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Early look: No Deshaun, No Mike Williams, No Ben Boulware... but Clemson is still a problem

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As much as it hurts, even in a down year Clemson should be stiff competition once again

CFP National Championship Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

For those of you not in the know, let me give you a small taste of what it’s like to be in the Clemson Tigers-South Carolina Gamecocks rivalry from the Gamecock perspective.

It’s like being a handmaid in that new Hulu show “The Handmaids Tale”. For those who haven’t seen it, the show depicts a dystopian America where women are stripped of all their rights and forced to be reproductive slaves. These slaves, or handmaids, are constantly monitored and never have a moment of freedom.

Well, in this scenario the dystopian America is Twitter. The handmaids are Gamecock Twitter and the oppressive regime is Clemson Twitter. South Carolina fans can’t say, think or tweet anything without being bombarded by Clemson ridicule. For example, we wrote an article about the South Carolina receiving corps earlier this month and the most feedback we got were from Clemson fans.

Check it out:

The obsession is what really confuses me. The obsession to prove you’re the more dominant school despite the well documented fact you’re up in the all-time rivalry series by 26 games. I’ve said it many times over, I grew up an Auburn fan in the city of Houston, Tex. I’ve lived around Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and LSU fans most of my life while being in a family of Auburn, Alabama and Georgia fans.

I do mean this in the most objective way possible: The Clemson Twitter base is the most insecure group of fans I’ve ever met. It’s so fascinating to see how far some of these accounts will go to keep reminding themselves Clemson is the superior school. For example, when Clemson lost to Vanderbilt in the regional back in June the #HillWatch account tweeted this to cope:

Or when Charleston Post and Courier columnist Gene Sapakoff named Dawn Staley the most powerful sports figure in South Carolina over Dabo Swinney, the Sons of Clemson account responded as such (and the mentions too, if you’re brave enough to venture down that road):

And God help anyone affiliated with South Carolina make a benign quote about wanting to close the gap between them and Clemson. Speak out of line and you’ll endure the wrath of the Not Danny Ford account:

Yeah, the Gamecocks are the ones with the problem.

But I digress, it wasn’t that long ago all the BS you get on Twitter was somewhat tolerable. From 2009 to 2013 South Carolina won the rivalry game five times straight, holding Clemson to less than 17 points in each occasion. For once, the rivalry didn’t seem so lopsided and Gamecocks all over could breathe in peace.

However those good times have come and gone. Now Clemson has won three games in a row with last season’s contest being the most devastating Tiger victory since the 2003 massacre. Clemson’s been to the past two CFB Championship games and won it last season all to the sheer horror of the Gamecock collective.

And to make matters worse, even with the departure of Mike Williams, Deshaun Watson and Ben Boulware it doesn’t look like the Tigers are going to be taking any sort of meaningful setback. Clemson is recruiting at an unprecedented level in their program’s history and already have the top two recruits committed in the 2018 class.

Barring some natural disaster or Cthulhu birthing itself from the depths of Lake Hartwell and laying waste to the campus — Clemson has no signs of slowing down as a top ten college football program. I say that as a Gamecock fan and alum, knowing very well how much this will suck for the rest of us.

The 2017 iteration of Clemson football looks to be a good one, even if they’re having to replace the best quarterback in school history. Kelly Bryant has been Watson’s apprentice for the past two seasons, and now as a junior looks to take the reigns of an offense replacing most of their skill position players.

However the best thing a young QB can have is a veteran offensive line. Clemson returns four starters — including both tackles — from a line that was ranked fourth in the country by BillC’s metrics. Alabama-killer Hunter Renfrow, Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud all come back as experienced receivers and running back Tavien Feaster oozes talent as a sophomore.

But perhaps the most dangerous part of Clemson is the defensive front. Last season’s group was a top-15 unit and they return the likes of Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence — both of them future first round picks and former five-star prospects. They alone will cause plenty of havoc for Clemson’s back seven to operate cleanly, who return two linebackers and two defensive backs.

By most accounts, Clemson still has the look of a nine or ten win team even in a “rebuilding” year. So buckle up Gamecock nation, Clemson Twitter won’t be any easier to deal with this football season.