Ranking the most difficult games of Clemson's 2011 Schedule

by - Senior Writer -
The Tigers will need a healthy Andre Ellington for a difficult 2011 football schedule.

July is upon us, which means fall football practice begins for the Clemson Tigers in one month.
One month after the start of practice, the 2011 football season kicks off when the Troy Trojans visit Death Valley on September 3rd.

And if you’re like me, you’re already thinking about driving down the highway and seeing all of the Clemson flags on the cars, you’re thinking about that first glimpse of the Clemson team buses as they roll around the stadium, and you’re thinking about the first time the Tigers run down The Hill in the 2011 season.

Let’s take a look at Clemson’s schedule, and I am going to rank Clemson’s games from the most difficult down to the easiest. This is all subjective, of course, and I would love to see how everybody else sees it different.

Keep in mind that I am not going by pure talent alone – the location of the game and what it might mean to the program count in there as well.

So let’s get started with the toughest game of the season:

1. AT Virginia Tech – The Hokies won't be the most talented team the Tigers play this season, but this game might just be the toughest because Clemson doesn’t always play well against Virginia Tech, and the last time Clemson won in Blacksburg was a 27-7 victory in 1989. This game also is the third game in a stretch that sees the Tigers play Auburn and Florida St. at home, and then make their first road trip of the season at Lane Stadium. It also will be an ACC game, so the stakes are even higher.

2. AT South Carolina – This one was the toughest call, simply because you could interchange South Carolina and Florida St. in this spot. However, the Gamecocks take this spot because the game is in Williams-Brice, it is a rivalry game, and the Gamecocks have won two in a row in the series.

3. Florida St. – The Seminoles are the trendy pick in the ACC, are coming off of an appearance in the ACC Championship Game, and this is the opener for both teams. With both the Tigers and the Noles expected to compete for the Atlantic Division title, the winner of this game takes what amounts to a two-game lead because the winner holds the tiebreaker in the head-to-head matchup.

4. AT Georgia Tech – This one and No. 5 – at Maryland – are also a toss-up. However, the Jackets get the nod here because the Tigers haven’t won in Atlanta since 2003. Hey, there has to be a phantom holding call in there somewhere, right? Paul Johnson’s offense isn’t the enigma it once was, but it can still be hard to stop, and the Jackets have an easy early-season schedule that just might give the team some confidence. Keep in mind, some of Clemson’s best teams have been in 2005, 2007 and 2009 and they all failed to win in Atlanta.

5. AT Maryland – The Terrapins have a new coach in former UConn head man Randy Edsall, and the program has generated a little buzz in the off-season. For whatever reason, the Terrapins always give the Tigers trouble, and this could be one of those mid-October games that seasons hinge on. The Tigers will be more talented, but that has always been the case.

6. Auburn – War Eagle has lost over 30 players off of the two-deep depth chart, and that includes most of the offensive line and that Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback they had. Clemson almost beat Auburn on the Plains last season in a game that proved to be a turning point for both teams – Auburn went on to win the National Championship and Clemson finished with a 6-7 record. Auburn is definitely not as talented as a year ago, but offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will always find a way to help his team move the ball, and there is still plenty of talent on that sideline.

7. AT N.C. State – This is the last game of the ACC season for the Tigers and is also the last game before rivalry week kicks off. The Wolfpack are also another trendy pick to finish ahead of the Tigers in the ACC Atlantic, and this game just might mean the difference between playing for an ACC Championship and trying to figure out if you’re going to the Champs Sports Bowl, the Sun Bowl or the Music City Bowl. The Pack haven’t beaten the Tigers since 2003 –a 17-15 win in Phillip Rivers’ last game.

8. North Carolina – This program is in all sorts of trouble, but the Heels handled Clemson in Chapel Hill last season and still have talent on both sides of the ball. The Tigers couldn’t find a way to run the ball effectively last season, and couldn’t find a way to stop the Heels on fourth down which led to a demoralizing defeat that head coach Dabo Swinney called one of the toughest in his young coaching career.

9. Boston College – The Tigers owe the Eagles, especially after last season’s ugly showing in Chestnut Hill. It was also the game that saw running back Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
Running Back
#23 5-10, 190
Moncks Corner, SC

View Full Profile
go down with a toe injury, so the flight home was difficult for coaches, players and fans alike.

10. Troy – The season opener is against a Troy team that has no problem facing up against the big boys. Head coach Larry Blakeney enters his 20th season at Troy University seeking a fifth consecutive Sun Belt Conference title. Only six programs in the history of what is now the Football Bowl Subdivision have won as many as five straight league crowns – Florida State in the ACC (5, 1996-2000), Alabama in the SEC (5, 1971-75), Ohio State in the Big 10 (6, 1972-77), USC in the Pac 10 (7, 2002-08) and BYU in the WAC (10, 1976-85). This team spreads the field and has several offensive weapons – definitely no pushover.

11. Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons have fallen on hard times in the last two seasons, and last season’s game in Winston-Salem was almost too easy for the Tigers. This program still has a lot of young players on both sides of the ball, and won't challenge for any league crowns this season.

12. Wofford – The Terriers make the trip up I-85 for a money game, a game that lets the Tigers keep part of the football money in the state of South Carolina. The Terriers have an exciting young running back in fullback Eric Breitenstein, who led the Southern Conference in rushing yards (1,639) and touchdowns (22) a season ago. Mike Ayers’ team shared the Southern Conference title with Appalachian St. last season, but lost to Georgia Southern in the FCS quarterfinals. Ayers’ teams are always well-coached.

T I G E R   P O L L

What do you think is the most difficult game on Clemson's 2011 schedule?
    at Virginia Tech at South Carolina Florida State at Georgia Tech Other

Current / Previous
Submit your own Poll

Rate this Story:
5 votes

Send Feedback to David Hood: Email | Comment
Post your comments!
Subject (Replies: 33) Author
Ranking the most difficult games of Clemson's 2011 Schedule
Re: Ranking the most difficult games of Clemson's 2011 Schedule
I am in agreeance except for the Auburn game, i think it
I agree, there's no way Maryland should be ahead of
The fact that its an SEC game doesn't make it tougher***
Uh oh, awoffordterrier is gonna be offended by this list :)***
UNC is our 8th toughest game...wow, that says something.
Just my opinion...
Re: Just my opinion...
Re: i agree. No way Coots are second toughest.***
I love the tigers as much as anyone
SCar win the East this year???? No way.***
Ridge Creek
Re: Ranking the most difficult games of Clemson's 2011 Schedule
Re: Ranking the most difficult games of Clemson's 2011 Schedule
Most important games ranked:
Just my opinon...
I thought USC couldn't go to a bowl game due to probation?
You and your coots may have a decent year, but that will be
Re: You and your coots may have a decent year, but that will be
I am very serious about your schedule, in the past you've
Top 5 every year? Really??
SEC will never be as good as the ACC in football. Top to
uSC has a pathetic record against the ACC and the SEC.***
Re: Just my opinon...
Re: Ranking the most difficult games of Clemson's 2011 Schedule
Re: Ranking the most difficult games of Clemson's 2011 Schedule
Based on last year's rankings Clemson has a tougher schedule
Re: Based on last year's rankings Clemson has a tougher schedule
Re: Ranking the most difficult games of Clemson's 2011 Schedule
Re: Ranking the most difficult games of Clemson's 2011 Schedule
Who are we playing in the Georgia Dome?***
Re: Who are we playing in the Georgia Dome?***
Well what point were you trying to make by putting

Swinney's Monday injury update

3-star SF commits to Clemson

Hokies coach on facing Clemson: "It’s like defusing a bomb"

Scott: Feaster and Etienne are above the rest

Clemson safety moved to cornerback

Photos: Clemson vs. Boston College - 2

Muse: "I love what I see from this defense"

Bryant: "We didn't play as good as we needed to play"

Virginia Tech DB out for the season
Sign Up for E-Mail News Alerts
Daily Digest