Tigers need an October to remember

by - Staff Writer -

College football coaches always want their programs to have a November to remember, but the Clemson Tigers must shine during the month of October.

The Tigers will have a key stint of three road games and a division-deciding game with Florida State between October 5th and November 2nd that may ultimately decide the fate of Clemson’s season.

Yes, the Tigers have big games in November against Georgia Tech at home in a big Thursday night game, and have the final regular season game at South Carolina. Both are huge games, without a doubt. But for them to mean something, the Tigers have to put it all together in October.

Clemson starts out the stretch by traveling to Syracuse before hosting Boston College and Florida State. The Tigers will then make consecutive trips to the Beltway - Maryland and Virginia.

If the Tigers can survive those five games unscathed, then they have one remaining ACC game with Georgia Tech and a trip to in-state rival South Carolina standing between them and a special season.

Of the road games, Syracuse appears to present the most daunting challenge. The trek to the Empire State is a new location with new distractions. The Tigers have no idea what it will be like to play in the Carrier Dome or what to expect from the Orange faithful. Despite having a new coaching staff and breaking in a new quarterback, Syracuse won’t be a pushover playing at home against one of the big boys of the ACC.

Boston College has struggled as of late, but with senior quarterback Chase Rettig and senior wide receiver Alex Amidon returning, first year head coach Steve Addazio’s Eagles will compete more than they did at any time under Frank Spaziani. Not only do the Eagles bring back seasoned veterans, but this could also be a trap game for the Tigers with a bout against the Seminoles looming the very next week.

The Tigers bookend their season with SEC foes Georgia and South Carolina, but in terms of winning the ACC and a potential BCS birth, the seventh game of the season and the heavyweight battle against Florida State is without a doubt the most important. The trip to Clemson will be Florida State’s third road game and it’s most difficult. The Noles return one of the country’s top-ranked defenses, but will most likely be starting a redshirt freshman at quarterback. Can the Tigers put up big numbers on offense and hold off Florida State’s vaunted rushing attack to clinch their sixth straight victory over the Noles in Death Valley?

There will be no shortage of excitement from the Terrapin players as fans as they look to take on the Tigers for the final time, ending Clemson’s longest active, continuous ACC rivalry. The Tigers and Terps have split the series at 6-6 since 2011. After the Tigers rallied from an 18-point deficit twice and spoiled the Terps’ homecoming in 2011, you can bet Maryland will be ready to exact revenge. As we’ve all seen, anything can happen when Clemson travels to College Park.

The Tigers’ final ACC road game is a trip to Virginia, and UVA’s guys in ties and girls in pearls don’t always provide the best atmosphere for college football. The Tigers will have to provide their own energy in Charlottesville to overcome a lackluster crowd and an explosive Cavalier offense.

The Cavs are without an experienced quarterback to lead the offense, and have both new offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild and tight ends coach Tom O’Brien – both former head coaches – on that side of the ball. Defensively, the Cavs turn to defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta to provide some answers. Add in a couple of pretty nice recruiting classes, and head coach Mike London is putting the pieces in place in Charlottesville.

The good news is that the Tigers will be off the following week before a match-up with border rival Georgia Tech. Hopefully, the Tigers go into the off-week with a win.

Can the Tigers avoid a mid-season slide with three of their five games on the road and stay on course for an ACC Atlantic title and possibly more? That all remains to be seen, but an October to remember sets up an exciting November.

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