For the 25th straight season, the Clemson Tigers are bowl eligible. November has been Clemson’s best month of the season thus far as they backed up the Notre Dame win with a demolition of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and improved to 6-4. How did Clemson’s opponents fare this past weekend?
Week One - Duke (6-4) - 47-45 2OT Loss to North Carolina
The Blue Devils started the season 4-0 but have gone just 2-4 since. That includes the injury to Riley Leonard against Notre Dame that derailed their season. A touchdown with just 41 seconds remaining put Duke ahead 36-33, but Drake Maye got the Tar Heels in position for a 43-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. The two teams traded field goals in overtime number one, followed by North Carolina scoring a touchdown with a two-point conversion in the second overtime and Duke failing their two-point try after a touchdown to end the game. Grayson Loftis threw for 189 yards and three touchdowns and Duke added 179 yards on the ground but they were outgained 537-379 in defeat. The Blue Devils close with Virginia and Pittsburgh and should be 8-4 with a nice bowl game in their future. Speaking of futures, what will become of Mike Elko? The Duke head coach is being mentioned for every open job and is considered a main candidate for Texas A&M’s open vacancy.
Week Two - Charleston Southern (4-6) - 14-12 Loss to Robert Morris
The Buccaneers fell to the Colonials in Moon Township, Pennsylvania and are now guaranteed a losing season. They will close with a road game at Gardner-Webb to finish out the 2023 campaign.
Week Three - Florida Atlantic (4-6) - 22-7 Loss to East Carolina
The Owls are in free fall mode after a dispiriting loss to the dreadful East Carolina Pirates. Florida Atlantic managed only 172 yards and just 2.5 yards per play on offense. They were 5-22 on third and fourth down attempts, turning the ball over on downs four times and throwing one interception. They have now lost three of four and close with games against Tulane and Rice.
Week Four - Florida State (10-0) - 27-20 Win Over Miami
FSU’s march to the College Football Playoff continued as they knocked off Miami for the third straight season. The Seminoles got a big punt return followed by a receiving touchdown from Keon Coleman to bury the Hurricanes at 27-13 and then sealed the deal with an interception of Tyler Van Dyke on a desperation fourth down heave. Van Dyke entered the game after an injury to starter Emory Williams. While Florida State was far from perfect in this one, they are still unbeaten and have locked up a spot in the ACC Championship Game.
Week Five - Syracuse (5-5) - 28-13 Win Over Pittsburgh
The Orange halted a five-game losing skid with a 28-13 win over the Pitt Panthers. Dino Babers was clearly tired of even trying to throw the ball after weeks of awful quarterback play and a whole lot of interceptions. The Orange attempted only eight passes, running the ball 66 times for 382 yards. Dan Villari had 154 on the ground, LeQuint Allen added 102 and Garrett Shrader had 96 with a touchdown. The defense held Pittsburgh to only 269 yards of offense and forced four turnovers. Syracuse now has two chances to make a bowl game and perhaps save Babers’ job. They play at Georgia Tech (also trying to make a bowl game) and then host Wake Forest.
Week Six - Wake Forest (4-6) - 26-6 Loss to NC State
Wake Forest having a terrible offense under Dave Clawson feels wrong but here we are. The Demon Deacons have only cracked 20 points one time in ACC play and that was a 24-21 loss to Duke. They managed only eight first downs and 163 yards in the demoralizing defeat to the Wolfpack. Wake Forest now needs to beat both Notre Dame and Syracuse to reach a bowl game. One does wonder if head coach Dave Clawson has hit his head on the ceiling at Wake Forest and looks for an exit from Winston-Salem.
Week Seven - Miami (6-4) - 27-20 Loss to Florida State
Mario Cristobal had seen enough of Tyler Van Dyke and gave true freshman Emory Williams the start against the Florida State Seminoles. The Hurricanes were rarely a threat through the air as Williams was just 8-23 before leaving with an arm injury and FSU keyed in on stopping the run. Miami’s defense battled and made Florida State work but a big punt return from Keon Coleman set up a short touchdown (again, for Coleman) to put FSU ahead 27-13. Miami scored to cut the deficit in half and had the ball with a chance to tie it up, but predictably, Tyler Van Dyke threw an interception to end those hopes and the Hurricanes fell for the third straight time to their in-state rival. They now play #11 Louisville and close at Boston College. After beating Texas A&M in week number two, hopes were high in Coral Gables and the national media was so ready to declare “The U” was BACK. The Hurricanes are now barreling towards a 7-5 finish and still don’t have an answer at quarterback.
Week Eight - NC State (7-3) - 26-6 Win Over Wake Forest
North Carolina State quarterback MJ Morris announced that he would be redshirting this season and would not finish the campaign for the Wolfpack. That generated a lot of discussion but this game was not about the offense at all. NC State’s defense locked up the poor Demon Deacons offense for only 163 yards and just eight first downs as Dave Doeren’s squad improved to 7-3. Brennan Armstrong was back in as the starting quarterback and he was fine but it was never a contest as Wake Forest just could not remotely threaten the NC State defense.
The Wolfpack now play at Virginia Tech in a battle of two teams that are both 4-2 in the ACC before closing with North Carolina. One could make an argument North Carolina State is the third-best team in the ACC and Dave Doeren absolutely deserves a lot of credit. His name has been mentioned as a candidate for the Michigan State job and I think Clemson fans would enjoy seeing him leave Raleigh.
Week Nine - Notre Dame (7-3) - BYE WEEK
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish had the week off after playing in week zero. They finish with games against Stanford and Wake Forest and should end the year at 9-3. All things considered, it will end up an underwhelming season for Marcus Freeman in year number two.
Week Eleven - North Carolina (8-2) - 47-45 2OT Win Over Duke
The North Carolina Tar Heels beat Duke (sans Riley Leonard) in double-overtime, winning 47-45 to improve to 8-2. The past three ACC games are certainly eye-opening though as teams appear to have figured out the Tar Heels improved defense. Virginia put up 31 points, Georgia Tech had 46 and Duke scored 36 in regulation before adding nine in the overtime periods. There are no questions about the offense though. Drake Maye threw for 342 yards and Omarion Hampton had 169 yards as UNC racked up 537 yards on a good Duke defense. UNC was 11-19 on third down and 2-2 on fourth down. Clemson’s defense will have its hands full this Saturday.
Week Twelve - South Carolina (4-6) - 47-6 Win Over Vanderbilt
The Gamecocks kept bowl hopes alive with a resounding win over a dreadful Vanderbilt team. The Commodores have gone backwards this season under Clark Lea but South Carolina fans will be pleased their defense to have held any opponent in check. Spencer Rattler threw for 351 yards and Vanderbilt was in the holiday spirit early, gifting South Carolina with two lost fumbles. The Rattler to Xavier Legette combination continues to be a lethal plan of attack for SC and one that Clemson will need to pay very close attention to in two weeks time in Columbia.