Difficult opening month awaits Tigers in 2017

by - Correspondent -
Clelin Ferrell and the Clemson defense get Auburn in early September

Coming off the national championship season, the Clemson football team certainly won’t be taking things easy to feel its way into the 2017 season.

The first month of the season could be the Tigers’ most difficult as three of their toughest games come in September.
Here’s a ranking of the 12 teams Clemson will face off with this season:

12. Sept. 2 vs. Kent State
OK, so the opener won’t be that tough. The Golden Flashes finished 3-9 last season as they lost five of their final six games.

11. Nov. 18 vs. The Citadel
Brent Thompson led the Bulldogs to one of the best seasons in Southern Conference history in his first year with the program. The Citadel won the conference title, opening the season with a 10-game winning streak, and reached the FCS playoffs for the second straight year.

10. Sept. 23 vs. Boston College
Coming off a bowl win over Maryland to end the 2016 season with a three-game winning streak, the Eagles have some momentum. Boston College, however, did lose 56-10 to Clemson last year.

9. Oct. 13 at Syracuse
The Orange were 4-4 last season in head coach Dino Babers’ first season, but they ended the season with a four-game losing streak. That slide started with a 54-0 loss to Clemson, and even with this being at home, it would be hard to close that gap in one season.

8. Oct. 7 vs. Wake Forest
Dave Clawson’s program took a big step forward in 2016 with a 7-6 season and a bowl win after a pair of 3-9 seasons. The Demon Deacons did beat a ranked Temple team for a bowl win, but they were controlled by ranked teams Florida State, Louisville and Clemson in ACC play.

7. Nov. 4 at N.C. State
The Wolfpack had the Tigers on the ropes last year (OK, we can say it, they had the Tigers beat), but Clemson survived. That close loss and a close loss to Florida State should motivate this year’s Wolfpack.

6. Nov. 25 at South Carolina
Will Muschamp’s second team feels stronger than his first team mainly because of a good finish with Jake Bentley at quarterback. That said, the Gamecocks did give up 56 points to Clemson and then lost their bowl game to South Florida, giving up 46 more points.

5. Oct. 28 vs. Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets will have a new quarterback as Justin Thomas has moved on. If Georgia Tech can figure out that key spot, it has a lot of returning weapons around that position and should be dangerous.

4. Sept. 9 vs. Auburn
Quarterback was a disaster for Auburn last year. Jarrett Stidham is the next up at that spot, and there is plenty of talk that he is more than ready to step in. Can he be ready in just his second game for the kind of defense he’s going to see at Memorial Stadium? We’ll see.

3. Sept. 30 at Virginia Tech
Is Virginia Tech back to being Virginia Tech after just one season with Justin Fuente as its head coach? Maybe not quite yet, but it won’t take long, and the Hokies should be really good. And this should be a terrific game.

2. Sept. 16 at Louisville
The Cardinals do have the reigning Heisman Trophy winner (I know, I know), and they have played three terrific, down-to-the-wire games with the Tigers since joining the ACC. There’s no reason to think the two teams won’t make that four straight.

1. Nov. 11 vs. Florida State
This has become the game on the schedule for Clemson the past six years as the winner of this game has gone on to win the ACC title every year since 2011. Can Louisville or Virginia Tech (or anyone) step up to stop that streak?

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Midday Sports Zone on Middle Georgia’s ESPN, 93.1 FM and 99.5 FM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.

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