Last season, Trevor Lawrence, Dabo Swinney, and the Clemson Tigers came within 18 points of winning their second consecutive College Football National Championship. Unfortunately, Joe Burrow and a loaded LSU team humbled Clemson in the title game. After the disappointing defeat, the Tigers want to reclaim their crowns atop the football world.
The pandemic severely altered college football’s path this fall. The Big Ten and Pac-12 pulled the plug on their fall seasons entirely, but the Big 12, ACC, and SEC plan on plowing forward. Clemson changed its schedule to accommodate COVID-19, and future alterations aren’t off the table. However, this article gives a game-by-game breakdown of Clemson’s matchups based on the current schedule.
Game 1: Sept. 12 @ Wake Forest Prediction: Win
Clemson opens the season against a Wake Forest team that went 8-5 last season. However, the Demon Deacons lost starting quarterback Jamie Newman to the transfer portal. Last year, Newman attempted over 77% of Wake’s total pass attempts. He threw for 2,868 yards, 26 touchdowns, and almost finished second on the team in rushing yards.
Without Newman, the Demon Deacons pose little or no threat to Clemson. Sam Hartman reclaims Wake’s starting job, which only further secures any easy win for Swinney’s team. Clemson crushed Wake 52-3 last year, and I wouldn’t expect anything different in 2020.
Game 2: Sept. 19 vs. Citadel Prediction: Win
Poor Citadel. No one wants to play in Clemson’s home opener because it’s always a slaughter, but someone has to do it. The Citadel is on a four-game losing streak against Clemson with the latest loss coming in a 61-3 rout in 2017. Expect to see Clemson’s backups by the third quarter.
Game 3: Oct. 3 vs. Virginia Prediction: Win
Clemson historically owns its series against Virginia. The Cavaliers haven’t beaten their ACC rivals in over a decade. The two teams recently met in last year’s ACC Championship game, which resulted in a 62-17 Tigers win. Like most teams in the ACC, Virginia doesn’t have the talent to keep pace with Clemson.
Game 4: Oct. 10 vs. Miami Prediction: Win
The Hurricanes wish they could forget about their last matchup against Clemson. In 2017, the two teams met in the ACC Championship game. Both had one loss, and the game’s winner would earn a spot in the College Football Playoffs. The Tigers won 38-3 in a one-sided beatdown.
The Hurricanes still haven’t recovered from losing that season. However, the arrival of versatile quarterback D’Eriq King makes the Hurricanes a threat. King accounted for 50 total touchdowns at Houston in 2018. Look for Clemson to try and force King to stay in the pocket and eliminate his running lanes.
Game 5: Oct. 17 @ Georgia Tech Prediction: Win
Clemson opened the 2019 season against Georgia Tech and rolled to a 52-14 victory. The Yellow Jackets went 3-9 last season with no players turning in outstanding performances. They pose no threat to Clemson.
Game 6: Oct. 24 vs. Syracuse Prediction: Win
Besides Alabama and LSU, Syracuse is the only team to defeat Clemson since the start of 2017. However, that loss came three years ago, and recent games point to Syracuse’s advantage over Clemson vanishing. The Tigers narrowly beat Syracuse 27-23 in 2018 before demolishing the Orange last year in a 41-6 beating in front of Syracuse’s home crowd. This is another easy win.
Game 7: Oct. 31 vs. Boston College Prediction: Win
Clemson’s seventh game marks the beginning of a difficult stretch. While Clemson easily defeated the Eagles 59-7 last season, Boston College keeps opposing offenses on the sidelines with a strong running game. On paper, the Tigers should beat Boston College by even more points this year now that AJ Dillon is in the NFL, but I wouldn’t count out the Eagles keeping this game close during the first half.
Game 8: Nov. 7 @ Notre Dame Prediction: Win
The crowning jewel of Clemson’s regular season schedule, the Tigers face their toughest matchup against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Only one of three historic programs on Clemson’s schedule this year, Notre Dame could give the Tigers a scare.
These two programs last met in 2018 when Clemson obliterated Notre Dame 30-3 in the Cotton Bowl, but both squads are very different now. The Tigers still have a dominant defense, but it’s slimmed down slightly while Notre Dame’s Ian Book has found his stride at quarterback. Defensive back Kyle Hamilton and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah hold prominent positions on Notre Dame’s defense.
Lawrence and Travis Etienne give Clemson the advantage in this game. Book can’t compete against his Clemson counterpart, and Etienne is arguably the nation’s best running back. Maybe Notre Dame keeps this game close until the fourth quarter, but Clemson will pull away eventually.
Game 9: Nov. 21 @ Florida State Prediction: Win
This game sounds more interesting than it actually is. Clemson crushed the Seminoles 45-15 last year, and that was when they had star running back Cam Akers. Florida State remains trapped in a long, culture-changing process that could take another year or two. Between the program’s recent decline in prestige and terrible offensive line play, the Seminoles stand no chance against Clemson.
Game 10: Nov. 28 vs. Pittsburgh Prediction: Win
Pitt is always an intriguing team. Clemson picked the Panthers apart in the ACC Championship game two years ago. Clemson should still enter as a heavy favorite, especially since Pitt’s star defender, Jaylen Twyman, opted-out of the 2020 season.
Game 11: Dec. 5 @ Virginia Tech Prediction: Win
Once Clemson gets past the four-game stretch from Game 7 through Game 10, the Tigers can start looking forward to the Conference Championship and College Football Playoffs. Clemson has a five-game winning streak against the Hokies. With another shot at the title in sight, Clemson won’t lose to Justin Fuente’s squad.
Final Record: 11-0
Clemson tactically chooses to play a weak schedule. The Tigers have a good enough reputation that if they go undefeated, they automatically make the playoffs. However, if Clemson even loses one game in 2020, Lawrence’s team won’t have a shot at making their third consecutive National Championship appearance.