Clemson Football: 5 reasons why the Tigers won't repeat in 2017
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Clemson Tigers defensive end Austin Bryant (91), defensive end Chris Register (45) and defensive end Jaquarius Brice (40) celebrate after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Clemson football won the national title in 2016, but here are five reasons why the Tigers won't repeat in 2017.
The Clemson Tigers are coming off the best two year run in program history going 28-2 and making two straight national championship appearances.
In 2016, the Tigers broke through and won their first national championship since 1981 on the last play of the game, giving us a title game for the ages. But this year, unlike the like the last two years, Clemson is not as strong.
Unlike 2015 and 2016, they don't have Deshaun Watson. Coming into the 2017 college football season, they have to start a new quarterback.
Yes, the Tigers will be a strong team and could definitely repeat, but it is a long shot. But if you ask head coach Dabo Swinney and any Clemson Tiger fan they will tell you they love being doubted, slept on and being the underdog. The Tigers have many things against them this year, but the Tigers will be all in and bring their own guts every game.
Here are five reasons why the defending champs will not shock the world and not repeat as national champions in 2017.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban looks on prior to the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
5. History tells us otherwise
Clemson is not only battling against other teams in college football they are fighting against history.
It's tough to repeat as national champions. Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide were the last team to repeat as champions back in the 2011 and 2012 season. Also, that was back in the BCS era when it only took one game to win the championship.
Before 'Bama accomplished it, it was the 1994-1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers who last won back-to-back titles. So in modern college football, the chances of going back-to-back are highly unlikely. And they are even harder when you don't return your three-year starting quarterback, your three-year starting running back, your two-year starting tight end and two of your top pass-catchers.
History is never on anyone's side and it is more than likely not going to change for Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers. So even if Clemson was the favorite to win it all they would be fighting and uphill battle.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) enterst the stadium before the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
4. The loss of Deshaun Watson
This might actually be the No. 1 reason why Clemson will not repeat as national champions. The Tigers are losing arguably the best college football player and in Clemson history.
Deshaun Watson was the engine of the offense the last two seasons and that is why he holds the top two passing performances in national championship game history. He will be very hard to replace on the field but even harder to replace in the locker room.
Watson might not have been as loud as former linebacker Ben Boulware or as talented as former receiver Mike Williams, but he was the thermometer of the team.
The team never got too high or too low and that is because Watson never went to such extremes. Boulware will be replaced by a more athletic linebacker in junior Kendall Joseph and Williams will be replaced by a more well-rounded receiver in junior Deon Cain.
But who will replace Watson?
Junior Kelly Bryant and freshman Hunter Johnson will try to replace Watson, but they will fall short of the mark.
Dec 30, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois (12) walks off the field after a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Hard Rock Stadium. The Seminoles won 33-32. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
3. Florida State is experienced
The annual Tiger-Noles showdown will tell the fate of the ACC and which team goes to the College Football Playoff. Clemson has won the last two matchups, but the tables should turn in Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles' favor.
In 2016, Clemson was the more experienced team and they won the game, the ACC and eventually the national championship. But now in 2017, Florida State is the more experienced team and is favored to win the game and the ACC.
The 'Noles return 14 starters while the Tigers return 12. The numbers are very close but Florida State returns a more experienced quarterback in Deondre Francois. Clemson can win this game.
It's home in Death Valley, probably at night, but Noles have the better defense, the better quarterback and the better head coach. All three things travel.
The only thing that is known is that the winner of the game will go onto the ACC Championship.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers tight end Jordan Leggett (16) catches a pass against Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Ronnie Harrison (15) in the fourth quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
2. Key losses at the skill positions
Jordan Leggett was a vital part of the Clemson offense at the traditional Y-position or flexed out wide. He was one of Watson's more reliable targets.
Revisit the last drive of the 2017 National Championship Game, Leggett caught one of the balls to keep the Tigers in rhythm. The tight end position will be filled by either junior Milan Richard or Cannon Smith.
The loss of Mike Williams will be noticed but a better all-around receiver in Deon Cain is a better target for a developing starting quarterback.
Another key element of the Tiger offense lost is Artavis Scott in the "run" game. Scott was the extension of Clemson's run. He was used in the bubble screen game and in the jet sweep game because of his speed and elusiveness. His role will have to split between national champion-hero Hunter Renfroe, Ray-Ray McCloud and other newcomers.
Dec 5, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Clemson Tigers center Jay Guillermo (57) prepares to snap the ball during the second half against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the ACC football championship game at Bank of America Stadium. Clemson defeated North Carolina 45-37. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
1. The QB/Center Exchange
Clemson not only has a QB controversy but also a center one. Clemson will start a new QB and center when they take the field against Kent State on Sept. 2.
The projected center is Justin Falcinelli. He was the backup Taylor Hearn in 2016 and will make the move to center in 2017.
In Clemson's offensive scheme, the center and QB work together to make the protection calls. Last year, the Tigers had the experienced combo of Deshaun Watson and Jay Guillermo. In 2017, it looks to be Kelly Bryant and Falcinelli.
They will have the whole summer and Kent State to work out any problems they have because the following week is Auburn week. If they aren't on the same page by then, they will lose their first non-ACC September game since 2011.
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