Dabo Swinney’s program is the only one in the nation to finish higher in the final poll than its preseason ranking each of the last four years.
The Tigers are coming off a 10-3 season in which they finished 15th in the final USA Today and Associated Press rankings. Clemson has been ranked in the final top 25 by USA Today Coaches Poll each of the last four years, joining Alabama, Oregon and Florida State as the only programs that can make that claim. That includes a top 15 ranking for Clemson each of the last three years.
The Clemson program has done an outstanding job in meeting expectations in the last four years. The Tigers were unranked in the preseason of 2011 and finished 22nd. Clemson was No. 14 in the preseason in 2012 and finished ninth. The Tigers were eighth in the preseason of 2013 and finished seventh. Last year Clemson had a No. 16 preseason rating and finished 15th.
Three Clemson opponents are ranked in the top 20 of the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll. Florida State is ranked eighth, Notre Dame is 11th and Georgia Tech is 17th. All three of those opponents will face Clemson at Death Valley this year. Notre Dame is at Clemson on October 3, Georgia Tech comes to town the following week and Florida State is at Clemson on November 7. Clemson has not faced three top 20 teams at home in the same year since 2005.
Clemson was also the preseason pick to win the Atlantic Coast Conference title according to the media attending the ACC Football Kickoff at Pinehurst, N.C. earlier this month. The Tigers return just five starters on offense and three starters on defense from last year’s team that concluded the season with wins over South Carolina and Oklahoma by at least two touchdowns.
While Clemson returns just eight starters, it does return players who accounted for 92 percent of the receiving yardage, 81 percent of the rushing yardage and 87 percent of the points scored. Quarterback Deshaun Watson, who completed 68 percent of his passes for a national best 10.7 yards per attempt, also returns.
Clemson has now been ranked in 61 of the last 65 USA Today Coaches polls dating to early in the 2011 season. The Tigers open the 2015 season on September 5 when Wofford plays at Memorial Stadium.