The ACC announced the 2014 football schedule this afternoon and here's what's ahead for Clemson (analysis below)...
Aug. 30 at Georgia
Sept. 6 S.C. State
Sept. 13 Bye
Sept. 20 at Florida State
Sept. 27 UNC
Oct. 4 N.C. State
Oct. 11 Louisville
Oct. 18 at Boston College
Oct. 25 Syracuse
Nov. 1 Bye
Nov. 6 at Wake Forest
Nov. 15 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 22 Georgia State
Nov. 29 South Carolina
The Atlantic Division could be settled pretty quickly...again.
The ACC announced its 2014 football schedule Wednesday, and along with it, a conference opener for Clemson versus Florida State for the third time in four seasons.
As the series shifts back to Tallahassee, the winner of the regular season matchup has conquered the division the last five years – and the ACC title, the last three.
Both rival's schedules feature an FCS opponent (S.C. State for Clemson) then a bye week before the Sept. 20 showdown in Doak Campbell Stadium. With at least eight days to prepare, Dabo Swinney's staff is 10-0 over the last two seasons (FSU is 8-0).
Florida State returns Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston and more stars on both sides of the ball. Clemson last won at FSU in 2006.
The Tigers open against an SEC opponent for the fifth consecutive year and their first trip to Georgia since 2002 (a 31-28 loss). Both sides will feature new gunslingers, replacing record-breaking quarterbacks Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray.
New division-mates Louisville (Oct. 11) and Syracuse (Oct. 25) will be making their first-ever Death Valley appearances this season. The Tigers and Cardinals haven't met on the gridiron, while Clemson and Syracuse can break a 1-1 tie in their short series.
Louisville bookends a run of three consecutive ACC home games starting with UNC (Sept. 27) then N.C. State (Oct. 4) – a quirk to the schedule Clemson hasn't had since 1991. The Cardinals enter their new digs with a new and also former coach, Bobby Petrino, after clinching at least a share of three Big East titles from 2006-13. The Wolfpack are winless in their last five games in Memorial Stadium, while the Tar Heels gave up 59 in a loss their last I-85 South drive (2011, 59-38 defeat).
Clemson makes the return trip to Boston College in October as well, where they have split since the Eagles joined the league in 2005.
With eight 2013 bowl teams on the slate, Clemson's head coach is confident they are in a good spot for this year's power shift.
“This schedule allows us to compete to reach the (four-team) College Football Playoff,” said Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney. “It is a challenging schedule. Just look at the beginning. We play at Georgia and at Florida State within the first three games.
“On paper, based on last year’s results, it looks to be more difficult than last year. Louisville was a 12-1 team ranked in the final top 15 and North Carolina finished strong winning six of its last seven games.”
After a Thursday matchup at Wake Forest (Nov. 6), the final stretch has its challenges.
Clemson heads to Atlanta and Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium after a two-year absence, where they are 0-for-their-last-four.
The Tigers close with two home games for only the second time since 2006, facing FBS-newbie Georgia State (fresh off a 0-12 first year at this level) and rival South Carolina. The Gamecocks have won two in a row in Death Valley, by 15.5 points a game.
Coming off an 11-2 record and No. 8 final ranking, Clemson is expected to return 12 starters, including seven on the defensive side.