The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25, one day (and team) at a time:
Tommy Bowden's new contract, which will pay him $1.8 million annually, came with the usual perks: Free use of two new cars, 10 tickets to Clemson home games -- and one priceless comment from a Tigers fan who e-mailed the Greenville News.
"Nice reward for never winning the ACC, never going to a BCS bowl and never finishing higher than fourth in the ACC."
No. 8 Clemson
We guess the point is Bowden is entering his 10th season at Clemson, has his best team ever, and should probably, if he's smart, win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship this year.
It would be Clemson's first league crown since 1991, the year before Florida State joined the league and didn't lose a conference game for what seemed like 15 years.
And it's not like winning the ACC, which has failed to win a BCS bowl game this century, is comparable to climbing Mt. Everest.
Tommy, son of Bobby, has teased Clemson fans for years with the promise of something special. Take last year, when all the Tigers had to do to reach the ACC title game was beat Boston College at home.
Final score: B.C. 20, Clemson 17.
You know, stuff like that.
What ACC team, though, has more weapons?
Clemson boasts the conference's top backfield in quarterback Cullen Harper (27 touchdown passes) and the "Thunder and Lightning" running back combo of senior James Davis and junior C.J. Spiller.
It was looking to be only a "lightning" strike year until Davis (Thunder) checked the Weather Channel and pulled out of the NFL draft.
The question for Clemson is not "to be, or not to be?" but rather: "If not now, when?"
The Aug. 30 opener against Alabama in Atlanta might be a test, but after that Clemson plays the Citadel, North Carolina State and South Carolina State. The road gets tougher, with ACC visits to Wake Forest, Boston College and a Nov. 8 showdown in Tallahassee against Florida State.
Tommy Bowden's got a lineup to die for and job security with a contract that extends to 2014.
He has South Carolina at home.
What could go wrong?
The countdown so far:
25. Notre Dame; 24. California; 23. Fresno State; 22. Florida State; 21. Rutgers; 20. Illinois; 19. Penn State; 18. Oregon; 17. Tennessee; 16. Arizona State; 15. Texas Tech; 14. Brigham Young; 13. Wisconsin; 12. Kansas; 11. Auburn; 10. Texas; 9. West Virginia; 8. Clemson.