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Clemson Football: Ranking the Toughest Games on the Tigers' Schedule

Clemson Football: Ranking the Toughest Games on the Tigers' Schedule

Clemson Football: Ranking the Toughest Games on the Tigers' Schedule

Clemson will enter the 2020 season as the No. 1 team in America and as such, the Tigers will be considerable favorites in every game they play. Furthermore, there aren't a lot of attention-grabbing games on Clemson's slate this coming fall.

Yes, there's the trip north in early November that will be one of the marquee games of the college football season. But after a down season last year, the ACC doesn't appear to be much stronger this time around and until the league produces a team or two that can compete on the national level, questions will persist about the difficulty of Clemson's schedule.

There are some contests in which Clemson could struggle in 2020, though it does appear that the game on the first Saturday in November is all that stands between the Tigers and another 12-0 regular season.

12. Nov. 14 vs. The Citadel

This fall marks the 30-year anniversary of the FCS Bulldogs' 38-35 upset of South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium. Beating the other in-state power — especially this season — would be cause for an even bigger celebration. Clemson will have no problem with a Citadel team that was 6-6 in 2019.

11. Sept. 19 vs. Akron

Second-year head coach Tom Arth has still not tasted victory as a Zip. While his team has a shot in each of the season's first two weeks and returns quarterback Kato Nelson, they won’t be winning at Death Valley in week three.

10. Sept. 3 at Georgia Tech

Geoff Collins battled the Tigers in the season opener of his inaugural year as the Georgia Tech head coach and he faces the same challenge in year two. While the Yellow Jackets improved as 2019 developed, they still need to find an answer at quarterback and are a long ways from staying with Clemson.

9. Oct. 24 vs. Syracuse

After two years of steady development, the Orange slid backward in a big way last fall, missing the bowl season altogether after posting double-digit wins in 2018. If things are going to improve this year, a defense that finished 115th in yards allowed per game and a woeful offensive line must be considerably better.

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8. Oct. 2 at Boston College

Star running back AJ Dillon declared for the NFL draft and quarterback Anthony Brown transferred to Oregon. New Eagles head coach Jeff Hafley would love to have Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec taking snaps, but the NCAA has yet to rule on the quarterback's waiver. David Bailey does provide some answers as a replacement for Dillon and this is a short week road game for the Tigers.

7. Oct. 17 vs. NC State

Wolf Pack head coach Dave Doeren not only needs to rebound from a 4-8 season, he also needs to turn things around against Clemson. After playing the Tigers tough in four of his first five years at NC State, the Wolfpack have lost the last two meetings by a combined 79 points. With an unsettled quarterback situation, sophomore running back Zonovan "Bam" Knight will carry much of the load.

6. Nov. 28 vs. South Carolina

In a series where one team seems to dominate for a period of time, things have to swing back in the Gamecocks' direction at some point, right? It won't be this year, though South Carolina will have a solid secondary led by Israel Mukuamu and quarterback Ryan Hilinski should be improved as a sophomore.

5. Nov. 21 at Wake Forest

The week before the battle for the Palmetto State, the Tigers go up to Winston-Salem to play Wake Forest. Dave Clawson has guided the Deacons to four straight bowl games and they return experience at quarterback in Sam Hartman, a star at receiver in Sage Surratt, and a deep, talented defense led by end Carlos Basham Jr.

4. Sept. 26 vs. Virginia

Whether Brennan Armstrong or Keytaon Thompson wins the starting quarterback job, filling Bryce Perkins' shoes will be difficult. But Bronco Mendenhall’s teams have never been about one player and the Cavaliers' stellar defense should help in their defense of the Coastal Division title.

3. Oct. 10 at Florida State

The chaos that surrounded the Florida State program during the Willie Taggart tenure hasn't subsided this offseason as players disputed claims that new head coach Mike Norvell contacted each member of the team after the George Floyd incident. But guys like James Blackman, Tamorrion Terry, Marvin Wilson, and Assante Samuel Jr. can play. From a pure talent perspective, this is one of the two best squads on the Clemson schedule.

2. Sept. 12 vs. Louisville

Going 8-5 at Louisville is not really a big deal. But 2019's showing — after the ugly 2-10 finish the year before — was very special. Now, everyone has bought into Scott Satterfield's system and with electric offensive weapons along with a developing defense, the Cardinals will be Clemson's biggest threat in the Atlantic division.

1. Nov. 7 at Notre Dame

Yes, Clemson wiped out the Irish 30-3 in the 2018 Cotton Bowl before destroying Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship. But Notre Dame took a loaded Tiger team to the wire at Memorial Stadium in 2015 and has played Georgia tough twice in recent years. For a Notre Dame program that is 33-6 over the past three years, valiant efforts and narrow defeats to top teams are no longer good enough. At Notre Dame Stadium in November, the Irish will have another opportunity to push themselves closer to the nation's top contenders.

— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.