Can 2015 be special? Tigers need a Mr. October-type of performance


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Can Artavis Scott help the Tigers navigate a tough October?
Can Artavis Scott help the Tigers navigate a tough October?

Reggie Jackson earned the nickname “Mr. October” because he shined on baseball’s biggest stage, and if Clemson is to have the type of season the fans envision in 2015 someone – whether it’s Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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or Deshaun WatsonDeshaun Watson
So. Quarterback
#4 6-2, 205
Gainesville, GA

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or Shaq LawsonShaq Lawson
So. Defensive End
#90 6-3, 269
Central, SC

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or Artavis ScottArtavis Scott
So. Wide Receiver
#3 5-10, 190
Oldsmar, FL

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– may have to take that nickname for their very own.

In other words, for the Tigers to have what head coach Dabo Swinney usually calls a November to Remember, October has to set the stage.

Clemson’s football team has had a few oddities over the last few years, and I thought back in 2013 that the Tigers might have a chance to play a football game in six different calendar months of the same season. The Tigers started out the season in August against Georgia, and then played games in September, October and November before finishing out the season in January. Had Clemson played in the ACC Championship Game that season – always in December – the football team would have played in six different calendar months.

This year presents a unique scheduling oddity, an oddity that begins with the portents of luck and ends with All Hallows Eve – the Tigers play five games in the month of October. Clemson has had success when it plays five games in one month, but this will be the first time since September of 2012 when the Tigers went 4-1 with the lone loss coming 49-37 at Florida St. The Tigers also played five games in October of 2011 and went 4-1, the lone loss coming in the last game of that month in a 31-17 loss at Georgia Tech.

The last time Clemson was 5-0 in a month was in September of 2000 when the Tigers defeated The Citadel, Missouri, Wake Forest, Virginia and Duke.

Clemson opens the season later than it has in recent seasons – Sept. 5th against Wofford. That’s the latest Clemson has opened the season since a 37-14 win over Middle Tennessee back in 2009, also on September 5th. Clemson plays a week later at home against Appalachian St., and then there is quick turnaround as Clemson travels to Louisville just five days later to take on the Cardinals in a Thursday night primetime matchup, completing a stretch of three games in just 12 days.

And then – in another weird twist of the schedule – the Tigers have 16 days with no games. Sixteen days in the middle of football season with no game on the schedule. The hiatus ends on October 3rd when the Tigers return to the friendly of environs of Death Valley to host Notre Dame, a team that hasn’t played in Memorial Stadium since Jimmy Carter was the President.

That begins a stretch of five games in 28 days, a stretch that could very well define the Tigers’ season. Yes, there are November games against rivals Florida St. and South Carolina. Yes, Louisville will be a tough test on the road. But for those November games to be relevant, the Tigers need to play like Reggie Jackson in the 1977 World Series and own October.

A week later, the Tigers host traditional nemesis Georgia Tech in the second high profile game in Death Valley in as many weeks. Another physical game follows a week later when the Tigers host Boston College, marking three straight home games and three consecutive games against teams with gold in their helmets.

That leads into a two-game road stretch to end the month as the Tigers play in the familiar environs down at Miami (well, familiar to some of the players at least) and then end the month with a Halloween contest at N.C. State. All five game are winnable, but there are three or four in there that won’t be easy wins.

The Tigers then play four games in November to close out the regular season, hosting Florida St., taking a trip to Syracuse, returning home for Wake Forest and ending up the season with a road game at rival South Carolina. All the games are important and every game counts the same and the game at Louisville in September has the same amount of value as the games in October.

However, this season’s story might be told during the rough games of October. Will it be a Reggie Jackson kind of October, or the kind of October Atlanta Braves fans are used to seeing? We will know by midnight on Halloween.

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