The 2016 football schedule: An early look
|Tuesday, January 19, 2016 1:59 PM- -|
The ACC is doing what the ACC does, which means it’s waiting until the end of January or first part of February to release the ACC Football Schedule.
While we don’t know the dates of the ACC portion of the schedule, we do know the 12 opponents that Clemson will face this season and we do know the seven home games and five away games. Heck, we even know the dates of the out of conference schools that Clemson faces. We will look again when the schedule comes out in a few weeks – or a month – but for now I wanted to see which games shapes up to be the biggest game on the schedule in 2016. Before we get into that, however, let’s take a look at what we do know:
While we don’t know the dates of the ACC portion of the schedule, we do know the 12 opponents that Clemson will face this season and we do know the seven home games and five away games. Heck, we even know the dates of the out of conference schools that Clemson faces.
We will look again when the schedule comes out in a few weeks – or a month – but for now I wanted to see which games shapes up to be the biggest game on the schedule in 2016.
Before we get into that, however, let’s take a look at what we do know:
The dates we know
Sept 3 - at Auburn
Sept 10 – TROY
Sept 17 SC STATE
Nov 26 – SOUTH CAROLINA
The 2015 football team caught a bit of a break in that two of the toughest games on the schedule were at home – Florida St. and Notre Dame. The Tigers also hosted Georgia Tech, and despite the fact that the Yellow Jackets were not very good, Clemson hasn’t won at Tech since the 2003 season.
In 2016, the Tigers get Louisville (the Cardinals should be significantly better), Pittsburgh, North Carolina St. and South Carolina at home, but have tough road contests at Auburn, FSU and that always-tough Georgia Tech game.
So which opponent – as of right now – shapes up to be the toughest on the schedule?
1. Florida St. The Seminoles were beaten in their bowl game by Houston and the offense took a step back in 2015, but Florida St. is absolutely loaded on defense. Quarterback issues were a problem in 2015, and Sean Maguire will get a long look in the spring. But freshmen Deondre Francois and J.J. Cosentino backed up Maguire and Everett Golson last season and both are talented. Add in early enrollee Malik Henry and the competition will be fierce. The winner of this game always has the inside track to the ACC Championship, and considering Clemson hasn’t won in Tallahassee since 2006, the route to the title game goes through Doak Campbell. Again.
2. Louisville. The Cardinals might have found a quarterback in Lamar Jackson. Jackson ran for a career-high and Music City Bowl-record 226 yards and two touchdowns and threw for two more scores to help Louisville beat Texas A&M 27-21 in late December. The Cardinals also got good news on defense - each of the top underclassmen decided to return. Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, defensive tackle DeAngelo Brown and linebackers Keith Kelsey and Devonte Fields all will be back in 2016. Todd Grantham’s group should be one of the league’s best in 2016.
3. Auburn. I get it, the Tigers from the plains struggled in 2015 and new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele doesn’t scare anyone. But this team has talent across the board and they might have found some answers at quarterback, too. Clemson will be breaking in some new starters on defense, and on the road at Jordan-Hare in the opener….that’s a tough task.
4. Georgia Tech. I have no idea what to expect from Georgia Tech in 2016. But playing in Atlanta is always tough and quarterback Justin Thomas is back to direct an offense that should be healthier – and better – in 2016. Until the Tigers get over the hump at Bobby Dodd, this one is always tough.
5. South Carolina. The Gamecocks were atrociously bad in 2015, but new head coach Will Muschamp has infused some life into the program. I’m not sure they will make significant strides in 2016, but it’s a rivalry game. Never overlook South Carolina.
6. Pitt. I like head coach Pat Narduzzi. His teams are tough and well-coached and the defense is always tough. Can they find an offense?
7. N.C. State. Gone is Jacoby Brissett, but Clemson’s offensive players told me that the Wolfpack’s defensive line was one of the best they faced. It’s a young defensive group that will only get better. And…could this be a make-or-break year for Dave Doeren?
8. Boston College. The Eagles are always good on defense, and they are another team that struggled with injuries and youth in 2015. Playing in Chestnut Hill is never easy. It’s always cold and no one shows up except the Eagles.
9. Syracuse. I’m a big fan of the Dino Babers hire, but he has to recruit to be successful in Cuse. They will make some strides this season, but will it be enough?
10. Wake Forest. Honestly – you could flip 6-10 or put them in any order and be right. Or wrong. Wake has issues, but they’ve recruited decent and they, too, are building a solid foundation on defense. They could be seventh or eighth on this list.
11. Troy. The Trojans were 4-8 last season.
12. S.C. State. Hey, it’s the Marching 101!!!