Despite all that has been going on during the COVID-19 emergency, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has remained unabashedly optimistic that the 2020 college football season will start on time. So if he is looking forward to the first Thursday in September, so will we.
Here is a breakdown of all 12 of Clemson’s regular-season contests, beginning with the opener on that first Thursday night and concluding with the annual clash with the Tigers' in-state rival two days after Thanksgiving.
Bye: Week 9
Week 1 — Sept. 3 at Georgia Tech (Atlanta)
Last season, the Tigers opened up at home against the Yellow Jackets. This season, they will go to Atlanta to face Geoff Collins' second Georgia Tech team, one that will be led by running back Jordan Mason.
Week 2 — Sept. 12 vs. Louisville (Clemson, S.C.)
It's not often that a team begins the season with two conference games, but that is the case as the Cardinals come to Clemson in week two. After winning eight games in Scott Satterfield's first season as head coach, the Louisville faithful expect even more this time around with running back Javian Hawkins, wide receiver Tutu Atwell, and quarterback Micale Cunningham all returning.
Week 3 — Sept. 19 vs. Akron (Clemson, S.C.)
Tom Arth's first year at Akron was hardly a thing of beauty as the Zips went 0-12 on the season with the nation's worst rushing and total offense. Their best player, quarterback Kato Nelson, is back for his senior year.
Week 4 — Sept. 26 vs. Virginia (Clemson, S.C.)
Without quarterback Bryce Perkins and receivers Hasise Dubois and Joe Reed, the Cavaliers will have a different look in 2020. But a defense led by leading tackler Zane Zandier, along with edge presence Charles Snowden, should once again be very strong.
Week 5 — Oct. 2 at Boston College (Chestnut Hill, Mass.)
Changes have occurred on the Heights, as well. Jeff Hafley replaces Steve Addazio as the head coach and bell-cow running back AJ Dillon declared early for the NFL Draft. The Eagles are hoping that Notre Dame transfer quarterback Phil Jurkovec will be eligible immediately after Anthony Brown left for Oregon.
Week 6 — Oct. 10 at Florida State (Tallahassee, Fla.)
Florida State also features a first-year head coach with Mike Norvell coming to Tallahassee from Memphis. Norvell must figure out a way to replace running back Cam Akers while piecing together a defense that had difficulties stopping the pass.
Week 7 — Oct. 17 vs. NC State (Clemson, S.C.)
The Wolfpack have lost 15 of their last 16 versus the Tigers and have not won in Death Valley since 2002. The three games between 2015 and '17 were extremely competitive but the past two years have been Clemson blowouts and uncertainty at quarterback could once again be a problem for Dave Doeren's squad.
Week 8 — Oct. 24 vs. Syracuse (Clemson, S.C.)
The Orange were unable to build off a 10-win 2018, falling to 5-7 last fall. More consistent play from quarterback Tommy DeVito would help, as would improvement from the nation's 115th-ranked defense.
Week 10 — Nov. 7 at Notre Dame (Notre Dame, IN)
This may be the most anticipated college football game of the 2020 season. Notre Dame is coming off its third consecutive double-digit win season and brings back a solid defensive core, its entire offensive line, and quarterback Ian Book. Clemson easily defeated the Irish in the 2018 Cotton Bowl, but this game in South Bend should be the Tigers' biggest challenge.
Week 11 — Nov. 14 vs. The Citadel (Clemson, S.C.)
The FCS Bulldogs have not had a winning record since going 10-2 in 2016 and the last time they played Clemson they lost 61-3. However, in 2018 The Citadel was tied with Alabama at the half before falling 50-17.
Week 12 — Nov. 21 at Wake Forest (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
Dave Clawson has guided the Demon Deacons to four straight bowl games, which is a first for the program. Quarterback Jamie Newman has transferred to Georgia, but Sam Hartman has plenty of experience and will look for 1,000-yard receiver Sage Surratt whenever he can.
Week 13 — Nov. 28 vs. South Carolina (Clemson, S.C.)
The Gamecocks have not given the Tigers a competitive game since losing 37-32 in 2015. In the four games since, Clemson has won each contest by an average of 32 points per game. Quarterback Ryan Hilinski should improve as a sophomore, but head coach Will Muschamp has to find some other offensive weapons and upgrade a defense that didn't create many big plays.
— 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.