Georgia Tech Football Opponent Preview: Clemson Tigers

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 29: Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates after defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the College Football Playoff Semifinal Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium on December 29, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. Clemson defeated Notre Dame 30-3. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 29: Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates after defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the College Football Playoff Semifinal Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium on December 29, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. Clemson defeated Notre Dame 30-3. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

It’s officially July which means College Football is truly just around the corner and with media days coming up in a few weeks, it’s time to start preparing for the 2019 college football season, today we begin our Georgia Tech football opponent previews by previewing the defending national champions, the Clemson Tigers.

The Clemson Tigers enter the 2019 season looking to win their second straight National Championship and their third National Championship in the last four years. The Tigers last year put together a perfect season with a 15-0 overall record. The Tigers won the National Championship despite seeing a quarterback change in the middle of the season and missing one of their best defensive lineman in Dexter Lawrence for the National Championship game against Alabama.

The Tigers last season were stellar on both sides of the ball, averaging 44.3 points, best for fourth in all of college football while posting the nation’s best defensive numbers including a 13.1 points allowed per game. Overall, the Tigers posted six, 40+ point games and scored 27 or more points in all 15 games. While on defense, they had seven games of allowing seven points or less. However, they failed to post a shutout.

The two programs met early last season on September 22nd and while the Jackets were competitive through the first quarter (7-0), it quickly turned into a huge Clemson victory. The Tigers would go onto win 49-21 and while the Jackets did end up taking the loss at Bobby Dodd Stadium, their 21 points scored were the fourth most that the Tigers defense allowed in 2018.

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The September matchup between the two programs however was quite important in the scheme of the Clemson Tigers season. Starting at quarterback against the Jackets on September 22nd was Kelly Bryant, by the second quarter, freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence had taken over completely. Lawrence that game would go 13-for-18 for 176-yards and four touchdowns. Lawrence would be named the starting quarterback for the Tigers the following Monday and Bryant would soon announce his decision to transfer out o the Tigers program. He would eventually transfer to play at the University of Missouri for the 2019 season.

2019 Offensive Preview:

Clemson in 2019 will return a bevy of talent starting at quarterback with Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence will be a Heisman favorite and front runner from start to finish this season and it will be shocking if he doesn’t win it this season. Lawrence is a tremendous talent, there’s no other way to put it. Additionally, he returns two of the best wide receivers in the country in Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross.

Higgins last season brought in 59 receptions for 936-yards and 12 touchdowns. Ross, on the other hand, had 46 receptions for 1,000-yards and 9 touchdowns. Junior wide out Amari Rodgers also returns after having a 55 reception, 575-yard sophomore campaign. With their top three receivers returning from their championship season, Lawrence will have a tremendous core of receivers to throw to this season.

Star running back Travis Etienne also returns in 2019 for the Tigers and will look to somehow improve upon his 1,600+ yard and 26 total touchdown season as a sophomore. Senior running back Tavien Feaster also returns for 2019 and adds just another weapon to the Tigers offense.

It will be hard for the Jackets to top their 2018 offensive performance by stats but it wouldn’t be shocking if this Clemson offense finds a way to average 50+ points a game in 2019.

2019 Defensive Preview:

If there’s one spot Clemson may take a step back in, it’s on the defensive side of the ball as they lost a ton of leadership and talent. Among the players that the Tigers lost this offseason include a trio of defensive lineman in Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence, and Christian Wilkins. That doesn’t include replacing linebackers Tre Lamar and Kendall Joseph or cornerback Trayvon Mullen. To put it simply, the Tigers lost a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball and while they have recruited at an insane level the last few cycles, it may take a few games for the Tigers defense to fully click in 2019.

The Tigers do return their leading tackler in Isaiah Simmons, however, but beyond that, the 2019 Tigers defense doesn’t have a ton of experience from a starting standpoint entering 2019. It will be interesting to see how that impacts their defense in 2019. Look for a breakout season, however, from defensive lineman Xavier Thomas who will look to become the top dog on the Tigers defensive line. The Tigers has a top five defense last year and while there may be a small step back, they should still finish in the top-10, if not top-5 defenses.

What to expect on August 29th:

When these two teams take the field on August 29th in Death Valley, there’s going to be a ton of emotions on both side of the ball. It’s Geoff Collins first game as the head coach of the Georgia Tech football program and the Clemson Tigers will be celebrating their National Championship one last time before turning their sights to 2019. That should result in good competitive game, at least for the first quarter or so. In reality, the Jackets have a very low chance of winning this game, taking down Clemson is difficult to begin with, doing it in Death Valley makes it that much harder.

Clemson 2019 outlook:

Overall, the Tigers in 2019 are looking at a probable College Football Playoff berth and another perfect season will definitely be within arms reach for the Tigers, if their defense can put it all together and overcome their personnel loses. The Tigers do have a few “tougher” games on their schedule in 2019 with games against Texas A&M, Syracuse, and South Carolina on the schedule. But in all reality, it feels like none of those teams stand a true chance against Dabo Swinney’s Tigers program. The Tigers are definitely on a different program with their program as of late and 2019 may just be another example of that.