No. 2 Clemson

Clemson cleared a hurdle last season. The Tigers got past the cynics--looking for a "Clemson moment'' when the Tigers would self destruct just when they appeared ready to make the giant step forward to the top of the mountain.

They won all of their regular season games. They won 14 games overall, which was the most of any Clemson football team--ever. They overcame mistakes. They stepped into the Orange Bowl in the Final Four semifinals and blew past Oklahoma.

And they gave Alabama all it could handle in the title game, coming up short in a 45-40 loss.

No, Clemson earned the respect it wanted. Now it wants respect and its first national title in 36 seasons, It has arguably the best QB in the country in Deshaun Watson, who is every bit as good as his reputation. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

It has talent everywhere on the roster, which is because Coach Dabo Swinney can recruit with anyone in the SEC, ACC or any other conference.

The Tigers have a "watch out'' game in their opener at Auburn. They have their annual meeting with Florida State on the road. But even if they lose that game, they are good enough to make it back to the national semifinals.

And if they do that, they are good enough to win a national championship.

The countdown thus far: No. 16 Pepper Hamilton (Baylor), No. 15 Georgia, No. 14 Michigan State , No. 13 Miami, No. 12 Houston, No. 11 Ohio State, No. 10 Stanford, No. 9, No. 8 Tennessee, N0. 7 Notre Dame, No. 6 FSU, No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 4 LSU, No. 3 Alabama. [/membership]

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