This is part two of a 12 piece series examining all 12 ACC school’s 2012 schedule and making predictions based on returning players and incoming talent.
Today we examine the defending ACC champion Clemson Tigers. Last season the Tigers finished the regular season with an ACC Championship and a 10-3 record. In 2011 Clemson had impressive victories over Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech (twice). Most of the Tigers’ offensive talent is returning in 2012 including quarterback Tajh Boyd (potential 2012 Heisman candidate). Defense was Clemson’s undoing last season, they gave up 70 points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. To remedy that Clemson and head coach Dabo Swinney have hired former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
The Tigers’ have a fairly difficult schedule in 2012. In week 1 Clemson plays the Auburn Tigers in the Georgia Dome. Last year’s matchup between these two ended in a score of 38-24 and it was the start of Clemson’s rise into the national spotlight. Auburn has fallen a long way from winning the BCS National Championship two years ago with Cam Newton. It doesn’t help that Auburn has lost their top offensive weapon, running back Michael Dyer, to transfer. This will be one of the few times that the ACC comes out on top against the SEC (predicted Clemson record 1-0).
Clemson’s next two games should be relatively easy on the Tigers. They play Ball State in week 2 and FCS school Furman in week 3. Neither of these games should even be close and both are being played in Death Valley (Clemson record 3-0).
The Tigers start ACC play in week 4 against the Florida State Seminoles. Clemson was able to pull out the upset against FSU last year, but it won’t be nearly as easy this time around. First, this game is being played at Doak Campbell Stadium. Second Clemson didn’t have to play against FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel (injured against Oklahoma). If Manuel is healthy in week 4 then the Noles will pull this one out (Clemson record 3-1).
Clemson plays Boston College in week 5. The Eagles had a rough season in 2011, finishing with a record of 4-8. Boston College simply just doesn’t have enough firepower to stick with Clemson for 60 minutes. Clemson will win this game, and there is a real possibility it won’t even be close (Clemson record 4-1).
The Tigers then have a bye week followed by a tough two week stretch against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. The Yellow Jackets beat Clemson by a score of 31-17, but that game was in Atlanta. Clemson has home field advantage and all the motivation in this game (Clemson record 5-1). The Tigers game against the Hokies is also in Death Valley. Clemson was able to beat Virginia Tech twice last year (both by large margin), so it would be difficult to pick against Clemson in this one (Clemson record 6-1).
Clemson’s next three games should be considered wins. They play a Thursday game at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons over achieved last season and were able to upset Florida State, but it is doubtful that they can do the same to Clemson in 2012 (Clemson record 7-1). The Tigers then play a game at Duke followed by a game at home against Maryland. Neither of these teams will instill much fear in the Tigers and both games could end as blowouts (Clemson record 9-1).
The Tiger’s finally regular season ACC game is against North Carolina State. The Wolf Pack embarrassed Clemson last year, winning by a margin of 37-13. Clemson has a recent history of losing games they shouldn’t, and this matchup is a potential trap game. If the Tigers are looking a week ahead to their game against archrival South Carolina then N.C. State could easily take this one away (Clemson record 9-2).
Clemson’s final game of the season is the battle for South Carolina. This year the Gamecocks travel to Death Valley. The Tiger’s haven’t beaten their archrivals since 2008 and lost last year’s matchup by a lopsided margin (the score was 34-13). If Clemson’s defense is as inconsistent as last year, then the losing streak will continue (predicted Clemson record 9-3).
So at the end of the season Clemson will finish with a record of 9-3 with a 6-2 record in ACC play. That should be more than enough to place the Tigers in contention for the Atlantic Division.
To see other predictions; Part 1