I hesitate to even bring this up because I do not, I repeat DO NOT, want to start a Carolina-Clemson conversation on Aug. 22. In fact, if we could save it for the week of the game, that’d be great.
However, this seems like the best space and the best time to discuss my preseason Associated Press ballot. Unless South Carolina gets itself into the Top 25 conversation later this year, I won’t discuss my ballot here every week as I have in the past, but since it’s my first ballot of the season and the poll was released Sunday, I thought I’d let you know how I voted. The reason there is danger of this starting a Carolina-Clemson conversation is because I didn’t vote the Tigers No. 1 in the country. I didn’t even vote them No. 1 in the ACC.
My first-place vote went to Florida State as did four other first-place votes across the country. I think the Seminoles will win the national title for two reasons. No. 1, they have running back Dalvin Cook, who I think is the best offensive player in the country. No. 2, they can probably survive a regular season loss to Clemson and still make the Final Four because they have two SEC teams on their out-of-conference schedule. I know Florida State will have a first-year starting quarterback with Deondre Francois, but first-year starters have done just fine on elite teams. The Seminoles ended up No. 4 in the Top 25, and the Tigers ended up No. 2.
I think Clemson is very, very good. I voted the Tigers No. 3 in the country, and I think they will be one of the most exciting teams in the country to watch this season. My only hesitation in voting them No. 1 is how much they have to replace on defense. Clemson made that look easy a year ago, simply reloading across the defensive line. It’s not an easy as they made it look, though, and doing it two years in a row is especially challenging.
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No, I didn’t vote the Gamecocks in any of my Top 25 spots. Here’s my complete ballot:
1. Florida State
11. Notre Dame
14. Ole Miss
15. North Carolina
16. Michigan State
20. Texas A&M
25. Oklahoma State