Hello everyone and welcome to our next opponent preview: Clemson!
All-time Series: GT leads 50-32-2, Clemson has won the last five
Last Meeting: Clemson W 52-14 (2019)
Game Info: Saturday October 17, at Home
2019 in Review
2019 Record: 14-1 (8-0 ACC)
2019 Results: ACC Champions, Fiesta Bowl Champions, National Championship Finalists
2019 Final AP Ranking: #2
Notable Individual Awards: RB Travis Etienne (ACC Player of the Year), OL John Simpson (Consensus All-American), LB Isaiah Simmons (Butkus Award, Consensus All-American), 8 All-ACC First Teamers
NFL Draft Results: 7 drafter players (2 first round)
2019 Clemson was an absolute juggernaut of a team, only being bested by team-of-destiny LSU in the final game of the season. They smashed their way through their ACC schedule, an outlier 21-20 victory over UNC being the only game they didn’t win by at least 29 points. They also notched a 14 point victory over Texas A&M early in the season and a thrilling 29-23 battle with Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. In their 14 total wins the margins of victory were: 38, 14, 35, 42, 1, 31, 35, 52, 45, 45, 49, 35, 45, and 6. Good L O R D. QB Trevor Lawrence (3665 yards, 45 TDs), RB Travis Etienne (1614 yards, 19 TDs), and WR Tee Higgins (1167 yards, 13 TDs) formed a three-headed monster at the forefront of the Tigers’ high-scoring offense.
Looking Ahead to 2020
2020 Recruiting: 247Sports #3 class nationally (#1 ACC, four 5-stars)
2020 Preseason AP Ranking: #1
Huge shock: Clemson is still an undisputed tier-1 team. Dabo Swinney’s Tigers have been arguably the best program in the CFP era (Alabama being their only peer) and that trend doesn’t look like it’s going to drop off any time soon, certainly not in 2020.
QB Trevor Lawrence is back for his third year and you can probably bank on him throwing for at least 3500 yards and 35 TDs (while also adding way more rushing yards and TDs than you would think). An easy Heisman candidate, Lawrence is the face of the program right now. He’s an absolute star and will likely (please God for our sake) be a top draft pick in 2021.
RB Travis Etienne is also back after deciding to forgo the draft in favor of his Senior season. I will fight anyone who tries to tell me that Etienne hasn’t been the best RB in the country over the last three seasons. What this guy has put together is nothing short of astounding: 4000 yards and 62 touchdowns so far in his career. His career yards-per-carry? 7.8. Seriously. That number puts him 3rd all-time. It’s wild to see how successful he has been juxtaposed with how little national attention he gets. Trevor Lawrence may be the face of the program, but Travis Etienne is the fuel that makes the machine go.
The Tigers do have to replace most of the starting O-line, however all of the backups will be returning so this shouldn’t be a huge problem for a program saturated with talent.
Losing star receivers Tee Higgins (drafted) and Justyn Ross (surgery) is certainly a hit. Guys like Amari Rodgers, Joseph Ngata, Frank Ladson Jr., and Cornell Powell will seemingly be the ones looking to take more of a receiver-by-committee approach in 2020.
Right now the defense is only projected to have five starters returning, but when is it ever smart to bet against Brent Venables? The story here is the same as it is for most Clemson seasons: losing some stars (All-American LB Isaiah Simmons and others), but returning a monster D-line and bringing in two 5-star defensive recruits (Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy). Seriously, Clemson has mastered the art of reloading talent. We’ll all be 100 years old and Clemson will still have the best D-line in the country.
The big news on the defense right now though is star DE Xavier Thomas redshirting due to lingering breathing issues after contracting COVID-19 and strep throat. Losing Thomas is certainly a big hit on the field and it’s also one of the first instances of a big-name player having to sit out for COVID-related reasons.
In a word? Yikes.
I don’t know how many more ways I can say “Clemson is a preposterously successful program that will continue to be preposterously successful in 2020”. Yet again they will likely go undefeated in the regular season. Yet again they will likely win the ACC. Yet again they will be one of the handful of teams that has a real path to a National Championship. If we see a full season, put your money on Clemson being there at the end.
As far as what this means for us, the short answer is it overwhelmingly likely means an L on the record. Not playing them in the first game of the season again should make for a better matchup and last season’s attempt at the Tigers was a heartening effort, but a win here would probably qualify for the biggest upset of 2020. Still though, of all seasons 2020 will be the most anything-can-happen of all of them and that’s why we play the games.
Prediction: Clemson 38, GT 17