Clemson Tigers: Your 2008 College Football Champions
Tommy Bowden and his Tigers are always on the brink of glory, yet they somehow find a way to come up just short.
But like Marky Mark, I think the Tigers will be feeling the "Good Vibrations" this year.
Last year the Tigers finished with an 8-4 record, but they again played better than their schedule showed.
Two losses demonstrate this: at the end of the season, where they lost to Boston College on a 43-yard bomb by Matt Ryan at the end of the game; and the bowl game, where Auburn defeated them by three points in OT.
But we're not surprised—this is Clemson, and this is just normal with them.
There was some good that came out of last season. Cullen Harper, a fifth-year senior this coming season, stepped up and claimed the starting QB role while gaining the confidence of his teammates.
He threw for 3,000 Yards with a 65 percent completion percentage and had an amazing 27 TDs with only six INTs.
The defense was stifling, allowing just 18.7 points a game. They return eight starters from that ACC-leading defense. Da'Quan Bowers, the No. 1 DE recruit this offseason, has thrived in spring practice and looks to take over the hole left by outgoing senior Phillip Merling.
Their secondary was the key, and they return all four starters there. Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor paired up and were the ACC's most feared corners, and possibly the two best in the Nation.
So their defense has no reason for a letdown and should maintain the same high intensity and lead the ACC again in total defense.
Let's not forget—this is still Clemson, so keep your hopeful thoughts tempered.
Well, the backfield is one of the best in the nation with James Davis, a workhorse who handles the majority of the load and is a great pass blocker. He is the thunder.
Also we have C.J. Spiller, the lightning to Davis' thunder. He is extremely fast and catches the ball well. He is the game breaker who also returns punts and kicks.
Aaron Kelly broke out last year, hauling in 88 passes for 1,081 yards and showing he can be the go-to guy at Clemson. But spring studs Xavier Dye and Marquan Jones have shown that they are capable of handling the receiving roles once Kelly departs.
Their O-line remains their lone question mark. They return only one starter but have three players with starting experience on the line. C Thomas Austin is the returning starter, but RG Barry Humphries and RT Chris Hairston have starting experience from last year.
While this could be their ultimate downfall, it is still possible for these Tigers to gel together and hold their own.
"I've got some questions concerning the offensive line with them being so young. That will be a concern, especially with such a quality opponent in our opener. But, with our returners and leaders, I feel good about the season." - Tommy Bowden
Bowden is still unsure about his line, but he still seems optimistic that they can come through.
Special teams look to be good again. P Jimmy Manners and K Phillip Buchholz both look to capitalize on serviceable seasons. C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford will continue to give the Tigers a dominant return game.
Now to the reason, in my opinion, that pushes the Tigers to the top—their schedule.
The Tigers face what is one of the weaker schedules in the nation and have a fairly easy road to the ACC Championship and onwards.
They open their season against Alabama in a neutral site game in Atlanta. Now this isn't a cakewalk by any means, but the Tigers should still be able to contain the Tide's main threat (Julio Jones) and in the end win the game. This will be a big test for their O-line to see if they can hold their own.
They then have an month-long streak of cupcakes until they play at Wake Forest on Thursday night.
They will come into Wake undefeated, and in a tough matchup, I see Clemson coming out alive in its first road game of the year.
Then they face a rebuilding Georgia Tech team at home, followed by back-to-back road games against Boston College and Florida State.
That should be the toughest stretch of the schedule, starting at Wake Forest and ending with the road game at Florida State.
All three of these teams are not at their best this season. They all still have major question marks, and we doubt whether or not they can hold their own.
While there is a chance that any of these teams could have their game of the year against Clemson, I still feel that the Tigers could in fact handle a game like that. Though it would be a test, it would be a well-needed test.
They end their schedule with Duke, at Virgina, and finally the Battle of the Palmetto State at home against South Carolina.
These games keep them steady and ready for the ACC Championship game, as they will face quality opponents up until the Championship game.
The only pitfall I can see is if they run the table and go undefeated at 13-0, yet are left out in favor of a one-loss SEC team or something along those lines because of their soft schedule.
With everything set in place—returning players on defense, skill positions coming back, QB Cullen Harper leading the offense—I see no reason as to why Clemson doesn't make the jump.
Now all the naysayers will continually try to tell me how their O-line isn't good enough and how the LB core isn't deep enough—but where Bowden lacks in clinching moments, he makes up for in getting his players ready to play.
But this year Bowden isn't controlling the team. Cullen Harper is—and after experiencing the letdown at BC last year, he now realizes what it's going to take to win, and he indeed has the hunger.
But need I remind you again: This is Clemson, and talent only goes so far.
This isn't the normal Clemson team though. There's a newfound hunger eating at the players to challenge each other and a desire to hold each other accountable.
Perhaps this, in fact, is the year Clemson is lucky rather than good.
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