Clemson Tigers quarterback Boyd throws against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the first quarter during the 2012 Discover Orange Bowl NCAA football game in Miami

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 12 Clemson

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2011 record: 10-4 overall, 6-2 in ACC (1st-tie in Atlantic)

2011 postseason: ACC title game (38-10 win over Virginia Tech); Orange Bowl (70-33 loss to West Virginia)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 22/No. 22

Head coach: Dabo Swinney (29-19 in four seasons at Clemson)

Offensive coordinator: Chad Morris (second season at Clemson, second as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 59th rushing offense (158.5 ppg); 21st passing offense (282.3 ypg); 26th total offense (440.8 ypg); 24th scoring offense (33.6 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: six

Defensive coordinator: Brent Venables (first season at Clemson, first as OC)

2011 defensive rankings: 83rd rushing defense (176.9 ypg); 50th passing defense (217.5 ypg); 71st total defense (394.4 ypg); 81st scoring defense (29.3 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: seven

Location: Clemson, S.C.

Stadium: Memorial Stadium (81,500; grass)

Last league title: 2011

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
Three of the most productive offensive players at their positions in the country — quarterback Tajh Boyd, wide receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Andre Ellington — are back for another season of havoc-wreaking in the ACC.  Perhaps the scariest part of that returning trio for the conference is last season was the first in Chad Morris’ scheme; with another offseason under its collective belt, that three-headed offensive monster should be downright frightening in 2012.

The Bad
See those numbers a few inches above, the ones that state the Tigers owned the 71st defense in total yards allowed and was an embarrassing 81st in scoring defense?  Yeah, that was bad.  While most people will point to — and laugh at — the 70 points hung on Clemson’s defense by West Virginia in the bowl game, the Tigers gave up at least 30 points to Maryland (45), North Carolina (38), North Carolina State (37), South Carolina (34), Georgia Tech (31) and Florida State (30).  The good in the bad, though, is the fact that Swinney “parted ways” with coordinator Kevin Steele and replaced him with Brent Venables, who comes to the Tigers after overseeing stifling defenses at Oklahoma for the past 12 seasons.  Another issue that most certainly falls into the bad for Clemson is freshman wide receiver sensation Sammy Watkins’ suspension for the first two games of the season, which includes the season opener against Auburn.

The Unknown
As odd as it may sound, it’s fair to ask if there will be any carryover from the 70-33 beatdown at the hands of the Mountaineers to close out the 2011 season.  The biggest plus from that shellacking is that it led to the change at coordinator and, especially with the presence of Venables, any chance of a lingering hangover is a long shot at best.  However, it will be something to watch early on in the season, especially with games against Auburn and Florida State in the first month of the new football year.

Make-or-break game: at Florida State, Sept. 29
The Seminoles were one of the Tigers’ victims in a string of eight straight wins to open the 2011 season, although Clemson would win just two of its final five games as the Tigers spit and sputtered their way through the remainder of the schedule.  Traveling to Tallahassee to face a team that (once again) is expected to be a prominent player nationally, however, is a different animal entirely for the Tigers.  Fortunately for Clemson, it will have three games to get its new defensive legs underneath them, as well as one game to work Watkins back into game shape coming off the suspension.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Tajh Boyd
Boyd flourished in his first season with Morris as coordinator, and 2012 portends even bigger production for the junior.  Last season, Boyd passed for just over 3,800 yards and 33 touchdowns, although the 12 interceptions — some at critical junctures — remain a lingering concern.  Not enough, however, to keep Boyd out of the Heisman mix as continued improvement is not only expected but being counted on to help elevate the Tigers to that next level nationally.

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Randy Edsall not leaving Maryland without giving Buckeyes a fight

Cardale Jones
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If this is the last game Randy Edsall coaches at Maryland, at least he is making it count. Maryland may be down at the half, but the overmatched Terrapins are giving No. 1 Ohio State all it can handle it would seem. Ohio State holds a 21-14 lead on Maryland at the half, with big plays being the key.

Maryland struck first when Perry Hills connected to an open D.J. Moore down the middle of the field for a 52-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Ohio State would battle back, switching up the quarterbacks between Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett along the way. The Buckeyes ripped off three touchdowns, with Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott each running for one and Jones throwing for the third, to Braxton Miller. Up 21-7, all seemed to return to normal for the Buckeyes, but Maryland cut the lead to seven late in the first half.

Hills broke free for a 75-yard run from the Maryland 22-yard line all the way down to the Ohio State three, and he finsihed off the quick touchdown on the next play with a short touchdown run. So Maryland continues to linger, which appears to be a theme with Ohio State’s opponents this season.

Jones has completed 15 of 20 pass attempts for 195 yards and a touchdown for Ohio State. Barrett attempted just one pass, which was good for a 20-yard gain. Elliott has just 25 rushing yards on 11 attempts at the half.

Texas-sized upset? Longhorns stunning No. 10 Oklahoma in Red River Rivalry

Jerrod Heard
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Nobody could have seen this coming, even after throwing out the records. A week after being ambushed by TCU, Charlie Strong and his Texas Longhorns looked like a completely different team in the first quarter against No. 10 Oklahoma in the old Cotton Bowl. Texas holds a surprising 14-3 lead at the half.

Jerrod Heard completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Johnson midway through the first quarter. The Longhorns made it 14-0 when a break went their way. Lorenzo Joe recovered a fumble in the end zone for a score to make it 14-0 after Oklahoma had fumbled away the ensuing kickoff after the first score.

Texas outgained Oklahoma in the first quarter, 133 yards to just 15, and at the half (169 yards to just 85). Oklahoma went three-and-out on each of its two drives, and the Sooners had to punt four times before being able to put a dent on the scoreboard with a short 21-yard field goal by Austin Seibert after a 12-play drive stalled at the Texas four-yard line. Meanwhile, Texas was building a double-digit lead.

Without a doubt, the first half of this game was the best half we have seen from Texas in a while. Can they keep it going and score what would be a significant upset to get our day started?