The defending national champion Clemson Tigers enter the 2019 campaign with some lofty expectations. The team is the current favorite to take down the crown again, and oddsmakers have also placed a lofty regular season wins benchmark for them. Naturally, the Tigers are also overwhelming favorites to take down the ACC.
It’s easy to understand the optimism. Clemson thrashed the favored Alabama Crimson Tide by a score of 44-16 in the national championship game. They also rolled over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the CFP semifinal. During the regular season, the club was only truly tested a couple of times.
As with all successful programs, there has been plenty of attrition with players leaving for the draft. However, the Tigers have restocked the coffers with a banner recruiting class. QB Trevor Lawrence shined in the title game as a freshman, and he’s poised to take a leap forward in his sophomore year.
In a nutshell, the vibe surrounding Clemson is essentially ‘repeat or bust.’ Are those expectations warranted or is there a chance the program takes a step backwards?
Let’s dig into the details and find out, starting with a look back at the memorable year that was.
Clemson Tigers 2018 Season Recap
Record: 15-0 | Standings: 1-ACC Atlantic | Playoffs: Won NC Game
The Tigers opened up the year with a bang. They played host to the Furman Paladins and walked off the field with a 48-7 victory. The following week would bring a big step-up in competition. Clemson traveled to Texas A&M and escaped with a 28-26 win.
Two more big victories would follow – 31 points over the Georgia Southern Eagles at home and 28 points over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on the road – before the Tigers were tested again. The Syracuse Orange came to town and put up a fight, but fell by a score of 27-23.
Over the next four weeks, Clemson destroyed everything in its path. That stretch ended with a 77-16 home pasting of the Louisville Cardinals. A trip to Boston College to take on the Eagles followed. The hosts made a game of it, but they still lost by a score of 27-7.
The Tigers closed out the year with two more double-digit victories before advancing to the ACC title game versus the Pitt Panthers. Stud RB Travis Etienne was among the heroes as he racked up 156 yards and two scores on the ground as Clemson cruised to a 42-10 win.
Clemson’s strong undefeated regular season and standing as one of the top squads in the nation made them a lock for the College Football Playoffs. Notre Dame was up first in the semifinals, but they proved to be no match as the Tigers dominated in a 30-3 victory.
It was on to the national title tilt versus Alabama from there. Clemson was a 5.5-point underdog at kickoff, but that number proved to be off the mark. At the end of the first quarter, Clemson was up by a score of 14-13.
Head coach Dabo Swinney put together a masterful gameplan for the title game. Nick Saban and the rest of Alabama just didn’t seem to have any answers. Clemson proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were the top program in the country for 2018.
Clemson Tigers Offseason
Clemson lost six players to the riches if the NFL in this year’s draft, including three defensive stars who were selected in the first-round. Clelin Ferrell was selected by the Oakland Raiders with the fourth pick. Later in the first-round, Christian Wilkins went to the Miami Dolphins, while Dexter Lawrence found a new home with the New York Giants.
Losing three core defenders is not easy to recover from, but the Tigers had little trouble attracting talent. Clemson finished up with a Top 10 recruiting class when all was said and done. Among the names to watch as potential future stars are wideouts Frank Ladson and Joe Ngata, cornerback Sheridan Jones, and defensive tackle Tyler Davis.
On the returning side, Lawrence and Etienne will continue to lead the way on offense. The cupboards are far from bare on defense in spite of all of the departures. Among the players to watch are defensive lineman Xavier Thomas, linebacker Isaiah Simmons, and safety A.J. Terrell.
Losing the entire starting defensive line is a blow, but Clemson has plenty of talent in house, as well as little trouble attracting new faces into the mix.
Clemson Tigers 2019 Schedule
|1||Thu. Aug.29||vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets||8:00 PM||ACC|
|2||Sat. Sept.7||vs. Texas A&M Aggies||3:30 PM||ABC|
|3||Sat. Sept.14||at Syracuse Orange||7:30 PM||ABC|
|4||Sat. Sept.21||vs. Charlotte 49ers||TBD||TBD|
|5||Sat. Sept.28||at North Carolina Tar Heels||TBD||TBD|
|7||Sat. Oct.12||vs. Florida State Seminoles||TBD||TBD|
|8||Sat. Oct.19||at Louisville Cardinals||TBD||TBD|
|9||Sun. Oct.26||vs. Boston College Eagles||TBD||TBD|
|10||Sat. Nov.2||vs. Wofford Terriers||TBD||TBD|
|11||Sat. Nov.9||at NC State Wolfpack||TBD||TBD|
|12||Sat. Nov.16||vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons||TBD||TBD|
|14||Sat. Nov.30||at South Carolina Gamecocks||TBD||TBD|
The first stretch of games in 2019 will take Clemson into a Week 6 bye. Over that span may be two of the biggest tests the team will see all season. Texas A&M is coming to town this season in Week 2. The following week, the Tigers will be on the road to play Syracuse.
The team returns from the bye for another stretch of six games before getting another week off. Over that span, we can point to three which might be slightly interesting: at home versus Florida State and Boston College, and on the road to face NC State.
Basically, Clemson is miles ahead of the rest of the ACC at this point. For some perspective, the Tigers are favored to win the conference with odds of -300. Next on the list is the Miami Hurricanes with odds of +800. It’s tough to see Clemson losing in conference play this season.
The team wraps up the regular season with an interesting road date at South Carolina. It’ll be tough for the Gamecocks to pull an outright upset here, but it should be a solid atmosphere if South Carolina is having at least a decent regular season.
Clemson Tigers 2019 Outlook
Quite frankly, Clemson’s 2019 schedule just isn’t all that imposing. The rest of the ACC is well behind the Tigers on the talent scale, and the team also has a couple of cupcake matchups on the schedule. As of right now, we can only see four games where there’s a slight chance of an upset.
- Week 2 vs. Texas A&M
- Week 3 at Syracuse
- Week 11 at NC State
- Week 14 at South Carolina
The toughest game of them all comes in Week 2, but Clemson will be home for that one. The Aggies are expected to improve this season and gave the Tigers all they could handle at Kyle Field last year. However, a glance at the national title odds points to the disparity between the two squads.
Clemson checks in with current odds of +160 to win it all, while Texas A&M stands at +4000. As for the other three games, being at home gives these three squads a fighting chance, but seeing them as potential trouble spots could be a reach if the season doesn’t break right for them.
Clemson Tigers 2019 Win Total Odds and Pick
As the NCAAF betting sites see it, Clemson is in line for a heckuva season. Here is the high benchmark which has been set for the team.
Total Regular Season Wins:
Betting odds provided by: MyBookie.ag
In our schedule walkthrough, we noted that there are only a few potential landmines on the team’s 2019 schedule. What’s more, the Tigers losing any of those games would be pretty big upsets. The Week 2 game with Texas A&M will be telling.
If Clemson manages to pull a squash job, then there’s a real solid chance that the team runs the table. We don’t expect it to be a blowout, but we also don’t see the Tigers slipping up in the second game of the year at home.
We’re going with Clemson to jump over the bar and hit the Over on regular season wins.