Projecting wins and losses before any college football season is a difficult endeavor.
For example, in 2016, who would have predicted that Clemson’s toughest challenges on the way to a national title would be Pittsburgh andNC State? Or that Troy from the Sun Belt would give the Tigers all they could handle?
But that is exactly what happened. Though the unexpected may (and probably will) occur again in 2017, here is a listing of each Clemson opponent, from the easiest to the most difficult.
12. Nov. 18 vs. The Citadel
The Bulldogs were an FCS playoff team in 2016 and run an option offense that can be a tricky to defend. But quarterback Dominique Allen struggles throwing the ball and a one-dimensional FCS team is not going to be any type of threat to the defending national champions.
11. Sept. 2 vs. Kent State
The only thing that could be challenging is overcoming the emotions of the opening game celebration. But Kent State was 3-9 last season and the talent gap between the two teams is enormous.
10. Oct. 7 vs. Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons struggled offensively last year and lost three of their top four tacklers, including star linebacker Marquel Lee. Plus, this is a tough spot for Wake, who hosts Florida State the week before.
9. Oct. 13 at Syracuse
It is a road game on a short week right after hosting Wake Forest. But until Syracuse figures out how to actually tackle someone, teams like Clemson should be able to handle the Orange.
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8. Sept. 23 vs. Boston College
Once again, the Eagles are looking for competent quarterback play. Without it, they will continue to struggle on offense. But there are some very good defenders returning to Chestnut Hill – including star end Harold Landry – and BC’s style of play keeps games close.
7. Nov. 25 at South Carolina
The Gamecocks surprised many by making it to a bowl game in 2016 and they return up and coming stars in quarterback Jake Bentley and running back Rico Dowdle. But after a 56-7 loss to Clemson to close out the regular season, South Carolina’s first order of business should be to at least make the game competitive.
6. Oct. 28 vs. Georgia Tech
Paul Johnson’s crew returns a lot on both sides of the ball and could be a sleeper team in the ACC Coastal Division. But the Tigers don’t play the week before and will have plenty of time to devise a plan to stop the Yellow Jackets’ option-oriented offense.
5. Sept. 30 at Virginia Tech
Playing at Lane Stadium is never a picnic and head coach Justin Fuente has the Virginia Tech faithful believing in future success after leading the Hokies to the ACC title game last year. But Virginia Tech will look different on offense without quarterback Jerod Evans, wide receiver Isaiah Ford and tight end Bucky Hodges.
4. Nov. 4 at NC State
Wedged right in between the games against Georgia Tech and Florida State is a trip to Raleigh to play the Wolfpack. Defensive linemen Bradley Chubb and Kentavius Street will cause issues for many offensive lines this coming season.
3. Sept. 16 at Louisville
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is back and will be looking to join Ohio State’s Archie Griffin as the only repeat winner of the award. However, the Cardinals’ offensive line was less than spectacular at the end of last year, several skill positon players have moved on, and defensive stars like Keith Kelsey and Devonte Fields are fighting for spots in the NFL.
2. Sept. 9 vs. Auburn
Head coach Gus Malzahn believes that the quarterback situation will be in good hands this fall now that Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham has enrolled at Auburn. And if the defense can at least maintain its 2016 level after losing Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams, the Tigers could be a College Football Playoff contender.
1. Nov. 11 vs. Florida State
This matchup has become one of the annual marquee games on the college football calendar. FSU will be no worse than a preseason top-five team and quarterback Deondre Francis may be the best quarterback in the ACC without a Heisman Trophy.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.