Here are five reasons Clemson will repeat as the ACC champions (and five reasons they won’t):
1. Venables means defense
Brent Venables is widely considered to be the best defensive coordinator in the country, and he has plenty of talent to work with in 2017. Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Clelin Ferrell will be a nightmare for offensive lines to block and will make it hard for opponents to establish a running game or have time to drop back and pass.
2. Tigers know success
The Tigers are a confident bunch and all that these returning players know is success. After back-to-back ACC championships and back-to-back appearances in the national title game, Clemson has proven it is the class of the ACC and has a mental edge over the rest of the conference.
3. QBs have talent
Clemson’s quarterbacks are inexperienced, but they are also talented. Kelly Bryant and Zerrick Cooper studied Deshaun Watson during his time at Clemson, and Hunter Johnson enrolled early after being rated as the top quarterback in the country by some recruiting services. At 6-4, 200 pounds Johnson has the size to play immediately.
4. Plenty of playmakers remain
The Tigers lost several playmakers in Mike Williams, Jordan Leggett, Wayne Gallman and Artavis Scott, but there is still plenty of talent on offense. Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloud and Hunter Renfrow are proven studs at receiver and there are young five-star players behind them. Tavien Feaster and C.J. Fuller have shown flashes of being special at running back, and Dabo Swinney was as excited about the depth at tight end last season as any position.
5. FSU comes to Death Valley
The schedule is tough early but if Clemson can leave Virginia Tech undefeated after Week 5 the Tigers will be in strong position to repeat as ACC champs and return to the College Football Playoff. Clemson and Florida State have won the past six ACC titles and the Tigers get FSU at home. Louisville returns Lamar Jackson but lost a ton of talent around him, and Virginia Tech lost its quarterback and two of its top three receiving threats.