Clemson Football 2022 Season Preview: How Do Tigers Get Back To Top of ACC?

Clemson v South Carolina
Clemson v South Carolina / Jacob Kupferman/GettyImages

It was quite the fall from grace for the Clemson Tigers in 2021.

The team lost a defensive struggle to eventual National Champions Georgia in Week 1 and never found their stride on offense. Quarterback D.J. UIagalelei never found his footing in his first full season under center and while the team still put together a 10-3 season, it snapped their run of six straight ACC titles.

There was no College Football Playoff for the Tigers for the first time since 2015, but a Cheez-It-Bowl.

So, with some turnover on the coaching staff, can Clemson get back to the top in a competitive, but still beatable ACC? Let's break it all down.

Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook

2022 Clemson Win Total, Conference Championship, National Championship

  • Win Total: 10.5 (Over +110/Under -130)
  • ACC Championship: -130
  • National Championship: +1000

Clemson Offensive Preview

After dominating offenses with Trevor Lawrence, the unit fell off as the team transitioned to former five-star recruit Uiagalelei. He completed 55% of his passes and was held under 200 passing yards in seven of his first eight games. Uiagalelei threw nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions and the team was outside the top 100 in passing game success rate. It wasn't pretty.

Injuries all over didn't help. Four different starters on the offensive line missed time for a rebuilt unit, and receivers were in and out of the lineup as well. However, the team found some success on the ground with the likes of Will Shipley and Kobe Pace, Both will be back and the offensive line should have some necessary experience and health to take a step forward.

At receiver, keep an eye on Joseph Ngata, who had two games over 100 yards receiving and tight end Davis Allen who steps in for Braden Galloway. Overall, it's not the most developed unit, but there are blue chippers on hand.

However, this offense goes as far as Uiagalelei takes them. The pieces are in place for him, but he must find a way to get the ball out of his hands and into space. Brandon Streeter is the new OC set with rebuilding his confidence after Tony Elliot took the Virginia head coaching job. This is Streeter's first time as a Power 5 OC, so there are questions here as well.

If the incumbent starter can't find his rhythm early, look to highly regarded recruit Cade Klubnik to get time. Uiagalelei was benched at times last season, and I wonder if head coach Dabo Swinney and his new OC have an even quicker leash in 2022.

Clemson Defense Preview

For an offense that was 99th in overall success rate, the defense propelled them to a 10-3 record. The unit allowed 14 points per game and just 4.44 yards per play. The D was sixth in tackles for loss and fifth in defensive success rate. This was a credit to an experience unit and arguably the best DC in the country in Brent Venables.

However, Venables is off to Norman, Oklahoma as the new head coach of the Sooners and Swinney promoted another assistant, Wes Goodwin to his first Power 5 coordinator position. Only six starters are back from last year's defense, but there is still talent here.

Myles Murphy (12 TFL) and Bryan Breese (6.5 TFL) are two of the best defensive linemen in the country and this is arguably the best front in the entire country. While there are some unproven names in big roles the fill out the back seven, there are blue chip prospects that have seen time in the past.

Clemson's ability to generate pressure and limit the rush game should give some relief to a somewhat green secondary. The team does lose second round pick Andrew Booth and star safety Nolan Turner, but do get back 2020 starter Landen Zanders from injury and have several capable guys coming in.

This is going to be the focal point of the team again, if they are able to continue to win on standard downs, the Tigers should be in every game, even if the offense remains underwhelming to prior years.

Clemson Special Teams Preview

The Tigers have a reliable kicker in B.T. Potter, who made 21-of-26 kicks last season. He didn't miss any of his 38 PAT's and has missed one in four years as kicker for Clemson. He has hit from 52 in the past as well.

The team must fill in for a rock solid punter in Will Spiers, but the return game should be elite once again. Shipley doubled as a kick returner in the past and showed some promise, averaging more than 27.1 yards per kick return.

Clemson Schedule Breakdown

The Tigers are not the shoe-in we had grown accustomed to, not until Uiagalelei proves he can reach his ceiling. They do get an easy start to the season, opening on a neutral against Georgia Tech, home for Furman and Louisiana Tech.

The meat of the schedule starts after that with a road trip to defending Atlantic champion Wake Forest. That marquee matchup is followed by North Carolina State at home (who they lost to last year) and back-to-back road games against Boston College and Florida State before they get Syracuse at home. After that, it's a much needed bye week.

Clemson is almost certainly going to be favored in each of those games, but that is a lot of ware and tare in short succession. If the offense isn't up to par, look out, we can be looking at a nine win regular season again.

After the bye week, the team is at Notre Dame followed by Louisville, Miami and South Carolina at home.

While the Tigers have the upside of a College Football Playoff team, the offense has too many question marks to expect undefeated regular seasons as we did in the past. There are too many landmines along the way.

Clemson Betting Preview, 2022 Predictions

Clemson should be favored in every game except for the road trip to Notre Dame, but there are too many concerns on the offensive side of the ball to take them at such a short price to win the ACC.

With back-to-back games against contenders Wake Forest and NC State, it feels that it may be another challenging year for Swinney. The schedule does no favors to a team that is hoping to get a bounce back campaign from Uiagalelei, and I can't bet them to succeed before I see the product.

Uiagalelei has questions, but so does the staff. Venables is a famed DC and now his top assistant steps in with limited experience. The team is talented, and they should be treated as the favorites to appear in the ACC Championship game, but I see no value in betting them to do so. I would rather go for higher variance outcomes like NC State or Wake to win the ACC crown.

I'm not sold on Clemson yet, and will be looking to fade them in the futures market at these numbers.

You can find all of my college football plays on my Betstamp @rw33