The ACC has released the schedule for Clemson’s 2019 football season. The Tigers will be looking to repeat as ACC Champions for the fifth straight year and as National Champions for the second time in a row. No team has been able to repeat as National Champions in the modern College Football Playoff era.
Georgia Tech (Aug. 29)
Head coach: Geoff Collins, first year
Last season: Finished 7-6, lost to Minnesota in their bowl game in head coach Paul Johnson’s final game
Outlook: The annual rivalry will kick off on a Thursday night to begin the season. Georgia Tech hopes to improve on a disappointing season with a new head coach. Collins is a defensive minded head coach but will remove the triple option from Tech’s offense. Unlike last season, Clemson fans know who the Tiger’s quarterback will be and there should be no controversy. Clemson is bringing back almost every starter on offense, but will need to replace seven defensive starters. The way that new starters make an impact will have everything to do with how this game turns out.
Texas A&M (Sept. 7)
Head coach: Jimbo Fisher, second year
Last season: Finished 9-4, beat N.C. State 52-13 in Gator Bowl
Outlook: Clemson will welcome the Aggies for a visit to Death Valley for only the third time in history. After winning four games in a row to finish the year, A&M should have momentum heading into 2019. The Aggies will lose their top two offensive performers in running back Trayveon Williams and tight end Jace Sternberger. Following an epic battle last year in College Station, you can expect another classic game in Death Valley in 2019.
at Syracuse (Sept. 14)
Head coach: Dino Babers, fourth season
Last season: Finished 10-3, beat West Virginia 34-18 in the Camping World Bowl, final ranking of 15 in AP poll
Outlook: Clemson and Syracuse have played in two games that have gone down to the wire in the past two seasons. Syracuse handed Clemson their last regular season loss in 2017. Babers has been making strides with the Orange ever since he took over in 2016. After beating a ranked West Virginia team in the Camping World Bowl, Syracuse will have huge momentum leading into the 2019 season. This will be one of the tougher games for Clemson, especially coming in the third week of the season.
Charlotte (Sept. 21)
Head coach: Will Healy, first season
Last season: Finished 5-7, defeated Florida Atlantic 27-24 in season finale
Outlook: Charlotte struggled last season, but was close in every game they lost. The 49ers only lost to Tennessee by 11 in a game played in Knoxville. This proves that they can hang with Power 5 teams. Clemson will not take this game lightly, because they cannot afford to struggle with an average opponent. This should be a game that allows Clemson to showcase its depth and gets lots of players good experience.
at North Carolina (Sept. 28)
Head coach: Mack Brown, first season
Last Season: 2-9, lost to NC State 34-28 in season finale, fired head coach Larry Fedora
Outlook: Clemson travels to North Carolina for a week five matchup with the Tar Heels. North Carolina only beat one Power 5 opponent last season. Clemson should handle the Tar Heels and get to show more depth in the final game before the Tigers’ first bye week. This is the first time since 2010 that Clemson will visit Chapel Hill and the first time since 1951 that a defending national champion will come to town.
Florida State (Oct. 12)
Head coach: Willie Taggart, second season
Last season: Finished 5-7, lost to Florida 41-14 in season finale
Outlook: Florida State will return quarterback Deondre Francois for his third year as a starter, to go along with a top 20 recruiting class. Last year, head coach Willie Taggart said that some players were quitting on the team. That should be fixed this year and the team should also feel more comfortable in Taggart’s system. Florida State has fallen off the past couple of year, but 2019 could be the year the Seminoles return to form and challenge Clemson for the ACC Atlantic Division title.
at Louisville (Oct. 19)
Last season: Finished 2-10, lost to Kentucky 56-10 in season finale
Head coach: Scott Satterfield, first season
Outlook: 2018 was a monumental disaster for the Cardinals as they struggled immensely on defense, allowing 50+ points in their last five games, leading to Bobby Petrino’s firing at the end of the 2018 season. New coach Scott Satterfield is in after spending six years at Appalachian State. The Mountaineers made the successful transition from FCS to FBS level back in 2014 under Satterfield. He will now have the challenge of competing in ACC football and putting his stamp on the Cardinal program. They will have plenty of time to get the kinks worked out by the time the Tigers roll in, but it’s going to take time for Louisville to really improve.
Boston College (Oct. 26)
Last season: Finished 7-5, bowl game against Boise State was cancelled due to lightning
Head coach: Steve Addazio, sixth season
Outlook: The Eagles put together another decent season in Chestnut Hill in 2018, led by a strong defense, which was the only team to hold Clemson under 35 points in a loss to the Tigers. Heading into 2019, A.J. Dillon and Anthony Brown will return for the Eagles on offense, which should be a benefit for them when they roll into Death Valley on the last Saturday of October. The key in this game may be if Boston College can run the football and play solid defense. That’s going to be a tall task against Trevor Lawrence and the skill players on offense, but, this could be one of the more intriguing games on the back end of the schedule.
Wofford (Nov. 2)
Last season: Finished 9-4, lost to Kennesaw State 13-10 in the second round of the FCS playoffs
Head coach: Josh Conklin, second season
Outlook: Wofford will make the hour trip down I-85 to Death Valley to kick off the month of November against Clemson. Although Mike Ayers is no longer roaming the sidelines in Spartanburg, the Terriers are still running the option offense and they play solid defense, as they only allowed one team to score 21+ points on them in 2018. Clemson will need to be careful not to take this team lightly, but in the end, the Tigers should roll.
at NC State (Nov. 9)
Last season: Finished 9-4, lost to Texas A&M 52-13 in the Gator Bowl
Head coach: Dave Doeren, seventh season
Outlook: The Wolfpack started out 2018 5-0 until they rolled into Death Valley and got steamrolled by Clemson, 41-7 on their way to the bowl game against Texas A&M on New Year’s Eve. Can N.C. State avoid slipping up in the middle of the year in 2019? Gone is quarterback Ryan Finley and running back Nyheim Hines from last season, so it may be an uphill climb for the Wolfpack without those two. This game has come down to the wire the last two times in Raleigh, could it happen again this year? Right now, it doesn’t look likely.
Wake Forest (Nov. 16)
Last season: Finished 7-6, defeated Memphis 37-34 in the Birmingham Bowl
Head coach: Dave Clawson, sixth season
Outlook: The Demon Deacons produced one of the thrillers of the 2018 bowl season, capping off a successful 2018 campaign, outside of some disappointing losses to Clemson, Florida State and Syracuse. Quarterback Jamie Newman put on a show in the Birmingham Bowl as he was named MVP of the game, scoring five touchdowns. He will be back for Wake Forest this season, but they will have to replace graduated running back Matt Coburn. This game will be Senior Day for Clemson, and as long as the Tigers handle their business, they should easily win heading into rivalry weekend.
at South Carolina (Nov. 30)
Last season: Finished 7-6, lost to Virginia 28-0 in the Belk Bowl
Head coach: Will Muschamp, fourth season
Outlook: Quarterback Jake Bentley and wide receiver Bryan Edwards return for a Gamecock offense that was able to put up points during a 2018 season that was up and down. The question entering 2019 will be whether South Carolina can put together a string of wins that could get them in position to compete in the SEC East and for the first time since 2013, defeat Clemson. The Tigers will be looking for their sixth straight win over their rivals from Columbia on Thanksgiving Weekend. Clemson will have two weeks to prepare for this game and as it stands right now, Dabo Swinney and the Tigers have this rivalry firmly in hand. There’s no reason to believe that won’t continue in 2019.