Schedule thoughts: September is a doozy

Schedule thoughts: September is a doozy

by - Senior Writer -

In the days leading up to the release of the 2017 ACC football schedule, there were all sorts of rumors floating around social media about Clemson’s schedule. Now I’ve seen the real thing, I’m relieved.

But September? That stretch of games might set the tone for the rest of the season and the Tigers will have someone not named Deshaun Watson playing quarterback. Clemson will play five games in the month of September for the first time since 2012 and three of those games will be against teams that finished in the Top 25 last year.

Clemson opens up with Kent State at home, the perfect guest for breaking in a new quarterback. The Golden Flashes went 3-9 last season and lost 38-0 at Alabama at the end of September. I expect the point spread will be somewhere in that range when they visit in the season opener.

The next week, Clemson hosts Auburn, a team that loses a lot on the defensive side of the ball but will have transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham at the helm of Gus Malzahn’s offense. Clemson won 19-13 at Auburn last season, and with both teams trying to get new quarterbacks adjusted to the offense this one could follow in much the same mold. Clemson has won three in a row in the series since losing an overtime game at Auburn in 2010.

The first road trip of the season is a week later at Louisville. The Cardinals have had turnover on their coaching staff and lose several playmakers off their defense, but still have quarterback Lamar Jackson running the show. The good news is that this one isn’t on a Thursday night, but you can bet if both teams start off 2-0 this one will draw primetime consideration.

Clemson continues its September march by hosting Boston College. The Eagles start the season at Northern Illinois, but it gets serious in a hurry as they host Wake Forest and Notre Dame the next two weeks. We will know a lot about the Eagles at that point. The Tigers have won seven of eight and six in a row in the series since Dabo Swinney became Clemson’s interim head coach in 2008.

The Tigers finally close out the September portion with a trip to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech in a sequel to the ACC Championship Game. They will have revenge on their minds, but the good news for Clemson is that it isn’t on a Thursday night. The Hokies start the season with West Virginia and have a rematch with East Carolina (a team they lost to last season) in the third week of the season, but also have dates with Delaware and Old Dominion. They will be well-rested when the Tigers come calling.

That’s five games – almost half of the regular season – in the heat of September, with three of those at home and two on the road.

October sets up a little easier – Clemson hosts Wake Forest and then travels to Syracuse for a Friday night game in the Carrier Dome. I call the Friday night games the “ACC middle finger to the fans” game because no one wants to see or play college football on a Friday night, but the league bosses have to follow the money and the TV network’s direction with no thought to what the actual fans want. Dino Babers’ should have a better team next season, but the Friday night part just takes away from this one.

Seven games down and then the open date. This comes at a great time – in 2015 the Tigers had an open date too early in the season and head coach Dabo Swinney says the team ran out of juice at the end. This open date comes at a great time.

The Tigers close out the month of October with a home game against Georgia Tech. The schedule is different because Clemson plays just three games in the entire month and one of those is on a Friday in Syracuse. Two home games in what is usually a gorgeous month around here.

November opens with a trip to Raleigh and NC State. If this one scares you, it should. Clemson has won 13 of 14 games in the series, but it’s ever easy, especially up there. This one won’t be any different, but unlike two years ago, this one won’t be on Halloween.

Next up is the annual rivalry game with Florida St. November 11th is the second-latest this game has been played on the schedule since FSU joined the ACC (Nov. 12 in 2005, Nov. 13 in 2010). The winner of this game has played for the ACC Championship every year since 2008. Both teams finished in the top 10 last year, as the Seminoles beat Michigan in the Orange Bowl to finish 10-3 and a No. 8 final ranking in both polls.

The schedule concludes with the home finale against The Citadel (ask South Carolina if the Bulldogs are a tough out) and the regular season finale at South Carolina. The Tigers have won three in a row over their in-state rival and should be favored to win a fourth consecutive game.

No Friday home game. No Thursday games. The open date in the right spot. A very manageable October slate and a nice finish to November.

And a September that gets it all started with a bang.

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