Ranking Clemson's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest
As anticipation grows for the upcoming college football season, fans all over the country will break down the potential outcomes of their team’s schedule. While there’s no way of knowing how each game will play out, there’s no harm in getting a feel for the strength of the schedule.
Clemson’s 2014 schedule features some challenging games, but also a few games that fans won’t have to stress over as much.
Vs. Georgia State
The Georgia State Panthers, with their debut football season coming in 2010, is a team that’s still a work in progress. The Panthers were winless in 2013, and even with improvements this team shouldn’t give Tiger fans much to worry about.
If the Tigers play to their potential and not to the level of the opponent, this should be an easy win for Dabo Swinney’s squad.
Vs. South Carolina State
An FCS opponent is near the bottom of the list for apparent reasons, but this matchup should be a slightly tougher game than Georgia State.
The Bulldogs, who had nine wins in 2013, came to Death Valley last season only to lose 52-13. This year’s matchup shouldn’t be much different.
At Wake Forest
This is a road game, but Clemson hasn’t struggled with Wake Forest recently. The Tigers, winners of the last five meetings between the two, have won handily the last two years by a combined score of 98-20.
If things aren’t bad enough for Wake Forest right now, the Demon Deacons will welcome a new starter at quarterback this fall. A new head coach might be the right move for the program, but in year one for Dave Clawson, I don’t see Wake Forest matching up well with the Tigers.
Vs. NC State
The Wolfpack didn’t kick off the Dave Doeren campaign as planned last season, going without a win in conference play. The first-year head coach led NC State to a 3-9 overall record in 2013, but his squad will be improved this season.
The Wolfpack started the year winning three of the first four, but ultimately the injuries were too much to overcome. This year, after another offseason for Doeren, and maybe better luck health-wise, the Wolfpack will be a tougher matchup than in 2013.
NC State doesn’t have it all figured out at this point though, so I don’t see this game being extremely tough for the Tigers.
At Boston College
The game this year takes place in Chestnut Hill, where the Tigers lost in 2010. After winning the last three against Boston College, the Tigers have to feel good about their chances in 2014.
The Eagles lost their leading passer, leading rusher and leading receiver and will have to find offensive production elsewhere this fall.
This game ranks ahead of NC State because it’s a road game and also because of the 2013 matchup. Although the Tigers won 24-14, it took a while for them to get going in that game.
I juggled Boston College and Syracuse for this spot, but ultimately the Orange offer a tougher game because of the quarterback play. After struggling near the midpoint of the season in 2013, especially versus the Tigers, quarterback Terrel Hunt looked much improved by the end of the season.
Hunt still has a ways to go to become a more polished quarterback, but another offseason should show improvements in his game.
If Boston College returned Chase Rettig, it would likely be in this spot ahead of Syracuse. With Hunt returning as the leader of the offense, the Orange become the tougher game.
Even with everything that Louisville lost, the Cardinals are still a slightly tough game because of Bobby Petrino. Overlooking the issues off the field, Petrino is one of the game’s best head coaches.
Louisville only returns four starters on defense, but bringing back eight offensive starters still makes them slightly dangerous with an offensive-minded head coach. Replacing Teddy Bridgewater will be tough, but the Cardinals offensive line will help first-year starter Will Gardner.
Vs. North Carolina
North Carolina finished the 2013 campaign strong, finishing with a 7-6 record after starting 1-5. The Tar Heels have momentum going into the offseason, thanks to a 39-17 victory in the Belk Bowl over Cincinnati.
Larry Fedora’s bunch has seven offensive starters returning and a solid option at quarterback in Marquise Williams. Redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky, a 4-star prospect coming out of high school, could compete for time at the quarterback position, though it’s likely that Williams keeps the job.
Even though Clemson gets this game at home, it’s still one that should not be taken lightly. The Tar Heels have a good chance at winning the ACC Coastal Division, so this is one of the Tigers’ toughest games.
At Georgia Tech
North Carolina is the tougher team of the two, but the circumstances surrounding this game makes it the tougher matchup for the Tigers.
The reason this is the fourth-toughest game for Swinney and his squad is because the Tigers haven’t won at Georgia Tech since 2003. Clemson has gone to Georgia Tech four times since 2003, and four times it has left in the losing column.
The Tigers run defense should be very good this year because of their returning starters on the front seven, and I expect them to have success containing Georgia Tech’s rushing attack. This will be one of Swinney’s toughest games, and it will be interesting to see if the Tigers can change their losing ways on the road against the Yellow Jackets.
The Bulldogs will either make the College Football Playoff or go 7-5, depending on which college football analyst you talk to. The uncertainty about Georgia’s season is centered around the question mark at quarterback.
With Aaron Murray off to the NFL, it’s Hutson Mason’s time to step up in Athens. This Bulldog offense will be centered around the rushing game, with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall leading the way.
This is the third-toughest game for the Tigers because of the talent that Georgia has and because it’s a road game. It doesn’t jump Florida State and South Carolina on the list, though, because of the Tigers rush defense and the fact that Clemson won the matchup in 2013.
Vs. South Carolina
These last two matchups have given Swinney and the Tigers some trouble the last two seasons. The Gamecocks don’t lose much talent overall, but will be forced to replace Connor Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney.
Dylan Thompson isn’t your average backup quarterback because of his experience. He will likely have a successful season because of the weapons surrounding himweapons like Mike Davis, some talented receivers and a veteran offensive line.
This is a tough matchup because of the winning streak that Clemson fans don’t need to be reminded of. Also, the Gamecocks will be among the toughest teams in the nation because of their returning starters.
At Florida State
This would likely be the toughest game on any team’s schedule this year. Florida State has more weapons than your local pawn shop and the returning Heisman winner to lead the way.
Jimbo Fisher has found success recruiting, and it’s really starting to show for the Seminoles. Clemson had trouble stopping the Florida State offensive attack in 2013, and the Tigers weren’t able to get anything going offensively because of consistent pressure on the quarterback.
I’m not saying Clemson can’t win this game, but it is certainly the toughest matchup on the schedule. Playing Florida State alone makes for a tough game, but playing them in Tallahassee means the Tigers will have to bring their best.