New Clemson team with new challenges. That’s business as usual, Dabo says
Clemson enters the 2019 season with expectations at an all-time high as the Tigers are ranked No. 1 and are heavy favorites to reach the College Football Playoff for the fifth consecutive year.
Clemson has a pair of Heisman candidates in Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne, and the Tigers have plenty of talent at other positions as well.
Clemson does have a couple of tough games early at home against Texas A&M and on the road at Syracuse, but overall the schedule sets up well for the Tigers.
Here is a score prediction for every game in 2019.
Aug. 29: Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets made a solid hire this offseason bringing in Geoff Collins to replace Paul Johnson, and this rivalry could become competitive again in the near future. With that said, it’s going to take a few years for Collins to bring in players to fit his offense instead of Johnson’s triple option attack, and there is such a talent gap between the programs that it’s hard to imagine this game being anything other than a blowout.
The pick: Clemson 42, Georgia Tech 14
Sept. 7: Texas A&M
This is a dangerous game for the Tigers early in the season. Texas A&M gave Clemson fits last year, and the Aggies won’t be intimidated coming into Death Valley. Kellen Mond passed for 430 yards against Clemson in 2018, and while it’s unlikely he reaches that number again, the Aggies could have some success against Brent Venables’ young defense. Clemson’s defense should be fine by the end of the year, but it could take a few games to gel, particularly up front where the Tigers must replace four starters. Ultimately Clemson should be able to win in a shootout at home, but it won’t be easy.
The pick: Clemson 38, Texas A&M 34
Sept. 14: at Syracuse
Clemson’s first road test of the season happens to come against the team that has played Clemson as well as anyone the past couple of years. The Orange beat Clemson the last time the Tigers traveled to Syracuse in 2017, and they nearly pulled off the upset last season in Clemson. Dino Babers and Syracuse’s fast-paced offense have given the Tigers fits recently. They should be able to score some points again, but not enough, and Clemson should pull away late.
The pick: Clemson 41, Syracuse 23
Sept. 21: Charlotte
This will be an opportunity for the Tigers to empty the bench against a Charlotte team that went 5-7 last year. Dabo Swinney is a master when it comes to keeping his team from overlooking opponents. That should continue.
The pick: Clemson 59, Charlotte 6
Sept. 28: at North Carolina
Mack Brown has some positive momentum in Chapel Hill. North Carolina has a top 20 recruiting class, and the Tar Heels could challenge for a bowl game after finishing 2-9 last season. Still, UNC is a ways away from being able to compete with Clemson for four quarters.
The pick: Clemson 45, UNC 14
Oct. 12: Florida State
The Tigers embarrassed FSU last season in Tallahassee, and Florida State coach Willie Taggart said after the game that some of his players quit during the 59-10 loss. Taggart is having some success on the recruiting trail, and the Seminoles are the only team that can compete with Clemson from a talent standpoint. But FSU still isn’t ready to compete on the field, even with a defense that has a chance to be really good.
The pick: Clemson 35, FSU 17
Oct. 19: at Louisville
This likely won’t be the 77-16 beatdown that it was in 2018, but it will be lopsided. Louisville should make steady progress under first-year coach Scott Satterfield, but hanging with Clemson in Year 1 isn’t going to happen.
The pick: Clemson 49, Louisville 13
Oct. 26: Boston College
Steve Addazio’s team will try to pound the ball and shorten the game, but you can only slow down Clemson’s offense for so long. Eventually the Tigers will pull away and win comfortably.
The pick: Clemson 38, Boston College 17
Nov. 2: Wofford
The Terriers have a really good FCS program, and while they’ve given some FBS teams a scare in the past, Clemson isn’t your typical FBS team. Add in the fact that Clemson has faced Georgia Tech’s triple option offense for the past several years, and it’s hard to imagine this game not getting ugly.
The pick: Clemson 56, Wofford 6
Nov. 9: at N.C. State
The Wolfpack have given Clemson a couple of scares in recent years, and Raleigh is a tough place to play. But the Tigers have too many weapons on offense, and Venables’ defense should be hitting its stride by this point in the season. This game should be competitive for a while, but unlike two years ago it won’t come down to the final play.
The pick: Clemson 35, N.C. State 17
Nov. 16: Wake Forest
Dave Clawson has led Wake Forest to three consecutive bowl games, and the Demon Deacons are slowly becoming one of the better programs in the ACC. Still, the talent gap is too large, and Wake Forest doesn’t have the athletes to hang with Clemson for an entire game.
The pick: Clemson 45, Wake Forest 10
Nov. 30: at South Carolina
This should be the most talented team Will Muschamp has had at South Carolina, led by senior quarterback Jake Bentley. The Gamecocks are quietly optimistic about this year’s team, but they also have a brutal schedule that includes games against top five teams Clemson, Alabama and Georgia. Just like last year USC should be able to score some points, but also like last year the Gamecocks won’t be able to stop Clemson consistently.
The pick: Clemson 38, South Carolina 24
Projected record: 12-0
Clemson should be favored by double digits in every game this season, and unless Trevor Lawrence goes down with an injury it’s hard to imagine the Tigers slipping up.
Clemson should reach its fifth consecutive College Football Playoff, and it wouldn’t be a shock if the Tigers win every game during the regular season by more than a touchdown.