SUNSET -- Nearly every item Clemson coach Tommy Bowden would include on a perfect program blueprint -- facilities, graduation rates, staff stability, discipline, season ticket sales -- he said Tuesday he believes he can check off.
"Everything but the championship attainment," Bowden said. "The one area where we fall short has been number of wins."
The way the season shapes up, the Tigers might be out of excuses for that shortcoming.
Ranked by nearly every preseason magazine as a top-15 team -- and as high as No. 5 by Phil Steele -- Clemson is the prohibitive favorite to win the ACC title and join the nation's elite.
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It would be hard to argue against the Tigers, who enter the season possessing the league's top quarterback (Cullen Harper), two of its most dangerous running backs (James Davis and C.J. Spiller) and a proven receiver on track to break the conference's all-time catches record (Aaron Kelly).
Yet Bowden, speaking at his media golf outing that informally kicks off the preseason, labeled the top-15 predictions "premature."
Perhaps more than anything, Clemson must overcome the stigma of always losing at least one game it should not. Bowden suggested the onus for that rests on his shoulders.
"Until you win the championship, you're always going to lose to a team you should have beaten," Bowden said. "It's a natural analogy and deserved until you do it. That label, my father carried it for a long time, Mack Brown carried it for a long time; I'll have to carry it until I do it."
Bowden admitted to possessing his most talented returning team in his 10-year tenure at Clemson.
But Bowden said the Tigers are hardly invulnerable. He said the fact that four of the five offensive linemen will be new full-time starters is reason enough for Clemson to not be viewed as a veteran squad.
"The biggest thing now is how players respond, and, from a motivational standpoint, that I do a good job with the staff and the players," Bowden said. "The high expectations -- there is going to be more media hype and our players are going to read it and our players are going to believe it without winning a game.
"This year's team hasn't won any games. So it's going to look like they've accomplished something simply because of the preseason rankings. I think that's where you get into trouble."
• TAYLOR TO SIT: Clemson's coaching staff is considering redshirting senior Rendrick Taylor in order to give experience to freshmen running backs Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington, Bowden said.
Taylor, who spent his first three injury-riddled seasons at receiver, switched to running back in the spring after a brief experiment at linebacker.
Bowden said a redshirt year would give the 6-foot-2, 240-pounder a season to get acclimated to the new position and give the Tigers a veteran in the backfield with the graduation of Davis and the expected NFL departure of Spiller.
• CLAY DONE: Bowden confirmed linebacker Antonio Clay is looking to transfer. Clay has returned home to Jeffersonville, Ga., the past two spring semesters to cope with depression stemming from his sister's death before the 2006 season.