Back when I used to work at Clemson in the sports information department, one of our tasks as student employees was to answer phone calls and direct callers to extensions throughout the athletic department. By far, the most annoying calls we had to receive were these:
“We’re trying to plan a wedding for 11 months from now. Is there a football game that day?”
“Y’all heard anything about the football schedule?”
“Why haven’t y’all released the football schedule yet?”
“My nephew is having his ninth birthday party in three years in October. What are the games scheduled for that day?”
“I’m trying to plan my life and am struggling with when to schedule vacations in 2019. Any idea when Clemson has home games that year?”
Okay, the last couple were exaggerations. But I received all kinds of requests to spit out game days when the schedule had not been released yet by the ACC. It was as if people thought we were just sitting on the news, laughing evilly at the fans who were desperately trying to prepare save-the-dates.
I got a kick out of that every year, but it just got downright annoying to answer the same exact phone call over and over again—especially in January and February. It’s fair to say the ACC has consistently been the least motivated conference in the country when it comes to releasing football schedules.
So upon the news that we would know Clemson’s football future on Wednesday, my eyes popped out of my head. I was stunned at the promptness of John Swofford and the league office.
But it gives us more time to overanalyze to death each nitpicky aspect of the 2014 football schedule. For Clemson, I think there are some pros and cons.
If we were rating it on a scale of 1-10, I would give this schedule a 4 in difficulty. Road trips to Athens and Tallahassee within the first four weeks are treacherous, and a potentially difficult game looms against North Carolina if the Tigers aren’t giving the Tar Heels their full attention.
Louisville still has speedy Florida talent and a great—albeit different—coach leading the way in Bobby Petrino. Boston College overachieved this year, and if next season is a similar one for Steve Addazio without his 2,000-yard running back/poet, the mid-October Chestnut Hill trip might be one to watch.
The extra prep time comes at appropriate times. Two weeks to get ready for the behemoth that is the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles is an ideal scenario, although Jimbo Fisher will have the same luxury. Even though Brent Venables had his way with Paul Johnson last season, it’s still comforting to know there are a couple of extra days for the Tigers to prepare for the option.
Georgia has a ton of newness, and Clemson gets the Bulldogs early. The South Carolina game is at home. The rest of the schedule is a relative cakewalk.
When I first saw this schedule, the record that popped into my head was 9-3. I won’t have a theoretical South Carolina team losing to a theoretical Clemson team until I see both teams play. Starting the season on the road is no fun, so I’ll give the edge to the Bulldogs there. Florida State is, well, you know.
A 7-1 conference record won’t be a disaster. Just like last season’s schedule set up brilliantly in theory, this one is the opposite because of the early road games. Nationally, there’s a chance October and November are months of relative obscurity as Clemson beats up on the weaker opponents on the slate. Unfortunately, I just don’t see a win in any of those big games right now.
I know I’ll change my mind on all of these teams between now and August. This is just a first glance, and in my defense, it comes earlier than usual.