It was Rivalry Week throughout college football this past weekend as everyone wrapped up the regular season, and the Clemson Tigers suffocated their South Carolina Gamecock rivals in Columbia, topping them in the Palmetto Bowl 16-7. The Tigers finished the season with four straight wins and the defense has played at a championship level for much of the season. How did Clemson’s opponents finish their respective campaigns?
Week One - Duke Blue Devils (7-5) - 30-19 Win Over Pittsburgh
The Duke Blue Devils finished with a comfortable win over a dreadful Pittsburgh Panthers squad. Grayson Loftis threw for 248 yards and despite only rushing for 2.3 yards per carry, the Blue Devils outscored the Panthers 20-9 in the second half. The more important news came after the game as head coach Mike Elko was officially hired by the Texas A&M Aggies. Elko has elevated Duke and his departure leaves the job in Durham vacant. Early names for the open seat include offensive coordinator Kevin Johns, Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, James Madison head coach Curt Cignetti (former Elon head coach), and former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett.
Week Two - Charleston Southern - NO GAME
Week Three - Florida Atlantic (4-8) - 21-24 Loss to Rice
The Owls lost the last four games of their season, falling to 4-8 as the season ended. In the battle of the Owls, Rice dominated FAU. They gained 465 yards to only 279 yards and Rice had nearly 40 minutes in time of possession. Kobe Lewis had a 75-yard rushing touchdown as one of the only highlights of the day for FAU. Florida Atlantic will be hoping year number two goes better for Tom Herman than year number one did.
Week Four - Florida State Seminoles (12-0) - 24-15 Win Over Florida
The Florida State Seminoles were far from impressive on offense as Tate Rodemaker struggled at quarterback but the Seminoles outscored the Gators 10-0 in the fourth quarter to finish the regular season 12-0. FSU locked down Florida’s offense (the Gators also had a backup quarterback) and held Florida to -17 yards in the fourth quarter. Kalen DeLoach intercepted a pass by Max Brown to seal the deal. The question now becomes: if FSU beats Louisville but does not look great in doing so, how does the committee compare them to someone like a 12-1 Big 12 Champion Texas? I would imagine the Seminoles get in as the four-seed but a good performance against Louisville would help erase any doubts.
Week Five - Syracuse Orange (6-6) 35-31 Win Over Wake Forest
The Orange are going bowling. They knocked off the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in a wild 35-31 contest that saw a combined 850 yards of offense. LeQuint Allen had 144 yards on the ground for the Orange and Garrett Shrader threw for three touchdowns and ran in one more to secure the victory. Syracuse has not hired a head coach with Holy Cross head coach Bob Chesney and James Madison head coach Curt Cignetti emerging as leading options. Former Florida head coach Dan Mullen was rumored to be a candidate but the current TV analyst responded on social media that he would not be taking the job.
Week Six - Wake Forest (4-8) 35-31 Loss to Syracuse
The Demon Deacons lost five straight games to close the season and finished at 4-8 after the loss to Syracuse. This is the worst season Wake has had since 2015 (3-9) and there are some serious questions about how the program can compete in today’s college football landscape. The transfer portal and NIL are major disadvantages for the Demon Deacons. Does Dave Clawson look for an exit path? If not, where does Wake Forest go from here? They play Ole Miss and Army in the non-conference in 2024 and Clemson does travel to Winston-Salem next season.
Week Seven - Miami Hurricanes (7-5) 45-20 Win Over Boston College
Mario Cristobal’s squad improved to 7-5 on the season with an impressive win over Boston College in Chestnut Hill. The Hurricanes had 532 yards of offense to BC’s 294 and they averaged seven yards per play. Tyler Van Dyke was 23-36 for 290 yards and two touchdowns and crucially, he did not turn the ball over. Henry Parrish Jr. had 111 yards rushing and two scores while Mark Fletcher Jr. and Ajay Allen both added one touchdown each. It was a solid season for Miami after going just 5-7 in 2022.
Week Eight - North Carolina State (9-3) 39-20 Win Over North Carolina
The North Carolina State Wolfpack hammered in-state rival UNC 39-20 and finished with a surprising 9-3 record. NC State had 27 first downs to UNC’s 21 and outgained the Tar Heels 504 to 384. The Wolfpack also had two interceptions plus a recovered fumble. Brennan Armstrong, thrust back into the starting quarterback role, went 22 for 31 for 334 yards with three touchdowns and KC Concepcion continued to emerge as a star with two receiving touchdowns and 131 yards. Payton Wilson led the way for the defense with 15 tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception.
Week Nine - Notre Dame (9-3) 56-23 Win Over Stanford
The Fighting Irish improved to 9-3 as well with a blowout win over the Stanford Cardinals in front of 30,000 fans in Palo Alto. Can’t wait to see that crazy Cardinal atmosphere in the ACC! Audric Estime put on a show, running for 238 yards on 25 carries with four touchdowns as the Irish racked up 384 yards on the ground. On 48 carries, Notre Dame ran for 7.9 yards per carry. That is incredibly impressive, regardless of opposition. The Fighting Irish have losses to Louisville, Clemson, and Ohio State, with wins over Stanford, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh, USC, Duke, Central Michigan, NC State, Tennessee State, and Navy.
Week Ten - Georgia Tech (6-6) - 31-23 Loss to Georgia
The Yellow Jackets did not give up, scoring the final ten points in the game to cut the deficit to 31-23. They were never really a threat to upset the Georgia Bulldogs but Brent Key’s team did not embarrass themselves. Jamal Haynes had 81 yards rushing and Dontae Smith had 68 on the ground. Haynes King chipped in with two rushing touchdowns as the Yellow Jackets managed 205 yards rushing. The Georgia offense proved to be too much in the end - Kendall Milton had 156 yards and two touchdowns and Carson Beck threw for 175 yards with a score. The Bulldogs appeared far more interested in getting ready for the SEC Championship Game than manhandling Georgia Tech but credit to the Yellow Jackets on a successful season. Going to a bowl game is a mission accomplished for GT.
Week Eleven - North Carolina (8-4) - 20-39 Loss to NC State
After starting the season 6-0, UNC went just 2-4 to close the season and finish at 8-4 with a loss to North Carolina State. Drake Maye threw a pair of interceptions and the Tar Heels were overwhelmed physically by the Wolfpack pretty much all game long. There are a lot of questions about how to proceed in Chapel Hill. Does Mack Brown call it quits? Drake Maye is almost certainly headed to the NFL and there is no surefire successor ready to step in at quarterback. How the offseason unfolds will be an interesting storyline to follow.
Week Twelve - South Carolina (5-7) - 16-7 Loss to Clemson
The Gamecocks miss out on a bowl game.
The Clemson Tigers finished the season on a high note, beating their rivals to cap a four-game winning streak that included wins over three bowl teams (GT, Notre Dame, and UNC). FBS opponents went a combined 71-55 on the season and eight of Clemson’s 11 FBS opponents will be playing in a bowl game.