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Clemson Football

Three Potential Trap Games for Clemson

July 12, 2018

At first glance, Clemson’s 2018 schedule looked quite manageable to many. In fact, the initial reaction for most was that this team could and very well should go undefeated.

A 12-0 regular season and fourth consecutive ACC title are on the table, which would add to the dominant success Clemson’s had under Dabo Swinney. Conversations of another College Football Playoff appearance almost being inevitable has become sort of an afterthought this summer.

But even on the road to the Playoff and a national championship, Clemson hit a couple of speed bumps. A program that finally hit its stride in big games against ranked opponents still shockingly fell to the hands of Pittsburgh at home and Syracuse on the road.

Two surreal regular season losses that snuck up on the Tigers in the last three years. Swinney has said it best time and time again: “Winning is hard.” Because of that mindset, Clemson always finds a way to celebrate the assorted wins, no matter how big or small they may seem.

Looking at Clemson’s schedule this season, two games will have the Tigers’ full attention.

At Texas A&M. At Florida State.

The rest of the schedule isn’t as exciting or nearly as daunting as Clemson’s 2017 schedule looked before the season began. Early road contests at Louisville and Virginia Tech loomed large a year ago. This season, there are a few teams that could catch Clemson off guard.

Here are three “trap games” that could derail Clemson:


At Boston College - 11/10

Yes, as far as games that can sneak up on you go, a trip to Chestnut Hill against an improved Boston College team has to be circled on your calendar. Even though the Tigers dismantled the Eagles 56-10 the last time they met up north, Boston College and Clemson have had their fair share of close calls against each other. The latest coming last season in Death Valley where the score was tied 7-7 heading into the fourth quarter and Clemson as a heavy favorite found itself in a dogfight.

And that’s what facing head coach Steve Addazio’s group is like: a tough, grind-it-out dogfight. It’s a game Swinney said is really won in the trenches and by wearing down the opposition until they break. The Tigers were able to finally break through and score 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

© Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

This year, Boston College will continue to build on its identity in the trenches. It all starts with sophomore running back AJ Dillon, who will easily be a candidate for ACC Player of the Year. Dillion rushed for 1,589 yards for 5.3 yards per carry and 14 touchdowns during his impressive freshman campaign.

The combination of the firepower behind the rushing attack and the front seven on the defensive side of the ball could be enough to keep the game against Clemson close. The matchup with Boston College comes at an intriguing time in November. The Tigers have not faced Boston College in November in ten years.

Even though the Tigers have won nine of the last ten meetings against Boston College, there’s something eerie about traveling to the Heights. Just ask last year’s Florida State team.


NC State - 10/20

These days, every coach has Clemson circled on their calendar when schedules are released. But is there any other coach in America that has Clemson circled as many times as North Carolina State head coach Dave Doeren.

There’s an argument to be made that nobody wants to beat Swinney as much as Doeren does. Ever since he took over in 2013, Doren has had plenty of close calls with Clemson, including the last two years where the Wolfpack were one play away. Instead, the Tigers are riding a six-game win streak, and Doeren grows more frustrated as the years go by.

© Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

With the Wolfpack returning to Death Valley, so brings back Ryan Finley who is one of the premiere starting quarterbacks in the entire country. Finley carved up Clemson’s defense in 2017, throwing for over 300 yards but two crucial interceptions in the fourth quarter led to the Wolfpack’s demise. The receiving corps should also be the best Clemson’s secondary will see up to that point and could prove to be a mighty test.

If Finley can play even better and get some help around him after seven players left for the NFL Draft, he could lead NC State to a shocking road performance one week ahead of Clemson’s pivotal trip to Tallahassee. Nothing would make Doeren happier.


Duke - 11/17

If everything goes Clemson’s way, the Tigers will have the Atlantic division wrapped up by the time the Duke Blue Devils come to town late in November. This game would be more about Clemson beating itself as the Tigers out-man Duke at almost every position.

There is the caution of looking ahead to a home game against in-state rival South Carolina one week later. Or even the ACC Championship two weeks later for a potential berth in the Playoff on the line. But veteran head coach David Cutcliffe will have Duke ready to play spoiler before the climax of Clemson’s season.

Quarterback Daniel Jones returns and is another top quarterback in the ACC the Tigers will have to face this season. With the decent skill players on offense around him, Duke’s offense could eclipse its scoring average of 19.8 points per game in ACC play. There’s also unproven talent at the cornerback position that could cause problems for Clemson’s young receivers.

As we said, it would take a significant hiccup on both sides of the ball for Clemson to fall this late in the season. With the game sandwiched between what could be a division-clinching game at Boston College and the rivalry against South Carolina, Duke could sneak up on Clemson the way Syracuse did in 2017.

Three Potential Trap Games for Clemson

Tigers Rise
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I agree about Boston College. That's going to be tougher than people expect and the environment can often lead you to play an underwhelming style of football.

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Can we just lay the hammer down on Dave Doeren please?!? That guy drives me insane.
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