Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell
- Clemson is expected to compete for another national title, but is there any value left in betting on it?
- The Tigers return maybe the scariest defense in the country, anchored by three future first-round NFL Draft picks on the line.
- Quarterback is the biggest controversy plaguing the Tigers, but they're got two good ones.
The talk around Tiger Town isn’t about whether Clemson is a national title contender.
It’s more about whether the Tigers will become the first 15-0 team in the history of college football.
The Tigers’ talent is at the very least on par with Ohio State and Alabama, but when you add in a favorable schedule, it starts to make sense that people are talking about a perfect season down in Death Valley.
Here’s a look at a variety of Clemson props to keep an eye on this season.
Odds to Win the National Championship: +400
There isn’t much value on Clemson to win the national title, as the Tigers are listed as second-favorites behind Alabama (+210).
However, that does mean the odds of a fourth consecutive postseason showdown are pretty good.
This time, Clemson is much more prepared to best the Crimson Tide on a neutral field.
The Tigers’ offense is focused on being more explosive and greatly improved in the passing game, which could spell better success against a rebuilt Alabama secondary.
Clemson likely needs to win the conference to have a shot at the national title, as the ACC will not hold the same kind of clout as the SEC did last year when Alabama snuck in the playoff without winning a division or conference title. The rest of the playoff landscape might not allow it anyway.
The Tigers also have to navigate a couple of intriguing nonconference games against SEC foes Texas A&M (Week 2) and South Carolina (regular-season finale), but neither are top-15 caliber teams right now.
Ultimately, it will be the quarterbacks that decide how far Clemson goes.
If Kelly Bryant doesn’t make enough strides in the passing game, it will be up to the strong-armed freshman Trevor Lawrence to man the ship without going through any growing pains. Relying on a quarterback situation that isn’t settled can leave your stomach feeling the same way as a midnight slice of pizza.
As long as the QBs do their job, however, the other pieces are there for the Tigers to win their second national title in three seasons.
Travis Etienne’s Heisman Odds: +8000
Do you believe it’s the year of the running back? Do you want a huge Heisman longshot with tremendous playmaking ability? Here’s your guy.
As a true freshman last year, Etienne averaged 7.1 yards per carry and scored 13 touchdowns — on just eight carries per game.
His workload and numbers should skyrocket in 2018, and he runs with a gear most running backs never own. The downside is Etienne plays in a loaded backfield, so he might rarely push 20-plus touches in a game.
Odds to win ACC: -185
According to the Action Network’s Collin Wilson, it is likely that the Tigers will be double-digit favorites in all of their regular-season games; plus, you could make the argument that Clemson has the fewest question marks of any contender.
Returning starter Bryant and five-star true freshman Lawrence went through what head coach Dabo Swinney labeled the most competitive quarterback competition he’s ever seen in the preseason.
The defense is as deep, if not deeper, than anything Brent Venables has had in his previous six years as coordinator.
It will terrorize the line of scrimmage with the nation’s most talented defensive front four, and the linebackers will reap the benefits. The starters in the secondary are also strong, but you could ask questions about the unit’s depth.
There aren’t really any weaknesses to speak of, and finding a team in the ACC that can challenge Clemson isn’t easy.
Florida State may end up being the only ranked opponent that the Tigers face in the entire regular season, and while Clemson did lose to Pittsburgh in 2016 and Syracuse last year, an upset in a similar vein would, obviously, be shocking.
Georgia Tech used to be a house of horrors for Clemson, but Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense has averaged a measly 13.7 points per game over the last three contests against Venables’ unit.
North Carolina State and Louisville have given Clemson scares over the last few seasons, but those teams both have to travel to Death Valley in 2018 and will be massive underdogs.
Boston College is a popular sleeper and they could pull off an upset this year, but Swinney and his staff won’t take the Eagles lightly when they lock horns in November.
Clemson’s other cross-divisional game pits the Tigers against Duke. The Blue Devils feature a strong defense and could be a candidate to upset the Tigers — plus, they catch Clemson a week before the Tigers play in-state rival South Carolina. But again, Clemson losing IN Clemson is hard to fathom.
Clemson may even be able to afford a loss to Florida State (in what will likely be an entertaining game) and still win the Atlantic if FSU loses another game.
Assuming Clemson does win the Atlantic division, the Tigers will likely need to beat Coastal-favorite Miami. The Hurricanes mustered a grand total of three points in last year’s meeting with Clemson.
Being an overwhelming favorite to capture the conference crown speaks volumes about how the rest of the league stacks up against Clemson’s talent.
There’s nothing wrong with paying this price to take the Tigers to win the ACC, but before you do that, consider taking Clemson to make the playoff at -175. The ACC has never been left out of the playoff, so this is the better value.
Brad Senkiw is a contributor to The Action Network and hosts The Press Box weekdays, 9 a.m.-noon ET on WCCP 105.5 The Roar.