Clemson’s 2020 football schedule was released on January 22nd. Many took that day to attack the Tigers and the strength of their schedule. Could the schedule hurt their chances of making the playoff field in 2020? Let’s look at each team and the way we see them ranked.
Keep in mind that the Tigers will play six teams that were in bowl games last season. With that said, you also have to acknowledge that only four of them finished with winning records. The Irish led the way as an 11 win season, UVA finished with a 9-4 record, and Louisville and Wake both finished up at 8-5. This does not help when discussing Clemson’s SOS and it has been a main point of attack for Tiger haters and many analysts.
- at Notre Dame (Nov. 7): This will be the Tigers’ and the Irish’s first meeting since Clemson beat Notre Dame in the 2019 Cotton Bowl Classic in the CFP. Clemson has won three straight games in the series, and last played at Notre Dame in 1979, a 16-10 victory. The Irish last beat Clemson in 1977. Both teams have a very good chance to come into this game undefeated, ranked in the top 10 or possibly the top 5, meaning this one could be a winner take all regarding a plaoyoff spot. The Irish went 11-2 last year and finished No. 12 in the final AP Poll.
- South Carolina (Nov. 28): Clemson looks to make history when the Gamecocks visit Death Valley in the regular season finale. The Tigers can tie its own mark of seven straight victories in the series with a win this season. Clemson also won a series record seven straight games over South Carolina from 1934-40. The Gamecocks finished last year 4-8 and missed a bowl game for the second time in five years, but would love nothing more that to upset the Tigers and spoil any playoff plans. Meanwhile, Clemson hopes that SC can get back to winning more than losing because that could only help their SOS.
- at Georgia Tech (Sept. 3): Clemson currently has a five game winning streak over Georgia Tech and have taken seven of the last eight overall in the series. Normally, this game would not be ranked this high but it is the season opener and it will be played on a Thursday night in Atlanta. This, along with the fact that the Tigers will be replacing some key players, not to mention the angst of a new season, will make this a much-watch game. Georgia Tech was 3-9 last year and 2-6 in the ACC, but should see stark improvement in their second year under Geoff Collins.
- Louisville (Sept. 12): This is Clemson’s home opener and you can feel assured that Death Valley will be rocking. This game, at one time, was considered one of the the most competitive matchups in the Atlantic, if not the entire conference. The Tigers have won all six meetings between the two in history, dating back to the 2014 season when the Cardinals joined the ACC. The first three meetings were decided by a combined total of 15 points, including the classic 42-36 win by the Tigers in Death Valley during the 2016 season. However, Clemson has won the last three by 26, 61 and 35 points. Louisville had a horrible season in 2018 but came back last season with an 8-5 record under first-year head coach Scott Satterfield, whose team looks as though it will be better. Louisville finished second in the ACC Atlantic Division with a 5-3 conference record, and is likely looking at a preseason Top 25 ranking.
- at Florida State (Oct. 10): FSU has a new football coach in Mike Norvell, who comes to Tallahassee from Memphis where he had a lot of success. The Seminoles will be a better team (how much worse could they be), and the Tigers probably won’t beat them by 49 again in Tallahassee (otherwise known as boring spectators into reading books) like they did last time. Clemson currently has a five game winning streak in this series and will be looking for a third straight victory at Doak Campbell Stadium. Who would have thought you would have heard this statement said about the Seminoles? This is another Atlantic Division rival that the Tigers really need more out of overall for help with their SOS. The Seminoles went 6-7 overall and 4-4 in the ACC last season.
- Virginia (Sept. 26): This will be a rematch of last year’s ACC Championship Game. A game Tigers won easily, 62-17 in Charlotte. Clemson’s 62 points were the most ever scored by a Tiger against the Cavaliers. The 45 point margin of victory was the fifth largest in the series as well. Clemson leads the all time series 39-9-1. Dabo Swinney’s Tigers have won the last four matchups with UVA and have won the last two by 49 and 45 points. Virginia was last season 9-4 overall, and 6-2 in the ACC. This is another team that has seemed to be on the upswing and the Tigers really need to continue to improve. However, with all the losses on offense, there could be a small step back in 2020.
- at Boston College (Oct. 2): This game will be a Friday night affair in Chestnut Hill and it will most likely be a little “chilly”. This, along with the fact that the Eagles have a new head coach in Jeff Hafley, will probably have the pundits calling this another trap game for the Tigers. Hafley is fairly familiar with Clemson, as he was the defensive coordinator for Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl this past December. a game the Tigers took 29-23 to advance to the national title, setting off a level of saltiness that will hard to be topped. Clemson has won nine straight over BC, and 11 of the last 12 in the series. The Eagles ended last season with an overall record of 6-7 and 4-4 in the ACC.
- NC State (Oct. 17): The Fighting Doeren’s were decimated by injuries last season and were a shell of who they had been the three prior seasons, when they won nine games each year. The Wolfpack weren’t even remotely competitive with the Tigers in Raleigh last season. It wasn’t close enough for Coach Doeren to complain about laptops on the sidelines or for him to even have his players steal towels during the game. Clemson currently has an eight game winning streak in the series, and have taken 15 of the last 16 meetings. The Pack finished last season with a 4-8 overall record and were 1-7 in the ACC, ranking them last in the Atlantic. Maybe the Fighting Doeren’s have a bounce back season and stay healthy.
- at Wake Forest (Nov. 21): Wake lost its best quarterback to Georgia, via transfer. Meanwhile, outside of WR Sage Surratt, all of their other significant players graduated. This will not bode well for the Deacs. Especially when the Tigers roll in. Clemson has now won 11 straight games against Wake Forest and 13 of the last 14 matchups. The Demon Deacons are coming off an 8-5 record last year (4-4 ACC) but key losses in personnel will make it hard for them to duplicate that success. This will not help the Tigers out with their SOS unless Coach Dave Clawson has some players step up that many aren’t expecting.
- Syracuse (Oct. 24): Last year was definitely a down season for Dino Babers and the Orange compared to recent seasons. Clemson has won 6 of the 7 matchups between these two teams since Syracuse joined the ACC back in 2013. The Orange however, are the last team to take down the Tigers in the regular season. After a 10-3 2018 season, the Cuse fell to 5-7, and missed out on a bowl this past season, as they were just 2-6 in conference play. The Tigers really need the Orange to get back to their winning ways and hope that this past season will not be the new norm.
- The Citadel (Nov. 14): This game will be Clemson’s Military Appreciation Day game. This will be the only thing that will make this one appealing. The game itself isn’t expected to be close, but the Citadel has a rich military history and many traditions. This alone will add to the pageantry of that day and the halftime show. The one thing the Bulldogs do that could give Brent Venables and the Tiger defense problems early, is their offensive scheme. The Citadel plays a triple-option offense and since Georgia Tech no longer plays that style, Clemson doesn’t see it every year like they used to. Lastly, Citadel did beat Georgia Tech last season, and the season before they gave Alabama fits for a half, and as we all so fondly remember, in 2015 they beat UofSC, so the Bulldogs are not strangers to upsets. This instate rivalry goes all the way back 1909 and Clemson leads the series over the FCS foe 32-5-1. The Tigers have won 17 straight against the Bulldogs, and the last time Citadel beat Clemson was in 1931. The Tigers have not lost to an FCS team since it was formed in 1979. Clemson left the SoCon in 1952 and has not lost to a team from that conference since joining the ACC as a charter member in 1953. The Citadel was 6-6 last year and 4-4 in the SoCon.
- Akron (Sept. 19): This will be the first time the Tigers and Zips have met on the gridiron. This will be one to those games that won’t help Clemson, but has the opportunity to destroy their season with any type of hiccup. This game should get ugly, quick. The good news is the fans should have the option of going back to tailgating and watching other games fairly early. The Zips finished last season 0-12, and haven’t won a game since October of 2018.
Currently the Tigers are dominating most of the teams on their schedule and have winning streaks against them all. This does not help Clemson’s case and all fans can hope for is that the ACC, as a whole, shows some improvement in 2020.
Another thing that doesn’t help Clemson at this point is that the Tigers only ranked opponent and marquis matchup looks to be the one against Notre Dame, unless Louisville is ranked. It also does not help that the only other out of conference Power 5 team they play is a UofSC team from the SEC that hasn’t shown any positive signs of life in quite some time. Clemson not only needs to win, but to win big.