THE TIGERS WILL CONTEND IF: Senior quarterback Tajh Boyd shakes off the departure of two offensive weapons, and a no-name defense can develop a couple of standouts.
COACH: Dabo Swinney (sixth year, 40-21)
2012 RECORD: 11-2 overall, 7-1 ACC
2012 Bowl: Beat LSU 25-24 in Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
RETURNING STARTERS: Six offense, six defense
TAJH THE TIGER: Boyd earned All-ACC honors in 2012 with a statline of 3,896 passing yards, 514 rushing yards and 46 total touchdowns. But DeAndre Hopkins, Boyd’s top target, is now with the Houston Texans, and 1,000-yard rusher Andre Ellington also is gone.
STRONG SCHEDULE: Clemson’s championship hopes will rest on two tough non-conference games. Clemson hosts Georgia in the season opener and the Tigers travel to South Carolina for their regular season finale. Georgia and South Carolina combined for a 23-4 record and two bowl game conquests in 2012.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Clemson led the ACC in scoring last season (41.0 points per game) and its defense limited opponents to 24.8 points, the conference’s third-best mark. However, safety Rashard Hall was the only defender to earn All-ACC honors — and last year was his final season. Who will step up this fall? Keep an eye on defensive end Vic Beasley, the only Tiger to land on a preseason watch list for a defensive award.
THE PAST FIVE YEARS
2012: 11-2 (won Chick-Fil-A Bowl)
2011: 10-4 (lost Orange Bowl)
2010: 6-7 (lost Meineke Car Care Bowl)
2009: 9-5 (won Music City Bowl)
2008: 7-6 (lost Gator Bowl)
TOTAL: 43-24; 2-3 in bowls
PASSING: Tajh Boyd, 287-427-3,896 yards, 36 TDs/13 INTs
RUSHING: Tajh Boyd, 186-514-10 TDs
RECEIVING: Sammy Watkins, 57-708-3 TDs
TACKLES: LB Spencer Shuey, 93
SACKS: DE Vic Beasley, 8
QB: Tajh Boyd (1st team)
OL: Brandon Thomas (1st team)
K: Chandler Catanzaro (2nd team)
From Staff and Wire Reports