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1 Clemson

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OPPOSING COACH'S TAKE

This might be the best defensive line we've ever seen. Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant are all future first-rounders. But they aren't the only good ones. Everybody in the country wanted Xavier Thomas; he could have started at a lot of places as a freshman and now he'll have to fight to be in the rotation. So it's not just the starters you have to worry about. With those guys up front, their linebackers might never get touched.... It's hard to know how they'll look on offense because of the uncertainty at QB, but they'll hang their hat on the short passing game. You really have to challenge their short throws or the chains will keep moving. You also have to tackle well, because they can put the ball where it's a one-on-one. They may not be as explosive as they've been, but they will go on lots of double-digit play drives, and TRAVIS ETIENNE can always break a big one if you don't fit the play correctly.... They still like to beat you over the top, and Tee Higgins can be that guy to make them even more explosive. Higgins is 6'4" and 200 and can run, and they also still have Hunter Renfrow, who looks like a scout-team guy but always seems to be open.

BY THE NUMBERS

3

Returning rushers who gained more than 650 yards in '17: QB Kelly Bryant, RBs Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster.

0

Teams on Clemson's schedule that finished in the Top 25 of the final AP poll last season.

5-YEAR TREND

WINS

The Tigers have the easiest road to the College Football Playoff—and the talent to win their second national championship in three years.

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

15

12

9

6

3

10-3

14-1 (ACC CHAMPS)

14-1 (NATIONAL CHAMPS)

12-2 (ACC CHAMPS)

12-0

YEAR

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018*

*SI PROJECTION

X-FACTOR

With nearly every other piece in place to contend for a national title, the choice of quarterback may determine whether Clemson reaches its goal. Like Alabama last year, the Tigers have an accomplished incumbent starter (Kelly Bryant) and a freshman generating buzz (TREVOR LAWRENCE). The Crimson Tide didn't make a QB switch until halftime of the national championship—and then it made all the difference. Lawrence throws a better deep ball; Bryant has earned loyalty after going 12--2 last year. Dabo Swinney has said the job is Bryant's but has left the door open for Lawrence. Don't be shocked if it's still ajar well into September.

2018 SCHEDULE

SEPT. 1

FURMAN

SEPT. 8

@ TEXAS A&M [KEY MATCHUP]

SEPT. 15

GEORGIA SOUTHERN

SEPT. 22

@ GEORGIA TECH

SEPT. 29

SYRACUSE

OCT. 6

@ WAKE FOREST

OCT. 20

N.C. STATE [KEY MATCHUP]

OCT. 27

@ FLORIDA STATE (18) [BIGGEST GAME][SI RANKINGS]

NOV. 3

LOUISVILLE

NOV. 10

@ BOSTON COLLEGE

NOV. 17

DUKE

NOV. 24

SOUTH CAROLINA

KEY MATCHUP

BIGGEST GAME

SI RANKINGS