Clemson Tigers College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season
Clemson Tigers Biggest Key: Offense
The running game has to get moving again.
It became a bit glossed over as the season went on because the passing attack was so amazing under both Trevor Lawrence and DJ Uiagalelei, but Clemson wasn’t really Clemson running the ball.
It’s hard to argue too much with an offense that averaged 4.5 yards per carry with 33 touchdowns – two or more in every game – but the team only hit 200 yards three times.
Ten. That’s how many times 2019 Clemson cranked out over 200 yards as it averaged 6.4 yards per carry – almost two more yards per pop than the 2020 version. The 2018 running game ran for over two yards more than last year’s ground game and it also hit the 200-yard mark ten times.
Again, much of this had to do with the increased emphasis on the passing game, but with so much talent on the O line and so many backs to choose from in the rotation, Clemson at least has to average six yards per carry again.
Clemson Tigers Biggest Key: Defense
Don’t have a down game against the run. Stay healthy is actually the biggest key – 2020 Clemson had a whole slew of defensive injuries that weren’t major, but were enough to occasionally screw things up.
For a loaded group that should be a mortal lock to finish in the top 15 in total defense again, dominating almost everyone on the schedule is a given. If you’re getting over 150 rushing yards against this team, you’re doing something amazing.
Only two teams hit the 200-yard rushing mark against the Clemson defense last year – Notre Dame and Ohio State. Those were the two losses, and they were the only time all year the Tigers allowed over five yards per carry.
The 2019 team didn’t allow over 200 rushing yards to anyone, but the only time it gave up more than five yards per crack was to Ohio State in the epic Fiesta Bowl and to LSU in the national championship loss.
Those two 200-yard rushing days against the Tigers were the only time anyone got to the mark since Alabama did it in the 2016 national championship – Jalen Hurts had something to do with that. Before that, Louisville ran for 273 thanks to some Lamar Jackson guy.
Outside of the opener against Georgia, be shocked if anyone can get close to 200.
Clemson Tigers Key Player To A Successful Season
RB Lyn-J Dixon, Sr.
QB DJ Uiagalelei staying healthy is the biggest key – there’s no one behind him at the moment – but making the ground game go again could be the bigger factor. The Tigers have to go on without Travis Etienne, and while there should be a good rotation of options, there needs to be a lead back.
The 5-10, 195-pound Dixon ran for just 190 yards and two scores last year, but he’s been used as a kickoff returner and got in close to 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns of rushing work in his first two seasons.
As loaded as Clemson is, a whole lot of pressure will be taken off if Dixon becomes a dynamic over-six-yards-per-carry rusher again.
Clemson Tigers Key Game To The 2021 Season
Georgia (in Charlotte), Sept. 4
With only some due respect to the ACC along with South Carolina – okay, with little to no due respect to either one – Clemson should steamroll through this slate except for a trip to NC State, maybe the date at Pitt, and in the opener against Georgia.
This should be a College Football Playoff game instead of a season-opener, and if Clemson can pull it off, it might just have a CFP spot sealed. At the very least, there’s plenty of margin for error with one loss along the way if it wins this.
2020 Clemson Tigers Fun Stats
– 1st Quarter Scoring: Clemson 169 – Opponents 55
– Sacks: Clemson 46 for 307 yards – Opponents 20 for 153 yards
– Rushing TDs: Clemson 33 – Opponents 9