The 2018 ACC Football Kickoff begins a week from today in Charlotte so it is a good time to take a look at some of the teams on Clemson’s schedule who could be more of a challenge than what the experts think.
Let’s be honest, Clemson has a very favorable schedule and it makes perfect sense with all of its talent to believe they can run the table. It also does not hurt that the Tigers do not play back-to-back road games all season and that their open week is in the middle of the year.
However, as we told you on Tuesday, there are some pitfalls on the schedule. There are also some teams on the rise in the ACC that Clemson fans need to be aware of because they are on the Tigers’ schedule.
Boston College: The Eagles are coming off back-to-back seven win seasons, but let’s be honest, no one saw the Eagles winning seven games last year.
However they did, and now head coach Steve Addazio returns 15 starters off last year’s team, including nine on offense. Running back A.J. Dillon headlines this year’s team after he rushed for 1,500 yards as a freshman in 2017. Quarterback Anthony Brown, also a sophomore, returns to run the offense, while senior tight end Tommy Sweeney is one of the best in the ACC.
On the defensive side of the ball, BC returns defensive end Zach Allen, who can dominate most offensive tackles he goes up against and can cause havoc in the backfield. Safety Lucas Dennis is also back. He tied for second in the nation with seven interceptions in 2017. Strong safety Will Harris is also back, giving the Eagles two veteran players in the secondary.
The key stretch of the season that will decide if BC is a legit contender in the ACC Atlantic will come in October when it visit’s NC State on the Oct. 6 and then host Louisville (Oct. 13) and Miami (Oct. 26) before traveling to Blacksburg, Va., to face Virginia Tech on Nov. 3. If the Eagles come out of this stretch 4-0 or 3-1, then their Nov. 10 home date with Clemson could be for first place in the ACC Atlantic Division.
Wake Forest: After winning just six games combined in Dave Clawson’s first two years, Wake Forest has shown a steady climb the last two seasons with seven wins in 2016 and eight wins last year.
With 14 starters returning, including a mix of juniors and seniors, it is easy to see why the Demon Deacons are a program on the rise in 2018.
On offense, Wake gets back electrifying wide receiver Greg Dortch. The sophomore caught 53 passes for 722 yards and scored nine touchdowns as a freshman, and he only played in eight games. Imagine what kind of numbers he might have put up had he played in all 13.
Also, the entire offensive line is back, led by center Ryan Anderson. The All-ACC center has started 29 straight games. Of the Demon Deacons five returning linemen, four are seniors.
On defense, seniors Willie Yarbary and Zeek Rodney return in the middle of the defensive line, while Demetrius Kemp is back at middle linebacker. All four starters return in the secondary, led by cornerback Essang Bassey, who was second in the ACC and sixth nationally with six interceptions a year ago.
An Oct. 6 date with Clemson, followed by an Oct. 20 game at Florida State will likely keep the Deacons from competing for an ACC Atlantic Division title. However, an important stretch in which they travel to Louisville on Oct. 27, host Syracuse on Nov. 3 and then travel to Raleigh on Nov. 8 to take on NC State will tell the story on whether they can get to nine wins this year or not.
Let’s not forget a Sept. 13 home game against Boston College is also vital to their chances. Wake plays five straight home games from Sept. 8 to Oct. 6.
Georgia Tech: Yes, it’s the Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets return 15 starters from last year’s 5-6 team that lost three games by four points or loss, including two by one point. Also, keep in mind the current trend the team in on under Paul Johnson. After a bad season, they always seem to bounce back the following year.
Tech went from seven wins in 2013 to 11 wins in 2014, while winning the ACC’s Coastal Division. In 2015, they won just three games, but bounced back to win 9 in 2016. So what will the Yellow Jackets do this year?
They return nine starters on offense, including quarterback Taquon Marshall, who is more like playing a running back than a quarterback. If he can start throwing the ball more accurately, Georgia Tech can really cause some problems.
The offensive line also returns three starters, including left guard Parker Braun. All three running backs in Tech’s triple option are also back. KirVonte Benson averaged 95.7 yards per game last and scored six touchdowns.
On defense, new defensive coordinator Nate Woody brings in his 3-4 scheme to help his unit handle bigger offensive linemen. Defensive end Anree Saint-Amour is back for his senior year. He is a strong pass-rushing threat that should evolve in Woody’s aggressive 3-4 scheme.
The early part of the schedule sets up nice for Tech with winnable games at South Florida (Sept. 8) and at Pittsburgh (Sept. 15) before a home date with Clemson on Sept. 22.
The key stretch of the season will come in October, starting with a trip to Louisville (Oct. 5) followed by a home game against Duke (Oct. 13) and then a game at Virginia Tech on Oct. 25. There is a very good possibility Georgia Tech could win eight or nine regular season games this year.
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