Clemson is an early front-runner to return to the College Football Playoff again and will likely be favored in each contest through the regular season. But the Tigers know all too well their recent success has quickly transformed Clemson from the hunter into the hunted, drawing every team’s full attention on game day.
According to FanDuel Sportsbook, Dabo Swinney's squad is listed at -150 to win the conference this fall, but that number is significantly different than the last couple of years and tells the tale about where Clemson and the rest of the ACC hopefuls stand.
In many cases, it simply won’t be enough against a talented, experienced and well-coached Tiger team. But as history has shown, any team is susceptible to being knocked off by a less talented opponent on any given Saturday. Head coach Dabo Swinney has preached for years the next game is always the biggest one, but here are five games (in chronological order) that are as close to sleepers as there can be in the college football world.
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Florida State Seminoles
Clemson will carry a six-game series winning streak dating to 2015 into Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium on Oct. 15. With a win, Clemson would join the 1968-76 Florida Gators (eight straight) as the only programs ever to win seven straight against the Seminoles. Clemson would also become the first ACC school to win three straight games in Tallahassee, as the Tigers collected a 37-34 road win in 2016 and a 59-10 road win in 2018, with both seasons culminating with national championship victories.
Clemson will enter its 2022 home date with Louisville on Nov. 12 boasting a 7-0 all-time record against the Cardinals, one of two FBS programs against whom Clemson has won its first seven all-time games. A year ago, Clemson overcame a 24-17 deficit after three quarters and earned a win with a dramatic goal-line stand from the two-yard line in the final minute. Including a comeback win a week earlier against Florida State, the victory at Louisville gave Clemson fourth-quarter comeback wins in back-to-back games for the first time in the Dabo Swinney era.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Wake Forest last defeated Clemson on Oct. 9, 2008, a loss that led to the departure of Head Coach Tommy Bowden and led to the elevation of Swinney four days later. In the time since, Clemson has posted a 13-0 record against the Demon Deacons, making Wake Forest one of five ACC programs against whom Swinney is undefeated (Duke, Louisville, Virginia and Virginia Tech). Clemson will try to add to that 13-0 mark when the Tigers and Demon Deacons square off on Sept. 24.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
One year after opening the 2021 season at the home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, Clemson will open the 2022 campaign at the home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, marking the first time Clemson has opened back-to-back years in NFL facilities. The contest, which is classified as a Georgia Tech home game despite being moved off-campus, will represent Clemson’s second season opener against Georgia Tech in the Dabo Swinney era, joining a 52-14 home win against the Yellow Jackets to open the 2019 season in the first live game ever played on ACC Network.
A Clemson win on Oct. 22 would push the Tigers’ winning streak in their series with Syracuse to five games, which would extend Clemson’s current streak past its four-game streak from 2013-16 as the longest in series history. Since dropping the programs’ first meeting in the Gator Bowl following the 1995 season, Clemson is 8-1 in the teams’ nine most recent meetings and holds an 8-2 all-time record in the series. Clemson has been ranked in at least one major poll in all 10 games against Syracuse and has been ranked in the AP Top 3 in seven of those contests.
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