Clemson Football: Early Game-by-Game Prediction for the 2014 Season
I know you're probably thinking it's way too early to be breaking down each game, but what better way is there to preview the season than break down the schedule?
Two of the games on this list have been marked as a push because they are too close to call at this point.
So kick back and take a look at how the Tigers' schedule looks for 2014.
@ Georgia: Win 35-31
Cole Stoudt will be making his first career start, but he certainly isn’t new to the offense. It will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure of playing in a hostile environment.
Georgia’s defense should be much improved from last season because of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who came over from Florida State.
The Bulldogs will also have a new starter at quarterback, and Clemson’s front seven will need to find ways to keep pressure on him. Another key will be containing Todd Gurley, who ran for 154 yards last year against the Tigers.
Clemson will pull away with a win because of its defense. The front seven got a lot better as the year went on last season. In the loss against South Carolina, the Tigers front seven held Mike Davis to 22 yards on 15 carries.
Vs. South Carolina State
Vs. South Carolina State: Win 47-13
This should be a win for the Tigers, assuming nothing major takes place. This will be a great opportunity for Stoudt to either gain or build on confidence. Also, if Deshaun Watson doesn’t make an appearance in the Georgia game, he will for sure make his college debut in this matchup.
This will be a great game for the Tigers to see what the younger guys can contribute. After the South Carolina State game, Clemson heads into an off week before traveling to Doak Campbell to take on the Seminoles.
The bottom line is that this game will provide them with some confidence and momentum before playing a very important game against Florida State.
@ Florida State
@ Florida State: Push
This will be the most challenging game for the Tigers in 2014. Florida State’s roster is loaded, with future draft picks all over the depth chart. Quarterback Jameis Winston will once again lead an offense that was among the best in the nation last season.
To have a shot in this game, the Tigers will need to pressure Winston. Last season he made Clemson’s secondary look really bad because of the lack of pressure. Florida State will have one of the best offensive line groups in the nation next season, so this will be a challenge for the Tigers front seven for sure.
Playing this game on the road also makes it tough, but the Tigers will win if they win the battle up front and step up in the secondary. Scoring points shouldn’t be too much of a concern, but the Tigers will need to have a solid running game established by this point in the season to have a chance in this game.
Vs. North Carolina
Vs. North Carolina: Win 38-28
North Carolina will be one of the more improved teams in the nation in 2014, and the Tigers better watch out in this game.
While Clemson has the edge in experience and talent, the Tar Heels could be a trap game because of the momentum carried over from last season. A year ago, the Tar Heels won six of their last seven games to finish 7-6.
Marquise Williams, who will likely be the starting quarterback, played well at the end of last season, throwing 15 touchdowns and only six interceptions. The Tar Heels also have talented skill players on the offensive side of the ball such as receiver Quinshad Davis and running back T.J. Logan.
This game being at home should make a big difference, and the Tigers should be able to come out of this one victorious if they play like they are capable of. The defense will make enough plays to win.
Vs. North Carolina State
Vs. NC State: Win 45-17
This game should also be a win for the Tigers, especially since it’s at home. Last season, Clemson handled NC State on the road, and this matchup doesn’t look to be much different.
The Wolfpack went without a win in conference play a season ago and ended up 3-9 overall. Last season the Wolfpack struggled on both sides of the ball, but offensively especially, ranking No. 99 in the nation in points per game. NC State will be improved, but not enough to take down the Tigers.
Vs. Louisville: Win 41-24
Louisville will be a completely different team than from a year ago. Last season, led by Charlie Strong, the Cardinals finished 12-1. Their defense ranked second in the nation in points allowed, and their quarterback was among the best in the nation.
Teddy Bridgewater is off to the NFL, Charlie Strong is "hookin' em" out in Austin and the defense lost two first-round draft picks in Calvin Pryor and Marcus Smith.
This should be a win for the Tigers because Louisville will have to rebuild next season. Bobby Petrino is the right man for the job, but it will take more than next season to get this team back to what it was.
@ Boston College
@ Boston College: Win 49-17
The Eagles will have to replace quarterback Chase Rettig and running back Andre Williams this year, so things don't look so well for Boston College.
The Tigers had slight trouble with them last season but found a way to win the game 24-14. I don't look for the Tigers to have much of a problem this time around, as it looks like Boston College's offense will endure more struggles next year.
Vs. Syracuse: Win 40-21
Terrel Hunt struggled last season against the Tigers, throwing three interceptions. This year should be about the same because of Clemson's front seven.
The Tigers will be able to force Hunt into enough mistakes once again, especially with this game being at home.
@ Wake Forest
@ Wake Forest: Win 52-13
This is a Thursday night game, and Clemson should roll in this one.
Wake Forest will be forced to replace three solid players this season: quarterback Tanner Price, wide receiver Michael Campanaro and defensive lineman Nikita Whitlock.
The Tigers offense should be in a groove at this point in the season, and it will be on display in this contest.
@ Georgia Tech
@ Georgia Tech: Win 34-27
Watch out for this game, Tiger fans. Georgia Tech is always a tough matchup for Clemson, no matter what year it is. The Yellow Jackets have won six of the last 10 meetings between the two squads.
Also, the last time Clemson played at Georgia Tech it took an 8-0 record in but left with a 31-17 loss.
All rankings and predicted depth charts aside, this game will come down to the wire for Clemson. With Stoudt's senior leadership, the Tigers will find a way to win this one, though.
Vs. Georgia State
Vs. Georgia State: Win 54-10
This is another game that Clemson should win easily, assuming nothing crazy happens. The Panthers were winless a season ago and are still trying to build up a football program that recently started in 2010.
This game will be a great confidence booster before the showdown with South Carolina and will also allow some key players to rest and get healthy.
The Tigers roll easily here in front of their home crowd and put up a lot of offense in the process.
Vs. South Carolina
Vs. South Carolina: Push
I was very tempted to mark this one as a win because of what this game means to the Tigers. It has to be slated as a toss-up though, because of the similar talent levels.
The Gamecocks will be very good on the offensive side of the ball, but Clemson will need to take advantage of some flaws in Carolina’s defense. It lost three starters on the defensive line, so the Tigers will need to establish a run game in this one.
Last year the Tigers were able to contain Mike Davis, only allowing him to rush for 22 yards. The front seven should once again make it difficult for Davis to get much going, but the secondary will need to play better than last season’s game.
Dabo Swinney and his squad will do everything it takes to make sure the win streak doesn’t go to six for the Gamecocks. Since South Carolina will be among the best teams in the nation next season though, this game has to be put down as a push.