10 teams that could win it all in ’13: Clemson

Oh, Dabo ... (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)
Oh, Dabo … (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)


Between now and the start of college football season, I’ll present you with 10 college football teams that have a realistic chance to win the national title this year. Today, the series continues with Clemson.

Clemson Tigers (2013 schedule)
2012 record: 11-2
Chick-Fil-A Bowl champions (defeated LSU 25-24)

Why they could win it all: The Tigers have all the pieces in place to be one of the most potent offenses in the nation. Led by senior quarterback Tajh Boyd, Clemson has a star signal-caller that should make most ACC defenses look like high-school units. In 2012, he threw for 36 touchdowns and ran for 514 yards, a year in which the Clemson offense set a school record with 533 points scored. They also set an ACC record for total yards, with 6,665, according to the Star News Online.

The Tigers will also benefit from having two of their three marquee games of the season at home, as the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida State Seminoles come to Death Valley. If they clinch a spot in the ACC Championship game, they’ll be playing up the road in Charlotte, so expect the seats to be filled with orange and purple.

Clemson also returns seven starters on defense, a unit that wasn’t great in 2012 but should be improved in 2013. Besides, they’ll only need to be good enough to slow opposing offenses, as the Clemson offense should score points by the dozen this year.

Keep in mind that the Tigers also have plenty of time to get healthy between each of their three toughest games, as each is spaced at least a month apart.

(More in this series: Why Alabama could win it all | Ohio State | Oregon)

Why they might not win it all: That schedule, y’all. An opening-week kickoff against Georgia will be brutal for both teams because the loser could easily be knocked out of the national title picture. It’s not a foregone conclusion that the Tigers will win that tilt, either — Georgia’s offense will be just as talented, and if Clemson isn’t up to the task, they’ll be in a massive hole to start their 2013 campaign.

I don’t expect the Seminoles to give Clemson much trouble on Oct. 19 because FSU’s young quarterback Jameis Winston is going to have his hands full with a very tough atmosphere, but at the end of the year, the Tigers will have to beat the Gamecocks — something they haven’t done since 2008. That game will be played in Columbia and both teams might have undefeated records, so the stakes would be extremely high.

Which brings me to “Clemsoning,” a term given to the Tigers from years of late-season meltdowns as pressure mounts. They have to overcome their history of falling apart at the end of the year if they’re going to finish the season with a victory in Pasadena.

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