When Clemson released its 2017 football schedule last winter, my eyes immediately went to the three games I saw on the September part of the schedule – vs. Auburn on Sept. 9, at Louisville on Sept. 16 and at Virginia Tech on Sept. 30.
When I saw these games, going off the fact the Tigers had to replace so much talent on offense, I thought to myself, “there is no way this team will make it out of the month of September undefeated with that kind of schedule.”
Because I knew what it had coming back on defense, I felt confident they could possibly be 4-1, and in my opinion, in the mix for another ACC Championship and, by association, the College Football Playoff. But I have to admit that I also wondered if Clemson came out of the month undefeated, could it make it back to the national title game?
That’s the funny thing about the off-season, you can speculate and think you know what is going to happen, but until the season begins, you never truly know anything.
For instance, no one foresaw what’s happening in Tallahassee right now. Florida State opened the year as the preseason No. 3 team and the favorite to win the ACC. Now, five weeks into the season, they are nowhere to be seen in the top 25.
With quarterback Diondre Francois out for the season, the Seminoles are struggling on offense. Once again, the offensive line is terrible and the defense is giving up big chunk plays from a secondary that continues to have blown assignments.
Will Florida State be a better team by the time it comes to Clemson for its Nov. 11 date with the Tigers? I think so, but by that time the Seminoles might already be eliminated from the ACC Atlantic Division race.
With FSU possibly out of the picture, the ACC Atlantic will be a two-team race between Clemson and the winner of Thursday night’s showdown between Louisville and NC State. However, thanks to their win on Sept. 16, the Tigers already own the tiebreaker with Louisville so a Cardinals’ win on Thursday will give Clemson better control of the divisional race.
But if the Wolfpack can beat Louisville, then Clemson’s Nov. 4 matchup in Raleigh, N.C. with the ‘Pack basically becomes the ACC Atlantic Division Championship Game. Should the Tigers do what is expected and knock off Wake Forest, Syracuse and Georgia Tech this month, then a win over NC State could clinch the division title.
After this week’s game with Louisville, the Wolfpack travel to Pitt and to Notre Dame before taking on the Tigers. After their matchup with Clemson, they go to Boston College, to Wake Forest and host North Carolina in the regular season finale.
However, there is still a long way to go. So like Dabo Swinney likes to remind all of us in the media and the fans, we can’t look too far down the road. As we have seen in the first five weeks of the season, a lot can happen and things can quickly change.
Thanks to its great start to the season, and historic wins over three top 15 teams in Auburn, Louisville and Virginia Tech, Clemson is in control of its own destiny. The Tigers are ranked No. 2 in the country and currently have the best résumé of anyone in the nation.
Though a run back to the College Football Playoff seems likely, there are still seven games left to play and anything can happen. But it sure is fun to speculate what can happen, right?