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It’s Game Week! Where did the off-season go?

It seemed like yesterday Hunter Renfrow caught that one-yard pass from Deshaun Watson, lifting the Clemson Tigers to their first national championship in 35 years. But here we are. It is nearly eight months later and we are five days away from the start of the 2017 football season.

It’s Game Week, where has the time gone?

This, without a doubt, had to be the fastest off-season I have experienced or at least that is how it felt. It feels like we just left Tampa, Fla. It feels like the Tigers just had that massive celebration party in Death Valley.

However, that was nearly eight months ago and now the Tigers are getting ready to charge down the Hill in Death Valley for the first time, without a game played, as the defending national champions? How does that sound?

Of course, Clemson has played in Death Valley as the defending national champions before. That came in 1982. However, by the time the Tigers charged down the Hill on September 18, 1982, they had already lost to Georgia two weeks earlier in Athens.

So Saturday’s game against Kent Stat will be the first time Clemson has come down the Hill as the defending champions without a loss. So soak it up. It should be a special moment for all of the 81, 500 fans packed into Death Valley for the first time in 2017.

Since we are on the subject of the 2017 football season, let’s talk about the new season. A lot of people ask me, “How do I think the Tigers’ season will play out? Can they make it back to the College Football Playoff?”

Yes, I think they can make it back to the CFP, depending on how things shake out at the quarterback position. Kelly Bryant, as you know, has been named the starter and if he remains the starter, then it probably means things have gone right for Clemson and he is performing the way the coaches saw in practice all these months, which subsequently means the Tigers are winning games.

As you know, Bryant is surrounded by talent. All he has to do is not mess it up. Clemson returns four starters on the offensive line. Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloud and Hunter Renfrow have plenty of experience at the wide receiver positions. C.J. Fuller is the starter at running back, and has Tavien Feaster and Adam Choice has his backups. Then there is this kid named Travis Etienne, who has been all the talk in camp.

Don’t even get me started on the defense. This unit is loaded with talent at all three levels and returns seven starters. Clemson’s front four is arguably the best in college football with Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant.

Granted, the Tigers’ schedule, especially in the September, will be difficult to navigate through. Twelfth-ranked Auburn comes to Clemson in Week 2 and is no push over. Then the Tigers head to No. 16 Louisville, who has revenge on its mind, in Week 3. Then it is off to No. 21 Virginia Tech in Week 5 in a rematch of last year’s ACC Championship Game. If the Tigers survive all of that, and I think they can, and come out of September 4-1 or 5-0, then a date with No. 3 Florida State on Nov. 11 will be for all the marbles in the ACC, sort of speak.

My prediction for the Tigers is 11-1 and a third straight trip to the CFP. Now, can they win it all or even play for a national championship for a third straight year? I’m not sure. I don’t think so, but what do I know. I’m just a sportswriter who is wondering, “Where did my off-season go?”

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