It’s Game Day in Death Valley where No. 5 Clemson battles Kent State to open the 2017 season in Death Valley.
Location: Memorial Stadium (Death Valley)
Kickoff: 12:02 p.m.
Announcers: Beth Mowens, Anthony Becht, Rocky Boiman
2017 Record: Clemson 0-0, Kent State 0-0
ACC/SEC Record: Clemson 0-0, Kent State 0-0
Series History: First Meeting
Last Meeting: First Meeting
Young Clemson Team Opens 2017 Season
As head coach Dabo Swinney has said many times in the preseason, “We aren’t defending anything. If we were like an NFL team and had Tom Brady back for his 15th year, that would be one thing. But in college football it is a new team, new coaches.”
As a result the Tigers start from day one like everyone else. “We are all looking up
the mountain, starting at the same point,” said Swinney in an August interview.
Clemson must replace 78 percent of its offense from 2016, 128th of the 130 teams
that will play college football in 2017. Only North Carolina and UAB (who didn’t play in
2016) must replace more total offense. The Tigers must replace All-American and Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson, first round choice and 1000-yard receiver Mike Williams, 1000-yard rusher Wayne Gallman and two-time Mackey finalist Jordan Leggett. Plus the Tigers must replace three All-Americans on defense in Cordrea Tankersley, Ben Boulware and Carlos Watkins.
Clemson entered fall camp with just six scholarship seniors. However, there are 52
lettermen returning and a corps of 27 juniors who are 28-2 in their career at Clemson.
Nine Clemson Players Ranked among top 125 for 2017
While Clemson lost some outstanding players off its 2016 National Championship
team, the Tigers do return some talented athletes according to four nationally recognized media agencies. Nine current Clemson players are ranked among the top 125 for 2017 by at least one national service that covers college football.
Six of the nine are on the defensive side of the ball, including three defensive linemen. Six of the nine are either offensive or defensive linemen, indicating the Tigers could
be strong in the trenches in 2017. ESPN and XM Radio analyst Tom Luginbill ranked his
top offensive and defensive lines nationally in August and had Clemson ranked first at both positions.
Kent State Features Strong Secondary
Kent State returns a quarterback who spent most of the first half of last season as
an all-purpose player. But, when Nick Holley moved to the signal caller position he responded with a strong performance against Akron, rushing for 117 yards and throwing for 285. For the year Holley threw for 868 and passes for 920. He did suffer a knee injury late in the season and did not go through spring practice. Tailback Justin Rankin rushed for 511 yards as a freshman despite battling through some injuries, and he also led the team in catches (28) and receiving yards (335). Senior wide receiver Kris White is back after suffering a season-ending leg injury in last year’s opener, while Kent State is also expecting junior college transfer wideout Donte Ross to make an instant impact.
Clemson in Season Openers
Clemson has won 25 of its last 32 season openers. That includes a 12-5 record the
last 17 years when Clemson has played its most challenging season-opening games. Clemson won its opener last year at Auburn, 19-13, its first win at Auburn since 1950 and the first time Clemson opened a season with a win on the road against an SEC team since 1903. It was Clemson’s first season opening win away from home since 1985 when the Tigers won 20-17 at Virginia Tech.
Dabo Swinney is 7-1 in his career in season opening games with the only loss coming
at Georgia to open the 2014 season. Swinney’s opening wins include two over Auburn and one over Georgia. The season opening victory over Georgia came at home in 2013 when the Bulldogs were ranked fifth in the nation entering the game.
Clemson vs. MAC (4-0)
This will be Clemson’s first game against Kent State, but its fifth game against
a school in the Mid American Conference. Clemson is 3-0 against Ball State and 1-0 vs.
Central Michigan. Clemson defeated Ball State in 1992 (24-10), in 2002 (30-7) and
2012 (52-27). The Central Michigan win took place in 2007 by a 70-14 score. So Clemson has outscored the MAC Conference 176-58 in head to head meetings.
Robert – Clemson 49 Kent State 0
Gavin – Clemson 38 Kent State 7
Will – Clemson 52 Kent State 14