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Ranking Clemson’s 2021 Football Opponents from Worst to First

Syndication: The Greenville News JOSH MORGAN/Staff via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Clemson Tigers 2021 Football Schedule

Well hello there, Clemson fans. Welcome to the 2021 season. Hopefully a basketball-fueled March Madness appearance and some spring football served as enough to get you over the hump.

Today’s feature highlights the schedule, and more specifically who’s good and who’s not. All twelve teams ranging from the “mark your calendars” opponents to the “who are they?” programs.

The competitors. The essential bye week teams. The fakers.

And while the schedule tends to be at the butt of all jokes, there always ought to be a few intriguing matchups sprinkled here and there.

12. South Carolina State

These games are abysmal to watch, but serve as nice breathers for the Tigers nonetheless. South Carolina State enters 2021 having only played four times in their 2021 Spring FCS campaign due to COVID-19 concerns. They qualified as a relatively decent team (8-3) when they last took the field for a full season in 2019.

11. Connecticut

The most astonishing series of events that occurred this past weekend was the amount of hype surrounding Fresno State’s week 0 victory. I mean, it’s UCONN for crying out loud. The Bulldogs could've played Alcorn State and still received a more challenging skirmish.

Had it been in basketball? Different story. But Connecticut football never fails to lower its own stakes year in and year out.

10. Syracuse

Dino Babers faces a possible make or break season it what could very well be his last hurrah in upstate New York. He’s got to deal with fixing a treacherous offensive line, alongside figuring out who earns the starting job between QBs Tommy DeVito and Garrett Schrader.

9. Georgia Tech

Remember when Georgia Tech defeated Clemson in the 2009 ACC Championship Game?

Yea, me neither, or at least not for about ten years now.

Geoff Collins will look to reach the .500 mark for the first time in his three year head coaching tenure at GT. His offense sees the return of Jeff Sims as the main signal caller. Sims, who enters his sophomore season, showed some versality with 141 completions on 257 attempts for 13 touchdowns and 500 yards and six TDs on the ground.

He can do a little bit of it all, which is a lot more than his team’s defense. GT’s biggest fault came at the expense of a core that allowed 459 yards and 37 points on average.

8. South Carolina

This is a very generous choice here. A VERY, VERY, generous choice. Clemson’s in-state enemies are coming off arguably their worst season in recent program history.

A 2-2 start, the firing of Will Muschamp and a six game losing streak highlighted the 2020 South Carolina season.

The Gamecocks receive a new head coach in Shane Beamer, although most USC Jr. fans would likely prefer to have his father at the helm of operations instead. Plus, one of the few guys on the squad last year who actually achieved success - Jaycee Horn - is a Carolina Panther.

7. Wake Forest

Putting Wake Forest towards the bottom half of the list is similar to throwing Alabama in the top 25 year after year. It’s almost a given whether it be 1981 or 2021.

That being said, the Demon Deacons do own a fairly interesting offense. It all comes down to whether QB Sam Hartman, who threw 159 completions for 2,224 and 13 TDs last year, can deliver another improvement-filled campaign.

6. Louisville

What do you get when you mix an up-sided filled offense with a terrible job of ball security? The 2020 Louisville Cardinals, apparently.

Kentucky’s second favorite basketball school was no stranger to the turnover game last year. The Cardinals finished the 2020 season with one of the worst giveaway margins in the FBS (119) mainly in part due to their leader Malik Cunningham.

His stats were decent no doubt - he threw for 2,600 passing yards and 12 touchdowns as well as cashing it into the end zone seven times on the ground - but those 12 picks made him look like the reincarnation of 2019 Jameis Winston.

5. Florida State

Speaking of Mr. Winston, Florida State is still trying regain their mojo these days.

On one hand, the ‘Noles finished sub .500 for the second year in a row under first year HC Mike Norvell. On the other, it does look as if there’s a pretty attractive load coming in from the transfer portal.

FSU adds McKenzie Milton, the former UCF signal caller who switched programs after failing to see the field for the last two years. He’s got the experience overall and the spring game highlights did show some good stuff.

4. North Carolina State

The first thing to know about North Carolina State: they’re a lot better than South Carolina State. The second thing to know about North Carolina State: they were the only other ACC Atlantic team aside from Clemson to finish the 2020 season in the top 25. Albeit divisions didn’t exist last year, but an impressive feat nonetheless.

Offensively, the Wolfpack bring back QB Devin Leary at the helm of operations. The incoming sophomore tallied 66 completions for 890 yards and eight touchdowns. His weapons arsenal consists of three other big-name returnees: Emeka Emezie, Thayer Thomas and Devin Carter.

Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person source a dual-effort at the rushing category. Knight arrives back in Raleigh having carried the ball on 279 occasions 1500+ yards and 15 TDs in two seasons. A little bit more experienced, Person’s three years worth of rushing has seen him capture 1,343 yards and nine touchdowns on 320 carries.

While the defense failed to match the efforts on the other side of the football in 2020, they will bring back nine starters for 2021.

3. Boston College

Is this the year Boston College finally breaks through?

Likely not, but the Eagles bring plenty of promise on the gridiron this year. Second-year head coach Jeff Hafley’s squad returns an offense completely different from that of a few years ago. The former Ohio State defensive coordinator has turned BC into a pass heavy machine.

Phil Jurkovec, who began his college career at rival Notre Dame of all places, succeeded in his transition through a season that watched him throw 205 completions for 2,558 yards and 17 touchdowns.

And that defense - which qualified as the weaker of the two sides last year - returns eight of its starters. Whether or not the Eagles succeed in competing with Clemson in their third straight trip to Memorial Stadium depends on how apt Dabo Swinney is in preparing the Tigers, but expect for this matchup to increase competitively through the years to come.

2. Pittsburgh

Pitt is that one team college football who could contend with any given team on any given day with any given overall record. It doesn’t matter if they’re 4-8 or 8-4, facing Clemson or an old Big East foe, the Panthers know how to instill chaos. We saw in 2007 against West Virginia, we saw it in 2016 against the Tigers and we’ve seen it in the more recent years as well.

The Panthers bring to the table one of the more stacked defenses in the entire ACC. They return a good deal of vets who contributed towards those 97 sacks in the last two seasons.

The offense, on the other hand, floundered, but most of the notable guys — including the 2,400 yard, 13 touchdown QB Kenny Pickett - return for another go in the new year.

1. Georgia

The only “extremely serious threat” on the schedule is that of the No. 5 Georgia. The Dawgs enter 2021 with an experienced J.T. Daniels at the helm of operations. Aiding him is an almost perfect offensive line, along with a top tier college football defense.

A star-studded run game — Georgia owns the RBU moniker, after all — sees the return of its top five backs. The core is led by Zamir White, the upperclassman who rushed for 779 yards and 11 touchdowns through the 2020 season. He’s got some great guys behind him as well with James Cook, Kendall Milton, Kenny McIntosh and Daijun Edwards in the rotation.

Georgia’s only question comes at the loss of George Pickens at the wide receiver position. The future NFL-bound WR has been a household name for a while now, and with a serious knee injury, it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to compete for the majority of the season.

That being said, expect for this one to be a crowd pleaser from start to finish.