The Clemson Tigers possess one of the best defensive lines in the country and a solid back seven in the loaded Atlantic Coast Conference. Offensively, Clemson is littered with playmakers, with three, up-front starters returning to school. Senior Kelly Bryant returns, opening up fall camp as a starter, while freshman Trevor Lawrence looks to establish himself for playing time. Lawrence provides Clemson with more offensive punch as he has more downfield passing capability than last year’s offense. The Tigers are no strangers to the tough ACC schedule, and their competitors are fierce. The ACC is currently one of the best football conferences in the nation.  

Even so, Clemson is clearly the pick in the ACC and a top five football team coming into the season. The last few years, Clemson has posted a strong defense and their defensive side of the ball this year will be virtually unmatched. Clemson’s defensive line is going to be out of this world. 

While the defense will be stellar, there is a key player on the offensive side to watch. Regardless of whether Bryant or Lawrence is the starter, the Tigers are in fantastic shape in the wide receiver department. Deep threat Tee Higgins is the X-factor who could really put Clemson over the top. With Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud leaving for pro careers, Higgins, who averaged 20.3 yards per reception last season, seeks to put fear in the hearts of DB’s and defensive coordinators. He just might lead the ACC in receiving yards. 

The Tigers might be the pick in the ACC, but a team in Florida may meet them in the 2018 ACC Championship Game to show us otherwise. The Tigers won’t face the Miami Hurricanes during the regular season, however the turnover-forcing defense will be the calling card of the Hurricanes once again, as nearly all their linebackers and secondary’s reappear for another year. That spells trouble if it’s the young freshmen taking snaps against Miami. And wide receiver Ahmmon Richards returns from injury, so their offense should be better this year. 

Willie Taggart / Photo courtesy of: Mark Wallheiser (APSI)

The biggest regular-season threat is the Florida State Seminoles. New coach Willie Taggart has put together a strong recruiting line accompanying their returning talent. Clemson plays at Tallahassee in October. Even if Florida State beats Clemson, its chances of going 7-1 in ACC play and winning the Atlantic Division are slim with road games at Louisville, North Carolina State and an opener against Virginia Tech. 

Clemson has won the ACC Championship and been selected for the college playoffs the last three years. With a little Dabo magic, stopping the Tigers from scoring will be hard. Moving the ball against this defense may be even harder. They might slip up once along the way, but a fourth, consecutive, postseason battle between Alabama and Clemson might be here before we know it. It’s college football’s version of the Cavs vs. the Warriors. 

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