CLEMSON — When the Clemson Tigers head to Louisville to take on the Cardinals Saturday night (8:12 p.m., ABC) it will be the first time the team has played there without a quarterback named Deshaun Watson starting for the Tigers.
But even without the former two-time Heisman Trophy finalist behind center, the Tigers are confident that junior quarterback Kelly Bryant can lead the offense.
"For us, he's not a freshman. He's not a very experienced player for us, but he is a junior,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “He has been here for the past two years and he's sat in the room for all the game plans, he's been on the headsets. He understands game situations.”
Because of the experience that Bryant has - including being mentored by Watson for two years - the Tigers’ actually have an advantage in not having to “pare down” the offense for Bryant, like many schools do when breaking in a new quarterback.
“For us as a staff, we really haven’t changed much,” Swinney said. “He has a great understanding and command.
"The biggest thing for him is getting the game experience. That’s why these two games (Kent State and Auburn) were so huge. And to see him play well is a credit to his preparation.”
Running back rotation:
Two games into the season and the Tigers are faced with a dilemma that they had hoped would have worked itself out by now — too many good running backs.
With three established running backs in C.J. Fuller, Tavien Feaster and Adam choice — and upstart true freshman Travis Etienne — all having had their moments, it will continue to be a week-by-week decision as to who gets the start for the Tigers.
That is, until one of the running backs changes the status quo.
“That’ll be a game-time decision. It’ll be that way every week. That’s not going to change unless something just materializes on the field,” Swinney said. “We’ve got three guys who we think can start for us, and every rep matters, every practice matters, and it’s going to be a game decision week in and week out.
“Now if they put the ball on the ground, they’re standing on the sideline. There’s not enough separation for a guy to go out there and put the ball on the ground. You put the ball on the ground, you’re going to stand on that sideline for a while because we’re going to play those other guys.”
Rose Bowl for the Tigers:
As week three of the season is upon us, three of the major sports sites are all in agreement with regards to where the Clemson Tigers will be spending their New Year’s Day—Pasadena, California.
Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and ESPN are all in agreement that the Tigers will make a return trip to the College Football Playoffs—with ESPN projecting the Tigers to once again face Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship—this time at the historic Rose Bowl Jan. 1, 2018.
Sport Illustrated has the Tigers’ as the No. 3 overall ranked team in their projected College Football Playoff rankings, with ESPN and CBS Sports both having the Tigers as the No. 2 ranked team.
Penn State and Oklahoma are the other two semifinalists, according to projections.