CLEMSON FOOTBALL

Clemson has won the ACC crown five years in a row and could find things a little tougher in a 2020 season.
Clemson has won the ACC crown five years in a row and could find things a little tougher in a 2020 season.

Phil Steele high on Clemson, says gap narrowed in ACC overall however


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Clemson has been an unquestioned favorite in previews of the upcoming ACC season, however that may come.

With the Big Ten and Pac-12 moving to conference-only schedules, that precedent could make an already unique sporting year that much more -- Notre Dame a natural partner to play some extra games versus the league after canceled games elsewhere.

But making predictions with the season we have now, longtime ESPN and independent college football analyst Phil Steele is high on the Tigers -- and higher on the ACC overall.

"Once you get Dabo in the playoffs, I mean they rarely lose a playoff game," Steele told ACC Network's Packer and Durham Tuesday, "so it’s one of those things where getting there is a big part of the battle. With Clemson last year, I said in the preseason I felt Clemson would be at least a two-touchdown favorite in every (regular-season) game last year and they were. The closest game last year was 16.5-point favorite. This year, they will have one game where it isn’t a double-digit favorite, and that’s at Notre Dame on November the 7th. That one’s a little on the tricky side.

“Clemson clearly to me is the best team in the ACC. I don’t think the gap is as big as it was last year. Last year, it was Clemson and everybody else. This year, you’ve got some good teams in the ACC. Some top-20 teams and I think it might be a little bit more difficult of a path than last year."

In addition to praising Clemson's offensive playmakers, Steele has the Tiger D-line rated No. 1 in the country and top-10 units at linebacker (No. 5) and defensive back (No. 10), he said.

"It is a loaded team and they deserve to be the clear-cut favorite to get back to the playoff," said Steele.

Steele said there are four legitimate contenders in the ACC Coastal Division with UNC, Miami, Virginia Tech and Pitt. Virginia Tech is given the best odds at the division by ESPN's Football Power Index (48.6), followed by UNC (34.3) and Miami (5.1).

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