2013 ACC Football: Analyzing the Clemson Tigers Schedule

Mark Carroll@@MarkCCarollContributor IIIAugust 14, 2013

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 24:  Sammy Watkins #2 of the Clemson Tigers is tackled by Victor Hampton #27 of the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 24, 2012 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

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

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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.

Best-Case Scenario

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.

Worst-Case Scenario

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.

Bottom Line

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


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