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College Football Preview: What Sort of Year Will Clemson Have in 2012?

The Clemson Tigers 2012 college football win totals is set at 5Dimes at over 8.5 wins (-120) and under 8.5 wins (+100). Clemson is coming off a 10-4 season (9-3 regular season) and ACC title that still managed to disappoint fans and bettors alike.

The Tigers sprung out the gate (8-0 SU and 7-1 ATS to start the season) before slamming into the wall (2-4 SU and 1-5 ATS) down the stretch. Can Clemson rebound and finally live up to their potential?

What I like about the Tigers

Offensively, Clemson is absolutely loaded at the skill positions. They return 6 of their top 7 rushers, their QB, and 8 of their top 9 receivers. If we held an ACC fantasy draft, Watkins, Ellington and Boyd would all be first round picks, with WR DeAndre Hopkins as a popular sleeper.

Last year this group led the league in both yardage and points, and is buoyed by another top-15 recruiting class. There is a reason OC Chad Morris wants to continue to push the tempo; offensively Clemson is fast, experienced and perhaps most importantly in their scheme, deep.

Defensively, Clemson is starting over in some ways after their end-of-year implosion that included the infamous 70 point meltdown versus West Virginia in the Orange Bowl (and 28+ allowed in 7 of the last 8 games in 2011). New DC Brent Venables is an upgrade to me, he has an accomplished pedigree and has a great reputation in working with linebackers.

Clemson is going to be in a 4-3 defense more often than in recent years, and will benefit from getting more linebackers on the field. This is my top-rated linebacking corp in the league this preseason, and Clemson will need this group to be very versatile as an inexperienced defensive line earns their stripes.

The secondary also returns a ton of experience (losing only 1 starter and returning 7 with starting experience) which is invaluable in a league that is (like the rest of college football) seeing an increased emphasis on the passing game.

With every team in the league returning a passer who has started at least 5 games I look for offensive coordinators to be aggressive, so teams who can maintain coverage for that extra second are at a decided advantage.

What I don’t like about Clemson

One of my most important factors I look to when projecting offensive success (especially early in the year) is returning experience and talent on the offensive line. Clemson returned a ton of experience on the line last year (9 of the top 10 and 118 career starts) but still struggled at times up front, averaging a relatively pedestrian 4.2 yards per carry and allowing 33 sacks.

This year they are replacing a hefty amount of experience up front with some promising but young talent. The ground game has depth questions behind the injury-prone Ellington and I worry about a repeat of their stretch run where they struggled to run the ball and become one-dimensional (only broke 100 yard rushing mark in 1 of last 5 regular games after breaking it in each of first 7).

When they struggled to run the ball last year teams keyed on the passing game and Boyd occasionally suffered from happy feet. Boyd has also lost his best checkdown option in TE Dwayne Allen, though his replacement Brandon Ford is generally well regarded and may actually be a more natural receiver.

The defensive line also suffered heavy losses but they may actually improve in the new scheme as at times last year they were porous on the ground.

Summary and Schedule analysis

In what I think is still a mediocre league, the teams that have been able to string together strong recruiting classes over multiple seasons without heavy attrition are at a decided personnel advantage.

Clemson, like FSU, just has more horses in the stable than most of their ACC counterparts. One of the major advantages of their up-tempo approach is that they are able to utilize this depth effectively. By going deeper into their own bench as well as forcing their opponent to do the same, Clemson should be able to take advantage of their strength in numbers.

The key for the Tigers this season is to find depth in the backfield. If Clemson can keep the chains moving consistently they take the pressure off a defense that is undergoing a retooling as well as wear down their opponents. This will also keep Boyd in more manageable situations which allows Morris to stretch the field with his dynamic wideouts like he did early in ‘11.

Dabo Swinney still has a lot to prove as a game day coach, but I feel like the coaching staff has been upgraded and he continues to recruit better than anyone in this league outside of Tallahassee. If Dabo can stay out of his team’s way I feel like the road lays out pretty nicely in front of them.

Clemson has a very manageable schedule (road games: @FSU, BC, Duke and Wake) and my preseason numbers have them favored in 11 of 12 games and a double digit favorite 7 times. If the talent comes together and they improve on both lines, this team is a legitimate threat to repeat their double digit win total and should be in the thick of the ACC title chase.

Opponent                       Power #           Spread Converted to win odds

vs Auburn (Atlanta)            -4                           62%
BALL STATE                      -25.5                      100%
FURMAN                            N/A                       100%
at Florida State                  +10                         23%
at Boston College               -10.5                       79%
GEORGIA TECH                   -12.5                       82%
Open Date
VIRGINIA TECH                   -5.5                        65%
at Wake Forest                   -6.5                        68%
at Duke                             -12                         82%
MARYLAND                         -18                         95%
NC STATE                          -10.5                      79%
SOUTH CAROLINA                -6                          66%

Cumulative total: 9.0 wins

Using my initial power rankings I project Clemson’s 2012 college football win totals at 9 wins, a full half game greater than the 5dimes number. Historically when making my numbers I have made a half game worth 50 cents of juice, so converting my 9 wins to 8.5 would result in a -150 price (or a 5.45% advantage against the -120 number).

This (-150) was roughly the market price a few weeks ago, but some money coming in on the under has resulted in a reduction in the price. At the old price there wasn’t much value but I believe this to be a good time to get an over ticket in.

2 units on Clemson Tigers Over 8.5 (-120)

I have made a wager on Clemson over 8.5 wins (-120) for 2 units. I will have analyses and write-ups on each ACC team over the next few weeks, So if you haven’t already, connect with The Saturday Edge on Twitter and Facebook, subscribe to the newsletter and bookmark this website to stay up to date on the 2012 college football betting season.

Thanks, and let me know how many wins you think Clemson have this season. 

- JimmyShivers

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