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Yesterday I gave the guidelines for picking a record for your favorite college teams even though the season is almost four months away. I also said I would give you a very early look at what I think but want to hear feedback from you on your thoughts.
First let me say that it is difficult to project the Tigers record for 206 for several reasons. They may win their division and play in the ACC title game. Since we do not know if they will play in Jacksonville in December or not, and since we have no idea who the opponent would be or their bowl opponent, let’s just stick with the regular season.
Let’s start by looking at this team. This is the deepest and most talented team Clemson has fielded in many years. There are fewer issues on this team. There are also fewer questions marks, but here are my two major concerns:
1. I have no idea how the secondary will play, but I think there is enough depth there that someone will emerge. Duane Coleman has played corner for 2/3 of a season. C.J. Gaddis played there one year and was lost. Sergio Gilliam had ups and downs. Chris Chancellor is tiny. Haydrian Lewis looked solid at times and lost at times. Ray Ray McElrathbey has not played a down yet. I want to see Chris Clemons play on a consistent basis. The freshmen are highly thought of, but Maxwell is rehabbing his knee and no one else has ever played a down in college. With that said, David Blackwell told me time, “I would rather play with talented youth than experience with less talent.” I think there is talent here. The scheme helps the corners, but puts pressure on the safeties to fill lanes and have great pass coverage responsibilities. I think Koenning can find five or six guys to defend well enough to get you through the season and next year this group will be a strength. Also the talent of the front seven on defense will help this group out.
2. I have no idea if the special teams will improve. The Tigers have a new punt protection and competition at punter. The placekicking was awesome last year so that needs to be another strength. I think the return game will get better because of personnel with the additions of Jacoby Ford, C.J. Spiller, Ray Ray McElrathbey, etc.
Also there are more weapons on both sides of the ball. The offensive line is experienced and talented. The running game will feature the league’s top tailback combination. The receivers are ready for a big season. This offense has weapons. On defense, Gaines Adams will pressure the passer. I know the defensive front is deeper than it has been in recent years, and I know there is competition at linebacker. What we also know is Anthony Waters will be jacked to play every play.
I think the coaching staff is solid and the schemes are solid.
Now the schedule is another major factor when predicting the final record. Home games versus Florida Atlantic and Louisiana Tech are wins. A game against Temple in Charlotte is a win. I would think the Tigers would be favored at home against UNC, GT, Maryland, NC State and South Carolina. Of the four road games (BC, FSU, VT and WF), I would think most Clemson fans would settle for a split of 2-2. That would give the Tigers a 10-2 record.
I don’t think Clemson is less talented than BC, FSU or Virginia Tech but those games are on the road. I also know the Tigers have struggled against Wake Forest in recent years. Thursday night in Blacksburg can be rough, and Clemson has not played well in Tallahassee in recent trips. I would say a split could get you in the ACC title game.
A 10-2 season with a chance for a trip to a BCS bowl game would be a great season. A magical one would include a couple of road wins at some tough places to play. A disappointing season would include a couple of slip-ups at home to the likes of NC State, Georgia Tech, Maryland or South Carolina.
In summary, there is not a team on the schedule that Clemson can’t beat or one that is much more talented than the Tigers. Also per our blog yesterday, I also know that things can happen in a season that you would not count on. Therefore 9-3 is the standard for 2006. Anything above 9-3 would be a fantastic season that exceeded expectations and anything less than 9-3 would be a disappointment.
Two final words about pre-season expectations: James Mays. I thought the Tigers were an NCAA team with Mays. I know the schedule was not that difficult, but the Tigers were a force with him. I also know that Clemson basketball has fewer margins for error than Clemson football, but I was wrong about the Tigers and the NCAA last season. I would not have been wrong without the loss of Mays.
Speaking of James Mays, Oliver Purnell said Mays is going back to school this summer and hopes to be eligible soon.
Gas Prices Hurt Everyone
I have never pulled for Dale Jarrett but always respected the NASCAR star. I think he is level headed and usually makes sense but to prove we all make ridiculous comments consider Jarrett’s comments on rising gas prices: "It seems like every year we get more and more questions about fuel consumption," admits Dale Jarrett. "And I don't blame people for bringing it up. Every time I fill up my car at home it hurts me too." In 2005 Jarrett made $5.3 million. It must be hard, but I will never know.
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