From the "Experience is the best teacher" department...
Growing up in West Virginia and living in a number of different states, I had
always heard about college football being a religion in the South. But it
wasn't until moving to the Upstate in early 1999 that I experienced first hand
how zealous the followers of the sport can be.
So I've learned to adjust, although I still find it difficult to discuss
nothing but college football in the middle of baseball season.
Anyway, one way I've compromised on my talk show is getting together with my
once a week ratings drag, Cobb Oxford, and providing late June predictions for
Clemson's football team. This past year was the third time we've done it
(along with picking South Carolina and Georgia), and so far we've lived to see
the scorn and ridicule.
With Tommy Bowden's annual media golf outing just six days away, now seems as
good a time as any to share those picks in writing - a mid-July follow-up, if
Please, hold your rotten egg and tomato tossing until the very end.
Wake Forest at Clemson
Staying home ill during last season's game at Winston-Salem, I was one of the
few people in the area who got sick due to something other than the Tigers'
45-17 loss to the Demon Deacons. It was so bad that one of my media buddies
called to check on me at halftime and informed me - with no small measure
of disdain - that Clemson might have a new coach before the game ended.
Of course we all know what happened after that. Bowden rallied the troops and
put together the best four-game stretch of his career. Best, at the very
least, because it was the most important.
I believe the ACC scheduling department did Clemson a favor by putting Wake
Forest first on the 2004 schedule. There's no chance the game will be lost in
the shuffle of other, higher-profile games surrounding it had it been a
midseason contest. No, Bowden and his team have had this one circled in red
since spring practice.
Clemson wins big, if for no other reason than because it must. Given the early
season buildup for this team, there can be no slow start.
Clemson 38, Wake Forest 13
Georgia Tech at Clemson
Chan Gailey's team will be hoping to avenge last season's embarrassment in
Atlanta. Not this year.
Clemson 34, Georgia Tech 17
Clemson at Texas A&M
Tiger fans have been looking forward to this one for a long time. The Aggies
play in one of the great atmosphere's in all of college football, and Dennis
Franchione is destined to turn around the struggling program.
Tough one, but Clemson sneaks by in a game in which both teams earn a measure
Clemson 24, Texas A&M 21
Clemson at Florida State
Still smarting from last season's first Bowden Bowl loss, the Seminoles will
also be trying to repair arrows broken by yet another loss to Miami, this one
in the 2004 season opener.
The Tigers stumble for the first time in 2004 to a suddenly inspired FSU team.
C'mon, you don't think scheduling the unveiling of Bobby Bowden's statue the
day before this game was an accident, do you?
FSU 27, Clemson 21
Clemson at Virginia
I take one from Bowden's bunch in Tallahassee, so how about giving back one in
Clemson ends the 0-for-Thursday night skid as the conference, and the country,
begin to discover that Virginia is vastly overrated.
Clemson 28, Virginia 10
Utah State at Clemson
It's Homecoming. No TV, which is probably a good thing for the visitors
Is there a doctor in the house?
Clemson 55, Utah State 13
Maryland at Clemson
I can't, in good conscience, pick Clemson to beat Ralph Friedgen until it has
already done so once before. The guy can coach, and he's had the Tigers'
number since he was the offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech.
Close, but not quite.
Maryland 27, Clemson 21
N.C. State at Clemson
How good will the Wolfpack offense be without Philip Rivers? How much better
will the defense be than a year ago?
Answers: Not good enough, not much better.
Clemson 24, N.C. State 14
Clemson at Miami
Here we go out on the industrial-strength limb again.
The Tigers punk the Hurricanes in Little Havana.
Clemson 31, Miami 21
Clemson at Duke
Ted Roof is a good coach. Duke has a $22 million football facility. Visiting
teams sometimes have trouble playing at Wallace Wade because of the lack of
None of that is enough for a Blue Devil upset. It ain't pretty, but it is a
Clemson 34, Duke 13
South Carolina at Clemson
Is this Lou Holtz's last game at USC? Or is it the game that puts a stamp on
the return to the postseason for the Gamecocks?
Holtz's crew might make a bowl game, but they'd better qualify before visiting
Clemson 37, USC 20
Add it up and that's 9-2 overall, 6-2 in the ACC.
The floor is now open for rebuttal.