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College Football Predictions: No. 4 Clemson Tigers

The fact that a 10-3 record is considered to be a disappointment is an indication of the powerhouse program that Dabo Swinney has built at Clemson. There will be some adjustments as offensive coordinator Tony Elliott is now the head coach at Virginia while longtime defensive coordinator Brent Venables is now running the show at Oklahoma.

After five straight years of being a part of the College Football Playoffs, the Tigers didn’t get an invitation in 2021 after failing to repeat as Atlantic Coast Conference champions.

College football predictions: No. 4 Clemson Tigers

The Tigers come in at No. 4 in both the American Football Coaches Association and Associated Press polls, so Clemson has a chance to compete for a national title once again. Clemson comes in at No. 4 in our breakdown of the top 50 teams in the nation heading into the 2022 season.

Clemson (-130) is the overwhelming favorite to win the ACC title according to the college football odds. The odds have moved slightly from -150 over the last couple of months. The Tigers (-150) are expected to be the class of the field in the ACC Atlantic Division in 2022.

Clemson (+1000) is fourth in the odds to win the national championship according to the sportsbook.

Clemson Tigers

  • 2021 record: 10-3
  • 2021 conference record: 6-2
  • Head coach: Dabo Swinney
  • Odds to win conference title: -130

Despite losing the top two tacklers (James Skalski and Baylon Spector), Clemson could have one of the best defenses in the country.

Defensive linemen Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee are projected to be first-round draft picks. Bresee missed nine games a season ago while defensive tackle Tyler Davis missed four games and Clemson still led the ACC in total defense. Clemson only allowed 64 points in its three losses a season ago.

Trenton Simpson (64 tackles) is the top returning tackler while safety Andrew Mukuba (48 tackles, seven pass breakups) is another key returnee. Replacing cornerback Andrew Booth, a second-round in April’s NFL Draft, will be a challenge.

There were 16 members of the sophomore class who recorded tackles a season ago and they figure to play key roles moving forward.

The key to the offense could be the play of quarterback DJ Uiagalelei. One of the top-rated quarterbacks nationally in his recruiting class, Uiagalelei had more interceptions than touchdowns and completed only 55.6 percent of his passes. More is expected from him in 2022. He was also the Tigers’ third-leading rusher and at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, he can be a nightmare for players in the secondary to try to tackle when he breaks through the line of scrimmage.

Backup quarterback Taisun Phommachanh has transferred but former Northwestern quarterback Hunter Johnson transferred in.

The top four rushers are back, including Will Shipley (739 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Kobe Pace (641 yards, 6.2 yards per carry).

Leading receiver Justyn Ross has moved on but Joseph Ngata, Beaux Collins and Dacari Collins are back after combining for 70 catches and 1,066 yards as freshmen. Tight end Davis Allen (28 catches as a junior) as well as running backs Pace and Shipley, who combined for 28 receptions in 2021, are other options in the passing game. There could be a lack of depth issues at receiver after Ajou Ajou and Frank Ladson transferred to South Florida and Miami.

Starters Jordan McFadden, Will Putnam, Walter Parks and Mason Trotter all return on the offensive line so perhaps the Tigers can show improvement after finishing in the ACC in total offense in 2021. Offensive lineman Paul Tchio did transfer to Georgia Tech.

B.T. Potter returns after going 21 of 26 on field goals and having 49 touchbacks on 69 kickoffs. Clemson will need to replace Will Spiers (41.5 yards) per punt. Will Taylor could be the top punt returner once again while Shipley averaged 27.1 yards on 14 kickoff returns a season ago.

Clemson Outlook

Clemson was second in scoring defense behind only Georgia and also ranked in the top 10 in total defense, and there’s little reason to doubt that Clemson can be an elite defense once again. Clemson averaged 17 points in the three losses so that is where the improvement needs to come.

Clemson had 11 players transfer out and just one incoming transfer. With the last three recruiting classes being ranked third, fifth and 10th nationally, the focus is more on securing and keeping the top high school recruits rather than plucking players from other programs.

Clemson won its season opener six years in a row before falling to eventual national champion Georgia 10-3 in the 2021 opener. The Tigers are favored by 21 points against Georgia Tech in the first game this season.

Getting home games against North Carolina State and Miami should help the Tigers in their quest to return to the top of the ACC. The conference opener is on the road against 2021 ACC finalist Wake Forest. A Nov. 5 game at Notre Dame could be the toughest test on the regular-season schedule for the Tigers.

Something to consider for those who bet online: After failing to cover in the first seven games of the 2021 season, Clemson covered in five of the last six contests.

The expected regular-season win total of 10½ according to the college football odds features -105 odds for Clemson to over that total and -125 odds to go under that total.

2022 Clemson Schedule

  • Sept. 5 vs Georgia Tech (Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta)
  • Sept. 10 vs Furman
  • Sept. 17 vs Louisiana Tech
  • Sept. 24 at Wake Forest
  • Oct. 1 vs North Carolina State
  • Oct. 8 at Boston College
  • Oct. 15 at Florida State
  • Oct. 22 vs Syracuse
  • Nov. 5 at Notre Dame
  • Nov. 12 vs Louisville
  • Nov. 19 vs Miami
  • Nov. 26 vs South Carolina

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