The beginning of the college football season is quickly closing in, with the unofficial start of football season, the ACC Football Kickoff, less than a month away.
So, with that in mind it is now time that we begin to look at each of the opponents, ranked from easiest to most difficult, that will hope to throw a wrench into the Clemson Tigers’ hopes of repeating as national champions.
12: The Citadel:
The Citadels Bulldogs made it to the playoffs of the Football Championship Subdivision last season, and many will remember their beating of the Tigers’ in-state rival South Carolina a couple of years ago. But even with a tricky triple-option the Tigers should have little problem dismantling the Bulldogs
11: Kent State:
The Golden Flashes open the Tigers’ season Sept. 2 as 40-point underdogs, in what should amount to little more than a warmup for the Tigers. Kent State went 3-9 last season, but will hope to be improved returning 13 starters.
However, the talent gap between the two teams is tremendous and the emotions of the Tigers’ celebration of their national championship will be too much for Golden Flashes.
10: Wake Forest:
The Demon Deacons finished last season with a 7-6 record, including a 34-26 victory over the Temple Owls in the Military Bowl, but the hopes of finishing with a winning record for the 2017 season are in doubt. Wake Forest returns nine players of an offense that ranked 118th in scoring last season, and will have to replace their top four tacklers.
9: Boston College:
The Eagles of Boston College have hung their hat on defense under head coach Steve Addazio, and will continue to do so with defensive end Harold Landry, but it is the offense that moves Boston College up the list.
After years of priding themselves on I-formation, smash-mouth football—this season will see the Eagles attempt to be more dynamic and up-tempo, which shouldn’t be too hard as the only place for their offense to go it up (finishing last season 127th out of 128 FBS teams in total offense).
Dino Babers took the hurry-up offense to another level in his first season with the Orange, providing a boost in energy and offense a program with a storied past.
Many will recall the 2015 season, in which the Tigers finished the regular season 12-0, it was a trip to Syracuse that nearly derailed the perfect season. While Babers and his upset minded Orange will undoubtedly be fired up for the Tigers, even their break-neck pace will do little to slow down the defense of the Tigers.
7: South Carolina:
“Never again”—that was the phrase tweeted out by a freshman Jake Bentley following the Tigers 56-7 victory over the Gamecocks in Death Valley last season.
And while Will Muschamp is doing his best to build the talent back up in Columbia, the fact is the talent gap between these two programs is immense. And until he able to get the talent base back to where it was in the glory-seasons under Steve Spurrier the will continue to struggle against the Tigers.
6: Georgia Tech:
Paul Johnson will once again bring his tricky offense into Death Valley in hopes of holding the ball for the majority of the game and hoping to keep the game low scoring.
But the bad news for Johnson, even with a bevy of talented players returning on both sides of the ball, he has to face Brent Venables and a Tiger defense that has had his number.
5: Virginia Tech:
The Tigers make their first trip to Lane Stadium in Blacksburg (2011) to close out a rough first month of the college football season. With the quarterback battle, hopefully for the Tigers, figured out, it will be the defense that the Tigers will rely on.
The Hokies, who will be replacing quarterback Jerod Evans, dangerous tight end Bucky Hodges and wide receiver Isaiah Ford, will look to avenge last season’s loss in the ACC Championship Game with a victory over the Tigers at home.
4: N.C. State:
Tiger fans need not be reminded how close the Wolfpack came to derailing a magical season last year in Death Valley. This season the Tigers head to Carter-Finley Stadium in what could be the trap game to end all trap games.
Wedged between the Tigers game against Georgia Tech and their division rival Florida State, the Wolfpack will be lurking to get a marquee win and a little revenge.
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson will be waiting at Papa John’s Stadium. However, an offensive line that was exposed as the season went on, the loss of running back Brandon Radcliff, All-ACC tight end Cole Hikutini and wide receiver James Quick will mean there could be some growing pains for the Cardinals.
But even with the losses on offense and defense, with Devonte Fields and Keith Kelsey both in the NFL, the Tigers and the Cardinals have played each other three times since entering the league with each instance going down to the wire, so why expect anything less this season.
The quarterback by committee that the Tigers faced in their opening game last season should be resolved as Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has found his guy, Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham. A (way-to-early) preseason top 10 Auburn team will head into Death Valley in the second week of the season to face a Clemson team that will still be trying to find itself at quarterback.
If there are two things that the Tigers (Clemson) can point to it is the fact that the game is at night and the crowd should be fully engaged, and the fact that Auburn lost two of their best defenders from last season—Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson.
1: Florida State:
The ACC’s two bell cows will face each other in the final ACC game in, what is expected to be, the Atlantic Division Championship.
The Seminoles will be led by quarterback Deondre Francois, who took a beating against the Tigers last season in Tallahassee, and a plethora of talented receivers. There will, however, be a key piece missing from the Seminoles arsenal in running back Dalvin Cook, who shredded the Tigers in each of the last two games.
With this game coming late in the season, Nov.11, both the Tigers and the Seminoles should have all of their question marks and kinks worked out in time for a grudge match that may decide the division—and possibly a playoff spot.