As Clemson fans continue to watch in anticipation, like many kids waiting for Santa, to see when and if the college football season will begin, they already have the excitement of knowing that their Tigers are heavy favorites to make the playoff and win their third national title under coach Dabo Swinney.
Add in the fact that there is a possibility that Trevor Lawrence or Travis Etienne could bring Clemson fans their first Heisman trophy and it’s very understandable why they are so excited. Is there anything that could derail those goals if the 2020 season is played? Let’s look at some things that could keep the Tigers from winning it all:
- Conference strength (Or lack of): Many are hoping that the ACC won’t be as bad as it was in 2019. If it is, then there is always that possibility that it could hurt Clemson when it comes to getting into the playoff. Especially if there is a shortened season that sees only conference games being played. Another problem with the conference’s strength is the fact that It gives the defending ACC champions little to no real adversity going into the playoff and that is always worrisome when it comes to making a title run.
- Multiple Injuries: One of the fastest ways for any team to have a season go horribly the wrong way is for them to get hit with Injuries. The Tigers have one of the best strength and conditioning staffs in college football and they have also been very fortunate during the current run. While Clemson has suffered some injuries like Mike Williams during their first trip into the playoffs and Amari Rodgers ACL prior to last season, they haven’t had to worry with any that run of them that would be considered season killers.
- Secondary: The Tigers lost one of the most versatile players in the country last season as Isaiah Simmons was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. He was not the only Clemson player that won’t be back. They also lost both starting safeties a backup safety, and one of their two starting corners. Although no one wants to doubt or question defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ ability to put together another strong defense the Tigers will, this season, have to rely on some new and younger faces to step up and fill those big shoes If they don’t want to be derailed.
- No more Jeff Scott: For the first time in what feels like forever Clemson has lost a key member of their coaching staff. This has been one area that the Tigers have been known for… keeping their staff together. Co-Offensive coordinator Tony Elliott has been responsible for calling most of the plays but Co-Offensive Coordinator Jeff Scott has had a huge part in getting the Tigers game plans together. For those that don’t know, Scott left to become the head coach at South Florida. This leaves Elliott in the driver’s seat flying solo. How much will the Clemson offense miss Scott? With that said, remember the last time this happened was back when Chad Morris left to become the head coach at SMU and most Clemson fans remember how that worked out for Dabo and the staff.
- Defensive Line: Last season Clemson had problems getting a pass rush by their front four. The Tigers are hoping that the the most recent recruiting class full of elite level defensive linemen will help to fix that problem. Venables will again have a defensive front with the ability to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. While most expect the Tigers to once again feature a dominating front four, many still do not know exactly how the depth chart will look. Another question is whether or not moving back to a more traditional 4-3 look will help players like Xavier Thomas and Justin Foster. Can guys like Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy come in and make an immediate impact and help the Clemson defense get back to where they were when the “Power Rangers” were roaming the field. If not it could mean for an early playoff exit.
Dabo has said many times that you have to have more than just talent to win a national title. He has said that you also have to avoid injuries and have the ball bounce your way. Tiger fans have been fortunate enough to enjoy a ride like no other right now but need to realize that it is hard to win a championship and a speed bump can become a roadblock in the snap of a finger.