Clemson Tigers Odds to Win the 2015 College Football National Championship
by Alan Matthews - 8/21/2014
When you hear about the top coaches in college football, is Clemson's Dabo Swinney mentioned? He should be. The guy can recruit -- currently the school has the No. 2 Class of 2015 -- and all Clemson does is win under him. True, he can't beat South Carolina, but that's about it.
Last season, Clemson finished 11-2 and beat Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. It was the school's third straight season of at least 10 wins, which is only the second time that has happened (1987-90). While the bowl win was nice, some Clemson faithful only remember the team's implosion at home against Florida State, a 51-14 embarrassment, and the 31-17 loss at South Carolina in the annual regular-season finale. Really the only two good teams Clemson beat were Georgia in the season opener and the Buckeyes, who were probably less-than-enthused about playing in the Orange Bowl after seeing their national title hopes wrecked by Michigan State in the Big Ten title game.
Swinney will have his work cut out for him this year with a challenging schedule and only 12 starters back, with a few of the greatest offensive players in school history having moved on.
Clemson Tigers Odds to Win the 2015 National Championship Story Lines
Did any team lose more offensive talent than Clemson? Gone are record-setting quarterback Tajh Boyd (68.5 percent completions last year, 3,851 yards, 34 touchdowns, 400 yards rushing, 10 rushing TDs), leading rusher Roderick McDowell (1,025 yards, five TDs) and perhaps the best receiving duo in the nation in Sammy Watkins (101 catches, 1,464 yards, 12 TDs) and Martavis Bryant (42 catches, 828 yards, seven TDs). That's a ton.
Yet the Tigers are fully confident that offense won't take a giant step back because of offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Somehow the school has been able to keep him from taking head coaching jobs -- he's one of the highest-paid coordinators in the nation -- but Morris will be snapped up by a big-name school this offseason if Clemson has another big year.
Replacing Boyd is Cole Stoudt. The senior sure looked good in limited time last year, going 47-for-59 for 415 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. He's just a placeholder for the job and may not keep it all season as the Tigers have a heralded true-freshman dual threat in Deshaun Thomas. The team's leading returning rusher was to be Zac Brooks (246 yards, two TDs), but he suffered a season-ending foot injury Monday night. Expect a committee there, with senior D.J. Howard likely to start the year as the main guy. The Tigers have two highly-touted freshmen there as well. No receiver has stood out yet, but it's a potentially talented group. The offensive line brings back three starters, although starters David Beasley and Isaiah Battle will sit out the opener for a violation of team rules.
The defense might have to carry the load for a while, and it should be a very good group. That unit is led by All-American end Vic Beasley, a potential No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft. In 2013, Beasley led the ACC in sacks (13) and finished fourth in the nation in tackles for loss (23). Clemson had 123 tackles behind the line of scrimmage -- 12 more than any other school in the nation. The entire front four is back and might be the nation's best. The only starting linebacker returning is senior Stephone Anthony (131 tackles, 13.5 for loss), but he might be an All-American as well. In the secondary, keep an eye on redshirt freshman Mackensie Alexander. The former five-star recruit is expected to be a superstar.
Even with playing two lower-level schools in South Carolina State (Sept. 6) and Georgia State (Nov. 22), you can't argue with Clemson's nonconference schedule as it opens at No. 12 Georgia next Saturday and closes the regular season at home against No. 9 South Carolina. The Tigers are +7.5 against the Dawgs and +245 on the moneyline. They opened 2013 against one another, and Clemson won 38-35 at home, but both clubs have lost so much from those teams that I read little into it. Boyd was awesome in the game with three passing and two rushing scores. Watkins also had a big game. The Tigers are currently +2.5 against the Gamecocks. USC won 31-17 in Columbia last year, its fifth straight win in the series.
The ACC schedule opens with the clear toughest game on the schedule: at No. 1 Florida State, which is a 19-point favorite. Clemson has given up a combined 100 points in losing two straight in the series. Then Clemson hosts what many think will be the best team in the Coastal Division, No. 23 North Carolina. The Tigers are six-point favorites there and really could go on a nice winning streak if they beat the Heels. They will be favored in every other conference game: vs. NC State (+21), vs. Louisville (+9.5), at Boston College (15.5), vs. Syracuse (no line yet), at Wake Forest (+19.5) and at Georgia Tech (5.5). No Miami, Virginia Tech or Duke from the Coastal and that's a break.
Clemson Tigers 2015 National Championship Odds and Trends
Odds courtesy of 5Dimes . Clemson is +9000 to win the national championship, +1400 to win the ACC title game and +750 to take the ACC Atlantic (I don't think it should be behind Louisville on those ACC props). The Tigers currently don't have odds to make the College Football Playoff. Their "over/under" wins totals are 9.5 (under -325 favorite), 9 (under -225 favorite), 8.5 (under -120 favorite), 8 (over -180 favorite) and 7.5 (over -290 favorite. Beasley is +15000 to win the Heisman and Stoudt is +20000. Clemson was 7-6 against the spread in 2013 (4-3 at home) and 8-5 O/U (5-2 at home).
Clemson Tigers Odds to Win the 2015 National Championship Predictions
Unfortunately for Clemson, it plays in the wrong ACC division. Just losing the one game to FSU just about eliminates the Tigers from the conference title game because the Seminoles aren't losing twice in the conference. It's not inconceivable Clemson could go 11-1, not win its division and yet sneak into the College Football Playoff if the FSU loss is close. Alas, I don't see the Tigers beating both Georgia and South Carolina. They finish 10-2, which could be enough for major bowl.
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