which of these predictions do you see the Tigers having the least likely chance of pulling off?


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