Even with the 2018 college football season now in the rear-view mirror, Clemson’s performance against Alabama in the College Football Playoff championship game will…
Even with the 2018 college football season now in the rear-view mirror, Clemson’s performance against Alabama in the College Football Playoff championship game will set the tone for the next eight months of conversation.
Here are college football’s three big questions looming over the offseason.
Is Clemson the favorite to repeat?
As soon as Clemson put the finishing touches on its remarkable and thorough 44-16 victory over Alabama on Monday night, writers putting together preseason Top 25 rankings and Las Vegas oddsmakers quickly changed the narrative for 2019. Whereas it seemed prior to kickoff that Alabama would automatically be preseason No. 1 for next season no matter what, that changed as the nation caught a glimpse of how complete a program Clemson has become.
Sure, the Tigers will have their challenges in 2019. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, especially when a defense that dominated for much of the season will undergo a personnel overhaul. In addition losing its entire starting defensive line and all-ACC linebacker Kendall Joseph, linebacker Tre Lamar and corner Trayvon Mullen announced Wednesday they’re turning pro early, so it’s going to look totally different.
But Clemson has gone through this before. When coordinator Brent Venables lost that great defensive group led by Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett, it reloaded. When it lost a slew of defensive backs after the first title game appearance in 2015 including Mackensie Alexander, T. J. Green and Jayron Kearse, it reloaded. Now it’s time to reload again, and there’s little doubt Clemson has recruited the depth to do it.
As Dabo Swinney said on Monday about departures on his defensive line, “We’ve got a lot of guys that y’all don’t have any idea who they are right now, but this time next year everybody is going to know who they are. That’s the fun part about what I do. We get to start over every year and plug guys in and let them go play.”
But even if there is a drop-off on defense, Clemson’s offense projects to be historically good in 2019. The nation saw Monday night what quarterback Trevor Lawrence was capable of as a true freshman, and all of the top skill players around him are coming back including spellbinding freshman receiver Justyn Ross along with Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers. With Travis Etienne returning as a junior and four seniors starting on the offensive line, there aren’t going to be any question marks on that side of the ball.
Coming off his title game tour de force, Lawrence’s presence and expected growth should nudge Clemson to No. 1 in the preseason over Alabama. And given the lack of challengers in the ACC, it is hard to envision a College Football Playoff without the Tigers.

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