Ranking the Tigers 2019 opponents from easiest to most difficult
Let’s face it, Clemson plays a very favorable schedule in 2019, but that is something most already know. Playing in the ACC, the Tigers just don’t face many hurdles, especially in years in which the conference is down as a whole. On paper, 2019 looks like it could possibly be another one of those years.
That isn’t Clemson’s fault however, despite the narrative the national media likes to push. Until some other teams in the conference start getting things turned around and can string together some solid seasons, that’s just the way things are going to be.
As far as Clemson, all they can do is play the teams on the schedule and stay aggressive with their out of conference scheduling. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the teams 2019 schedule and rank the opponents, starting with the less difficult first.
The Terriers visit Clemson on Nov 2 for the Tigers yearly matchup with one of the instate FCS teams. By the time this one rolls around the team should be hitting on all cylinders.
The 49ers will make their debut in The Valley on Sept 21. The C-USA program is just in its seventh season of existence and should in no way pose any threat.
Clemson will travel to Papa Johns Stadium on Oct 19 to face a coach in his first season with a new team. Scott Satterfield takes over for Bobby Petrino after the Cardinals went just 2-10 and gave up at least 52 points in each of their last five games. Satterfield comes over from App St and has one huge mess on his hands. It is a massive rebuild that is going to take several seasons of successful recruiting to get turned around. The Cards should pose no threat as this one should be nothing more than a glorified scrimmage.
The Yellow Jackets will visit Clemson on Aug 29 to kick off the new ACC Network. It will be the first Thursday night game played in Death Valley since 2013. Ga Tech was also the opponent then, as Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins led the Tigers to a 55-31 win. Geoff Collins has quite the challenge on his hands in his first game as head coach of the Yellow Jackets. Taking over a roster full of players recruited to play the option, Collins and the rest of his staff are basically starting from scratch. A road trip to visit the defending national champs likely doesn’t end well.
The Deacs come to town on Nov 16, just before the Tigers second bye week. Heading into his sixth season, Dave Clawson does have some talent returning. After outlasting Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl to finish 7-6, the Deacs return two QB’s with some experience in Sam Hartman and Jamie Newman. 1000 yard rusher Cade Carney returns as well. The offense does need to replace Greg Dortch though, the slot guy that was relied on heavily last season. There are also some pieces on defense, with DE Carlos Basham Jr (11 TFL, 4.5 Sacks), LB Justin Strnad (8.5 TFL), and CBs Essang Bassey and Amari Henderson (3 TFL, 26 Passes Defended combined) all returning.
North Carolina State
The Tigers hit the road on Nov 9 for a trip to Carter Finley and a matchup with Dave Doeren’s Mighty Laptops. In his seventh season, Doeren will be another ACC team in rebuild mode after consecutive nine win seasons in Raleigh. They’ll have a new QB, new RB, new WRs, three new starters along the OL, and a new play caller as well. They do return eight starters on the defensive side, but it was a defense the Tigers ripped to shreds a season ago. However, playing the Pack on the road this season should present more of a challenge than it did in Death Valley in 2018.
The Tigers visit Chapel Hill on Sept 28, facing another coach in his first year on the job. Mack Brown returns to the sidelines and plans to bring a variation of the air raid offense with him. He hired former Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo to run it and the teams new motto for 2019 is “Don’t Blink!” They will need to find a QB capable of running it, as they are looking at a three person battle for the starting job in camp, including highly touted incoming freshman Sam Howell, who the Heels flipped from FSU on Signing Day. The last time the Tigers visited Keenan Stadium was in 2010, a 21-16 loss, Dabo’s second full season as head coach.
The Seminoles visit the Tigers on Oct 12. After the beating Clemson put on the Noles last season in Doak Campbell, FSU should have plenty of motivation. Add in the fact that going into his second season, Willie Taggert will be feeling the heat to get things turned around quickly. This will be a Seminole team that will still feature plenty of talent up and down the roster, and for that reason alone, they should never be overlooked. Both teams will be coming off a bye and will have plenty of prep time. Expect to get their best shot.
Steve Addazio brings his Eagles to town on Oct 26. He will also be bringing a new offensive coordinator after Scot Loeffler left for the head coaching job at Bowling Green. In his seventh season, Addazio is coming off a 7-5 season that started well, but ended with a thud. The Eagles lose four starters along the OL, but they do have some guys with experience in reserve roles ready to step into starting roles. RB AJ Dillon returns, as does QB Anthony Brown and his top target WR Kobay White. There will be a lot of turnover on the defensive side however, as well as a new defensive coordinator. BC always fields tough, physical teams, and there’s no reason to expect any different this season.
Dino Babers and the Orange will welcome Clemson to upstate New York on Sept 14, just one week removed from A&M visiting The Valley. Babers has given the Tigers fits the last two times the teams have played, including pulling off a major upset over Clemson the last time the two met in the Carrier Dome. It is worth noting that the Tigers lost their starting QB early to injury in those two games. On top of losing Trevor Lawrence last year, the two teams met just days after Kelly Bryant abruptly quitting the team, capping what was a very emotional week off the field. Syracuse is coming off of a 10 win season, their first since 2001, and this one has already been scheduled for an 8 pm primetime kickoff. Syracuse will be replacing QB Eric Dungey, three OL, and two LB’s. The big question for them will be is sophomore QB Tommy Devito ready to lead this team full time?
Despite beating the Gamecocks by three touchdowns last season, this is a game you can best bet the Tigers will be looking to make a statement in. Williams Brice is after all, the Tigers “home away from home,” and the rent is coming due. After letting Jake Bentley throw for over 500 yards last season in The Valley, this team will be out to ensure there is no repeat performance. By the time this one rolls around on Nov 30, the Tiger defense will have had an entire season to work out any kinks and gel as a unit. UofSC has a brutal schedule to navigate and what happens in this one could likely hinge on how banged up the Gamecocks are coming in. Will Muschamp and Company will be desperate not to lose a sixth straight game in the series.
Without question, the Aggies look to be the Tigers toughest test. After barely hanging on for a win in Kyle Field last season, Jimbo Fisher brings his team to Clemson on Sept 7. In just his second season as Aggies head coach, Fisher is no stranger to Clemson after spending seven seasons in Tallahassee. After winning nine games in 2018, A&M sits at 11th in the preseason ESPN’s FPI rankings, and will likely be a Top 10-15 team in the preseason polls. QB Kellen Mond returns, as does a proven group of receivers, a fairly experienced OL, and a very good defensive front. There are some holes at LB and RB, but this is a team capable of coming to town and giving the Tigers every bit they can handle. The revamped Clemson defense will need to grow up in a hurry.
It’s certainly not a brutal schedule by any stretch, but there is bound to be some tests along the way. Let us know in the comments which teams you think pose the biggest threats.