Tigers have an easy path to get back to the College Football Playoff
The Atlantic Coast Conference finally gets it.
When you a have team that is a perennial contender in the national championship race, you have to protect it. That is what the ACC did on Wednesday when it released its conference schedule for the 2018 football season.
You don’t give North Carolina, who finished the season 3-9 and 1-7 in league play, the same kind of advantages you give conference champion Clemson. You just don’t do it.
However, for years, the conference did that because it wanted everyone to have a fair share. I get that, but you also have to protect the team or teams that give you and the conference, as a whole, the best opportunity to be in position at the end of the year to play for a national championship.
There is no doubting Clemson is that team for the ACC.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Clemson’s schedule is not easy. However, what is easy is the way it gets to manage it.
Clemson will play eight teams that went to bowl games this past year, including four that won eight or more games. The Tigers also have to go Texas A&M, the third straight year they have to play an SEC opponent outside of traditional rival South Carolina.
Like any schedule there are some pitfalls, like in October when they go to Wake Forest (Oct. 6), host NC State (Oct. 20) and travel to Tallahassee, Fla., to take on Florida State. However, if Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney plays his cards right the Tigers have a legit opportunity to run the table.
The schedule is unusual in that Clemson will not have consecutive home games until the last two games of the season, the first time that has happened since 1986 when the Tigers had just five home games. The schedule alternates home and away games for the first 11 games of the season, a first in school history.
But, the Tigers open date, for a third year in a row, is in the middle of the season.
Also, for a third straight year, Clemson does not play back-to-back road games, and for the first time since 2011, it will not play a single game on a Monday, Thursday or Friday night.
This is the schedule you give to your three-time ACC Champion and College Football Playoff participant. With non-conference opponents like Texas A&M and South Carolina on it, as well as a tough home against a nine-win NC State team and a tough road game at FSU, the Tigers will have enough quality wins to earn a top-four ranking.
With 18 players returning with at least four-games of starting experience, and 22 others who played significant snaps, the Tigers were already poised to make a run at the national championship. With this schedule, there is no reason for them not to be there.