Five reasons Clemson will not repeat as ACC champions (and five why the Tigers will):
1. No more Watson
Deshaun Watson was the best player in the country the past two years and took Clemson’s program to new heights. Not only was he incredibly talented but he also played his best in the biggest games and in the biggest moments. The Tigers have talented quarterbacks on their roster, but college football will likely not see another Deshaun Watson for a long time.
2. No more Williams
Clemson lost its top two rushers, top two passers and top two receivers off last year’s team. As good as Watson was, it helped having a guy like Mike Williams to throw the ball to. Williams found a way to pull down just about any pass that was close to him, and while the Tigers have plenty of playmakers, there will likely be a drop off.
3. Close games go other way
The Tigers played eight games decided by a touchdown or less last season and won seven of them. While most of that is having a winning culture, some of it can be attributed to luck. A kicker missing a chip-shot field goal to win the game is not something you can depend on. After being so good in 50-50 games over the past few years it is fair to assume that some of those might go the other way this year.
4. Tough early schedule
The early season schedule does not do Clemson any favors as the Tigers’ two toughest road tests come early in the season with trips to Louisville and Virginia Tech. Clemson will be trying to break in several new starters, including at quarterback and running back and also must replace its leading tackler and leader in sacks.
5. Inexperienced QBs
Clemson has two tough contenders in Louisville and Florida State and both are much more proven at quarterback with Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and ACC Rookie of the Year Deondre Francois. The Tigers might have more overall talent than Louisville and FSU, but quarterback play can be the difference when two teams are similar in overall talent.