Quick Reaction: Back end of Clemson's schedule promises to be tough


by - Senior Writer -
Dabo Swinney and the Tigers will face a tough test this season.
Dabo Swinney and the Tigers will face a tough test this season.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney loves to call the month of November “Championship November” because the Tigers are usually trying to win an ACC Atlantic Division title and the state championship. The last five games in the regular season this year will indeed be a championship stretch.

The Atlantic Coast Conference announced its 2020 football schedule on Thursday. The schedule will begin Thursday, Sept. 10. All 15 conference schools will play an 11-game schedule, with 10 games against ACC opponents and one versus a non-conference program.

(Insert your joke here: Yes, the ACC is known for being late in releasing the schedule each year, but August? AUGUST??)

Clemson will not face South Carolina due to the conference-only schedule in 2020 for the Gamecocks and the rest of the SEC.

Clemson’s schedule promises to be backloaded with tough games and possibly cold games.

The Tigers open up at Wake Forest on Sept. 12th. Clemson has won 11 in a row in the series and will be heavily favored to make it an even dozen. That is followed by a non-conference game the following week, which might be The Citadel if what we are hearing is correct. The 26th of September is an open date, which means the Tigers will close the month of September having played just twice.

The month of October is all about being at home as Clemson plays five times in the month, with four of those being played in the friendly confines of Death Valley.

The month begins with a rematch of the ACC Championship Game against Virginia on Oct. 3rd. The Cavaliers are having to replace quarterback Bryce Perkins, who made the offense hum at record levels. The Cavs offense averaged over 32 points per game, led the conference in time of possession, and was second in third down conversions.

Clemson hosts Miami on Oct. 10th. The Canes were abysmal offensively last season, averaging just 367 yards and 26 points per game. Most of those points came in two games when they scored 63 against Bethune-Cookman and 52 against Louisville. Take away those two games, and they averaged fewer than 20 points per game over the other 11. Quarterback D’Eriq King transferred in from Houston and new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee hopes to provide a spark.

A mid-month trip to Georgia Tech is the lone road game in October, on Oct. 17th. The Yellow Jackets are still a work in progress under head coach Geoff Collins, who is known more for his Waffle House addiction than wins at this point in his career.

Clemson hosts Syracuse on Oct. 24th. Tommy DeVito struggled at quarterback last season, mainly because his offensive line couldn’t block a toddler in a phone booth. Four members of the offensive line are back, but if they weren’t good last year, will they be that much better this year? Dino Babers has to hope they are.

The month closes at home against Boston College. The Eagles have a new head coach in Jeff Hafley, who was at Ohio State last season. There is talent on the roster, and new offensive cordinator Frank Cignetti, the Green Bay Packer quarterback coach and former NFL OC with the Rams and Steelers, will throw the ball over the field.

November starts with a trip to Notre Dame. This game was originally scheduled for Nov. 7th, and it’s kept that date. I was a little surprised to see this – under the new ACC rules, the Irish are allowed to play for the ACC Championship this season, and I wondered if the league would move this game to the front of the schedule to give what might be the two best two teams a chance to recover from an early loss.

Instead, it’s November in front of Touchdown Jesus. Bring it on, this one will be fun. Clemson hasn’t played there since 1979, a memorable 16-10 win.

An open date follows and then the Tigers travel to Florida State. Yes, the ‘Noles have a new coach and are in rebuilding mode in a way, but the roster is still dangerous and they will have an identity by then. The Tigers carried a 28-0 lead into halftime in both Clemson's 59-10 win in Tallahassee in 2018 and 45-14 win in Clemson in 2019. In the last two games between the two programs, Clemson has combined to post a 56-0 edge in points, a 614-128 advantage in total yards and a 35-10 advantage in first downs in the first half. It likely won’t be that easy this time.

Clemson hosts Pitt to close out November. This is notable in that it’s the date the Tigers were supposed to host South Carolina. Instead, they get Pitt. Yay.

The regular season closes out with a road game at Virginia Tech on December 5th. Cold? Probably. The Tigers and Hokies most recently met in 2017, when the Tigers earned a 31-17 road victory against the Hokies in a contest that was the feature contest on ESPN's College GameDay. Clemson has won each of its last five meetings with Virginia Tech, dating to 2011, a year in which the Tigers earned two victories against the Hokies, including a 23-3 home win and a 38-10 victory in the 2011 ACC Championship Game.

The schedule is tough on the back end, and promises to have the Tigers tested heading into the postseason.

Game by game notes (provided by Clemson)

SEPT. 12 • AT WAKE FOREST • BB&T FIELD, WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.

Clemson will face Wake Forest on Sept. 12 in Winston-Salem, where the Tigers posted one of their most prolific rushing games in history in their most recent visit in 2018. In a 63-3 win at Wake Forest in 2018, Clemson rushed for 471 yards and averaged 11.8 yards per carry, breaking the previous school record for yards per carry set on Oct. 17, 1903 against Georgia Tech (11.2). Running backs Travis Etienne, Lyn-J Dixon and Adam Choice all helped Clemson record the first game in school history in which three different Clemson players exceeded 125 rushing yards in a single game.

SEPT. 19 • NON-CONFERENCE OPPONENT TBA • MEMORIAL STADIUM, CLEMSON, S.C.

Clemson will play its home opener on Sept. 19 against a non-conference opponent still to be finalized. Even though 2020 represents the 125th season of Clemson football, Clemson has had just 119 home openers in its history as a function of the five seasons in which Clemson did not play a game at home. In 119 home openers, Clemson has a 94-17-8 record against 38 different opponents. Clemson will be looking to add to its 23-game regular season winning streak against non-conference opponents, dating to 2014.

OCT. 3 • VIRGINIA • MEMORIAL STADIUM, CLEMSON, S.C.

Clemson will face Virginia on Oct. 3 in a rematch of the 2019 ACC Championship Game. Clemson is 39-8-1 against Virginia all-time, including opening the series against the Cavaliers with a 29-game winning streak across the 1955-89 seasons. That previous 29-game winning streak is tied for the sixth-longest winning streak in FBS history for one team over another, trailing Notre Dame over Navy (43), Nebraska over Kansas (36), Oklahoma over Kansas State (32), Florida over Kentucky (31), Penn State over Temple (31) and matching Nebraska over Kansas State (29).

OCT. 10 • MIAMI (FLA.) • MEMORIAL STADIUM, CLEMSON, S.C.

Clemson added a home date with the Miami Hurricanes on Oct. 10, representing the teams’ first regular season meeting since 2015. That year, Clemson handed Miami its worst loss in program history, a 58-0 road victory for the Tigers. The teams would go on to meet in the 2017 ACC Championship Game, as Clemson earned its 17th all-time ACC title with a 38-3 victory in Charlotte.

OCT. 17 • AT GEORGIA TECH • BOBBY DODD STADIUM, ATLANTA, GA.

In a unique ACC season without divisional play, Clemson retained its annual matchup with usual cross-division foe Georgia Tech, as the Tigers and Yellow Jackets will face each other in Atlanta on Oct. 17. The Tigers are in the midst of a five-game winning streak against Georgia Tech for the first time in series history and will attempt to win a third straight game at Georgia Tech for the first time in program annals.

OCT. 24 • SYRACUSE • MEMORIAL STADIUM, CLEMSON, S.C.

Syracuse will make its first trip to Death Valley since Clemson’s memorable 27-23 come-from-behind victory that helped propel Clemson to a 15-0 record and a national championship in 2018. Clemson is 6-2 against Syracuse all-time, including a 3-0 home record. Clemson has been ranked in the AP Top 25 in all eight all-time contests against Syracuse, including a Top 3 ranking in six of the last seven matchups with the Orange.

OCT. 31 • BOSTON COLLEGE • MEMORIAL STADIUM, CLEMSON, S.C.

Last season, Clemson produced one of its most dominant performances of 2019 against Boston College, outgaining the Eagles, 674-177. The 497-yard differential was Clemson’s largest yardage differential against an ACC opponent since the conference’s founding in 1953, surpassing a 464-yard advantage against Wake Forest in 2000.

NOV. 7 • AT NOTRE DAME • NOTRE DAME STADIUM, NOTRE DAME, IND.

In a battle of historic programs, Clemson and Notre Dame will meet for the fifth time all-time and for the third time in a six-year span when the teams clash. After dropping the teams’ first meeting in 1977, Clemson has won each of its last three games against Notre Dame, including a 16-10 win in South Bend in 1979, a memorable 24-22 win in torrential rain in Clemson in 2015, and a 30-3 win in the College Football Playoff National Semifinal at the Cotton Bowl Classic in 2018.

NOV. 21 • AT FLORIDA STATE • DOAK CAMPBELL STADIUM, TALLAHASSEE, FLA.

Clemson will attempt to earn a sixth consecutive victory against Florida State and continue its recent run of hot starts in the series when the Tigers face the Seminoles in Tallahassee. The Tigers carried a 28-0 lead into halftime in both Clemson’s 59-10 win in Tallahassee in 2018 and 45-14 win in Clemson in 2019. In the last two games between the two programs, Clemson has combined to post a 56-0 edge in points, a 614-128 advantage in total yards and a 35-10 advantage in first downs in the first half.

NOV. 28 • PITTSBURGH • MEMORIAL STADIUM, CLEMSON, S.C.

Pittsburgh will make its first trip to Clemson since 2016 on Nov. 28, when the Tigers host the Panthers. A victory would even the all-time series between the two programs at 2-2, as Pitt collected victories in the 1977 Gator Bowl and the 2016 regular season, while Clemson won the teams’ most recent meeting with a 42-10 victory in the 2018 ACC Championship Game in the midst of Clemson’s 15-0 national championship campaign.

DEC. 5 • AT VIRGINIA TECH • LANE STADIUM, BLACKSBURG, VA.

The altered 2020 schedule produced an unexpected return trip to Blacksburg for Clemson. The Tigers and Hokies most recently met in 2017, when the Tigers earned a 31-17 road victory against the Hokies in a contest that was the feature contest on ESPN’s College GameDay. Clemson has won each of its last five meetings with Virginia Tech, dating to 2011, a year in which the Tigers earned two victories against the Hokies, including a 23-3 home win and a 38-10 victory in the 2011 ACC Championship Game.

SCHEDULE NOTES AND ODDITIES

After opening against Georgia Tech last season, Clemson will open the season against Wake Forest this year, representing the first time Clemson has opened with an ACC foe in back-to-back years since a five-season stretch of in-conference season openers across the 1965-69 seasons.

With a 10-game conference schedule, a first in school history, Clemson will once again play 10 Power Five teams in 2020. Clemson has won 76 games against Power Five opponents since 2013, seven more than any other program in the country.

Clemson enters the season with an active winning streak against every team on its schedule. Clemson has active winning streaks against Wake Forest (11), Virginia (four), Miami (two), Georgia Tech (five), Syracuse (two), Boston College (nine), Notre Dame (three), Florida State (five), Pitt (one) and Virginia Tech (five).

Clemson is scheduled to host a six-game home slate. In the College Football Playoff era (since 2014), Clemson is 41-1 at home, the most home wins and top home winning percentage in the country. Clemson will get a rematch of the lone home loss in that span when it faces Pitt in November.

Clemson will play four home games in the month of October. It will represent the seventh time Clemson has played four home games in a single month, joining the 1920, 1987, 1989, 1993, 2008 and 2011 campaigns. In all six of the previous instances, Clemson posted a winning record in those contests.

Clemson will open the season on the road for the first time since 2016, when second-ranked Clemson defeated Auburn, 19-13, at Jordan-Hare Stadium to kick off an eventual national championship campaign.

Clemson will open the season against an ACC opponent for only the 14th time since the conference’s founding in 1953. Clemson is 10-2-1 against ACC opponents in Week 1 contests all-time, including a 52-14 home win against Georgia Tech last season.

The 2020 season marks the seventh time in eight years that Clemson has opened conference play on the road. Clemson has won each of its last five conference openers since 2015, tied for the longest conference-opener winning streak in school history (five from 1980-84).

Every game on Clemson’s regular season schedule will be played on Saturday. Clemson has won 43 consecutive Saturday games, with its only three losses since the start of the 2017 season coming on a Friday and two Mondays.

One year after playing the earliest game in school history (Aug. 29, 2019 vs. Georgia Tech), Clemson’s Sept. 12 season opener in 2020 will represent its latest season debut since opening the 1986 campaign against Virginia Tech on Sept. 13, 1986.

Clemson’s Dec. 5 regular season finale will represent Clemson’s latest regular season finale in school history, including only its second regular season contest in December in program annals. Clemson closed the 2001 regular season with a 59-31 win against Duke on Dec. 1, 2001.

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