CLEMSON — South Carolina is ranked No. 10, and Clemson appeared at the No. 11 spot in ESPN’s self-labeled “Way Too Early” preseason rankings, which were released Monday.
Defending national champion Alabama was ranked No. 1.
While the ACC has been criticized for its lack of elite teams in recent years, Clemson will play a championship-worthy schedule in 2013.
Clemson’s season-opener is against ESPN’s No. 6 team in Georgia. Clemson also has No. 16 Florida State on its schedule in addition to rival South Carolina.
Writes ESPN of Clemson’s 2013 outlook: “With quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins coming back to run offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ spread offense, the Tigers are the team to beat in the ACC in 2013.
“But unless their defense improves dramatically, they might not be much of a factor in the BCS title race.”
South Carolina is coming off its second straight 11-win season and returns the most talented player in the country in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and a talented veteran quarterback in Connor Shaw.
The Gamecocks will play at Georgia and host ESPN’s No. 7 team, Florida.
ESPN’s early take on South Carolina: “South Carolina will have to replace seven starters on defense, but star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is coming back and might emerge as a top Heisman Trophy candidate in 2013. The Gamecocks will have to replace three starting linebackers and two starting defensive backs, so the defense will get a lot of attention during spring practice. ... Running back David Williams of Philadelphia was one of South Carolina’s top signees, and he might be asked to step in right away after injured tailback Marcus Lattimore left early for the NFL draft.”