College Football News Preview 2020: Clemson Tigers Keys To The Season
Biggest Key To The Clemson Tigers Offense
Once again, the offensive line has to come together right away. It’s easy to write off any team – or knock it down a peg – that loses the top offensive linemen. But out of all the great things Clemson has been able to do under Dabo Swinney, filling in the gaps up front – on both sides – without missing a beat might be among the most impressive.
All of the top teams can find skill guys, and coming up with good defensive players isn’t usually an issue if the scheme is right, but rebuilding or reloading a line is much, much harder than Clemson makes it look. It helps to have an O line coach like Robbie Caldwell has been around the coaching block for over 40 years.
Ask Florida State, Texas and Tennessee how easy it is to find five guys year after year after year who can consistently block well.
Chip Kelly still hasn’t come close to fixing his front five at UCLA.
Just one starter returns to a line that finished 11th in the nation in sacks allowed and paved the way for over 240 yards per game. While the assumption is that all will be fine with the world – again, it always is at Clemson – one of the team’s worst rushing performance last year was 125 yards, and that was in the way-too-close win over North Carolina.
LSU, Ohio State and Texas A&M all held the Tigers to 160 yards or fewer, and they were the only ones other than the Tar Heels to keep Clemson from going off.
As long as the four new starters up front are good, and as long as the NFL skill guys have time to operate, nothing stops.
Biggest Key To The Clemson Tigers Defense
Just keep forcing mistakes. It’s not so much that Clemson needs to have takeaways to succeed, but when it gets them, the party is usually over – and ugly.
43 in a row.
Clemson has won almost everything – and you can find a stat to skew almost any way you want with this program over the last few years – but ever since losing to Georgia Tech 28-6 late in the 2014 season, it’s a ridiculous 43-0 when it comes up with two or more takeaways.
How much do forced turnovers matter? Over the last five years, Clemson lost the 2015 national title to Alabama – no takeaways.
It only came up with one in the wild shootout loss to Pitt in 2016, and didn’t get any in the amazing comeback win over Bama for the national title.
It got just one in the 2016 loss to Syracuse and one in the CFP loss to Bama, and the next year it only came up with one in the close call against the Orange.
And last season? There were just two games when Clemson didn’t generate a takeaway. Once was in the 21-20 win over North Carolina, and the other was in the national championship loss to LSU.
Key Clemson Tigers Player To A Successful Season
CB Mario Goodrich, Jr.
Go ahead and put several offensive linemen in this category, and a case could be made that WR Amari Rodgers has to take his game to a whole other level with Justyn Ross out and Tee Higgins gone, but the secondary is – and it’s all relative here compared to most teams – one of the thinnest areas going into the season.
Darion Kendrick is an all-star on one side, and teams are going to test Goodrich early on the other. The former star recruit has been am all-star in the classroom, but he has yet to become more than an occasionally-used backup. Now he’ll get his shot.
Key Game To The Clemson Tigers Season
at Notre Dame, Nov. 7
There might be a blip.
There might be a game like the North Carolina thriller of last year – a 21-20 Tiger win – that goes the other way, or there could be a Syracuse-like showdown in 2018 that they can’t pull out, or there could certainly be a loss on the wrong day at Florida State, against Virginia, or against (gasp!) South Carolina.
Yes, there could certainly be a huge upset at some point, but it would take something special for one loss to happen in one of those games, much less two. Beating Notre Dame in South Bend would be a wonderful insurance policy.
That’s the one game that might be close to even – or as close as it could get for this Clemson team. Lose, and when it comes to getting into the College Football Playoff, there’s no margin for error whatsoever in the other 11 games.
– Clemson Tigers Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
2019 Clemson Fun Stats
– 1st Half Scoring: Clemson 398 – Opponents 93
– Sacks: Clemson 47 for 313 yards – Opponents 18 for 142 yards
– Red Zone TDs: Clemson 51-of-67 (76%) – Opponents 14-of-33 (42%)