I thought this was a Georgia Tech sports blog... so, I was asked to write this article which I find to be entirely pointless. Why will Clemson win the ACC in the 2021 season? Because they’re Clemson, duh.
Ok, well that was fun. I guess I should actually do my job though, so here we go.
Talent Stepping Up
Clemson loses Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne who were the stars on offense (not to mention losing Wide Receivers Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell). Oh no, whatever shall Clemson do about that? I guess they’ll just have to restock with Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei and a talented running back core which includes Lyn-J Dixon and Kobe Pace among others.
Uiagalelei (who my spell-check really does not like) already cut his teeth last year in his comeback win against Boston College and 429 yard passing effort in a close loss to Notre Dame. While not as highly touted as Trevor Lawrence Uiagalelei has plenty of talent which is bolstered by a strong O-line and a fantastic receiving core. TE Brandon Galloway is an NFL level talent who will be a key target in the red-zone. At wide-receiver Uiagalelei will have three 6’3” targets in EJ Williams, Frank Ladson, and Joseph Ngata, who should be pretty easy to spot downfield.
O-line is a more difficult position to properly quantify, but know that Clemson has some of the best guards and tackles in the ACC (if not the country) in names like Matt Bockhorst, Will Putnam, and Jordan McFadden. This crew will excel at both protection for Uiagalelei and opening gaps for Dixon to run through. Dixon will have to prove himself as a target out of the backfield, something Etienne excelled at, but Dixon has the speed and slickness to cause problems for linebackers across the ACC.
The defense for Clemson returns 9 starters from last year. Keep an eye out for Baylon Spector and Bryan Bresee in particular to wreak havoc in other teams’ backfields. While the Clemson defense did struggle in a few games last year (Ohio State, Boston College, and the first Notre Dame matchup), They were still one of the best in the country ranking 15th in the NCAA or yards surrendered per game and a +8 turnover margin on the season. While it might not have the biggest names, most coaches will find facing the Clemson defense more concerning than their offense.
I feel like it should be pretty obvious at this point that Dabo Swinney is one of the best coaches in college football. Despite some… questionable statements in the past about players getting paid Dabo will be returning. Right now Dabo is getting more attention for his offseason comments on the expansion of the playoff and NIL, but he has also made it clear that this 2021 season will be a fresh start from his team. He and his staff are excited to face the upcoming challenges ahead of them. A key thing that Dabo consistently imparts upon his players is the importance of treating every opponent as a serious threat (you know, the Nick Saban strategy), which is important in a chaotic conference like the ACC. Challenges in the past few years from teams like Boston College and Syracuse show that you cannot afford to underestimate any opponent. So Swinney will be prepping his guys for the worst regardless of who they are playing.
Clemson’s toughest game of the regular season will likely be their first. Some team from Athens is coming up to play Clemson in the Carolina Panther’s stadium in Charlotte. I’m not familiar with the *looks closer at sheet of paper* dwags, but I’ve heard they’re pretty good. In all seriousness the dwags are very similar to Clemson in terms of offensive and defensive talent. Both teams have a talented, but fresh, quarterback taking over the offense. Both teams have a strong defense returning. Both teams have hopes of competing for a national championship. Practically identical teams whose seasons’ may depend on winning this match. This game will likely hinge upon how good the coaches can prep their players. I expect Clemson to snatch a win in this matchup, but it will be a hard fought game for sure.
The meat of Clemson’s ACC schedule should be pretty easy for the tigers to snack on. It’s always hard to tell how teams will end up in the rollercoaster that is the ACC, but the toughest conference games on the schedule look to be NC State, Boston College, and Wake Forest (I’m not gonna speculate on FSU after last season). While all of those teams have made great strides in the past few years, they do not have the raw talent that Clemson does and will need to play nearly perfect games if they are to pull an upset. Notre Dame is once again independent, so there won’t be any exciting matchups between the Irish and the Tigers unless it happens in the Playoffs. With this in mind the Tigers are a clear favorite to win the Atlantic unless half of the Tigers’ team ends up getting injured.
Since Clemson misses the highlights of the Coastal in UNC and Miami, their biggest challenge may be winning the ACC championship. Overall, if you’re a Clemson fan you should feel pretty good about those prospects. I could go into the details of why this schedule might make it difficult for Clemson to make it into the playoffs if they lose to the dwags, but this article is only about them winning the ACC so I choose to be lazy. Assuming Clemson will face either UNC or The U in the ACC championship (and not a wild card like Pitt) I expect the defense of the Tigers will be too much for those teams to overcome. I’m not even gonna list stats (only partially because I’m lazy), y’all know how good Clemson is.
What? You’re still here? You saw the set of pictures at the start of this article. I don’t know what you want out of me. Clemson is really good. Barring something horrible happening to their program they will stand on top of the ACC again this year.
With other teams in the ACC recruiting and coaching better maybe someone will knock the tigers off their pedestal in the future. But don’t expect it to happen this year.
...Now can we get back to writing about Georgia Tech?