The 2011 season could be make-or-break for the Clemson Tigers as the pressure is on for bigger and better things from a team that has underperformed in light of the actual talent it has.
The past three seasons have yielded just one Atlantic Division title among expectations that the Tigers would be a legitimate contender for not just an ACC title, but a BCS title as well.
Last season Clemson went in the wrong direction with a 6-6 regular season record overall and just four wins in the conference. The season ended with a 31-26 loss to South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl to cap off a disappointing year.
This will be Dabo Swinney’s fourth season as Clemson’s head coach and most likely his last if does not turn things around. His woes are not due to a lack of talent, as the Tigers routinely send a number of players to the NFL each and every year.
This offseason, Swinney decided to overhaul his offensive staff by bringing in Chad Morris from Tulsa as his new coordinator. If Morris can successfully install the fast-paced, high-scoring system he employed with the Golden Hurricane, the talent that this team already has in its skill positions could make the Tigers an offensive force this season.
Tajh Boyd will take over for the departed Kyle Parker as Clemson’s starting quarterback this season, which could be a perfect fit for Morris’s system. He has tremendous size at 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds along with good mobility moving out of the pocket. Experience could be a factor as Boyd threw only 63 passes for 369 yards last year, so he will need to quickly get up to speed before opening day.
The Tigers’ running game will be led by Andre Ellington, who rushed for 686 yards last season. However, keep an eye on Mike Bellamy, who comes in as one of the most sought-after recruits in the country.
The receiving corps will feature DeAndre Hopkins, who led the team in 2010 with 51 receptions for 626 yards.
Da’Quan Bowers is off to the NFL along with six other starters from a defensive unit that was ranked 13th in the nation in points allowed. On the bright side, MLB Corico Hawkins, the team’s leading tackler in 2010, is back.
Nonetheless, it looks like the defense will be a major rebuilding project this season as Swinney will need to count on a number of his more high-profile defensive recruits to step up right from the start and make a major contribution to this unit.
2011 Clemson Tigers Football Schedule
Clemson will have two weeks to work out the kinks on both sides of the ball with games against Troy and Wofford. It will face a depleted Auburn team in Week Three before hosting Florida State and then travelling to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech.
If the Tigers can come out of this stretch with a winning record, they could possibly run the table through the rest of their ACC schedule before facing South Carolina in the final regular season game.
2011 Clemson Tigers College Football Odds
Bodog has listed Clemson at 100/1 to win a BCS title with four other teams in the ACC having better odds; Florida State (16/1), Virginia Tech (35/1), Miami (60/1), and North Carolina (80/1). WagerWeb has opened the Tigers at +1200 along with Maryland, with the same four teams having better odds. Clemson is the third favorite to win the Atlantic Division at +450 behind the Terrapins at +325 and the Seminoles at a prohibitive -325.
2011 Clemson Tigers Football Predictions
This team has enough talent to make some noise in the ACC, especially if Boyd continues to develop at the quarterback position. The schedule is somewhat favorable except for back-to-back games against Florida State and Virginia Tech. While it is doubtful Clemson will get past the Seminoles or the Hokies on the road, a strong finish leads to a second-place finish in the Atlantic with an 8-4 record overall.