- NCF/PREVIEW00 - Tigers should maul soft schedule

College Football Preview 2000
College Football
Weekly lineup
 Monday, September 4
Tigers should maul soft schedule
 By Gregg Doyel
Special to

Season notes
1999 record: 6-6 (5-3 ACC)
Coach: Tommy Bowden
Returning starters: 16 (8 offense, 8 defense)

The Tigers could reel off a 10-1 season and still not be a great team, given the ease of their schedule. Other than defending national champion Florida State, the rest of the ACC looks to be down this year, meaning a possible 7-1 conference mark. Meanwhile, Clemson's non-conference schedule is downright ridiculous: The Citadel, Missouri and South Carolina, who were a combined 6-27 last season.

On the other hand, Clemson could go 10-1 and be a legitimately great team -- if Bowden's instant offense runs smoothly through quarterback Woodrow Dantzler (2,081 yards of offense), tailback Travis Zachery (827 yards, 16 touchdowns rushing), receiver Rod Gardner (73 catches for 1,009 yards) and all five returning starters on the line.

Clemson's defense, which led the ACC with 46 sacks last year and was second with 19 interceptions, looks to be a rock again, especially with its leader back in linebacker Keith Adams (186 tackles), the ACC defensive player of the year and a solid Butkus Award candidate.

Keep an eye on ...
The quarterback situation. Should Dantzler stumble, Bowden has redshirt freshman Willie Simmons waiting in the wings. Simmons, a top national recruit last year, entered the preseason with a shot at unseating Dantzler, and even if Dantzler holds off the challenge, don't be surprised if Bowden shows little patience with his incumbent with a talent like Simmons at second-string.

It's a good season if ...
Clemson is widely considered the second-best team in the ACC this season, and unless the prognosticators have badly misread an emerging force at, say, Maryland or North Carolina, Clemson ought to coast to second place and possibly a place in the Bowl Championship Series. Anything less, barring a surprise team down the preseason conference standings, would make for disappointment in Death Valley.

Gregg Doyel covers the ACC for the Charlotte Observer
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