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Keys to Victory: No. 25 Clemson vs. Charleston Southern

September 9, 2023

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Each week, we review the game’s history, three keys to success, and Swanny’s prediction.

The Match-Up:

No. 25 Clemson (0-1, 0-1 ACC) at Charleston Southern (1-0, 0-0 Big South)

Clemson will look to rebound from a disappointing season debut when the Tigers return home to Death Valley on Saturday, Sept. 9, for the team's home opener against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers. Kickoff at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C., is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. ET.

Clemson dropped its season opener at Duke, 28-7, on Labor Day evening. Clemson outgained Duke, 422-374, and led the Blue Devils in first downs, 29-17, hitting several additional statistical markers typically correlated with winning. "Honestly, in all my years of football, I've never been a part of a game like that ever," Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney said following the game. "I've been here at Clemson a long time. Since I've been a head coach, we were 58-0 when we rush for 200 [yards] and pass for 200 [yards]. That's usually a pretty good indicator, and I think in Clemson history, we were 108-0 [when hitting 200 yards in both categories] — never lost ever. But you've got to finish and obviously we did not do that.”

"So many opportunities. [We were] on the one-yard line a couple times. Went 1-for-4 in the red zone, a few turnovers, a couple low blocked kicks... Twice, first-andgoal from the one and didn't get any points. It's really, really disappointing, and really nothing else you can say about it."

Series History:

This is the first meeting between the schools.


Stat of the Week:

Entering this week’s contest, Clemson is a perfect 37-0 against Football Championship Subdivision teams since the NCAA formed the division prior to the 1978 season (Southern Conference schools became I-AA in 1982.)

Clemson has outscored FCS teams by a 1,555-254 margin all-time, an average victory margin of 35.2 points. Clemson has won 36 of the 37 games by double digits, including each of the last 11 by at least 23 points.

Only one FCS squad has stayed within double digits of Clemson. Clemson defeated Wofford, 35-27, in 2011, with Wofford’s 27 points standing as the most by an FCS school against Clemson. As a side note, that was in Chad Morris’ first season as offensive coordinator. 

Chasing History:

Clemson is attempting to improve to 38-0 against Football Championship Subdivision teams since the NCAA formed the division known previously as Division I-AA prior to the 1978 season.

Key 1: No Yosemite  

Dabo Swinney called Monday’s game the weirdest game he’s been a part of. Facts. That was as one of the most disappointing games I’ve witnessed in Swinney’s tenure. The Tigers have found ways to win games through the years, but against Duke, they found plenty of ways to lose.

I’ve been on several radio shows this week and when I’m asked if this team can still be one of the best teams in America, I give a quick and honest-- yes. Monday’s performance doesn't change what this team can be. The only thing that loss did was minimize Clemson’s margin for error moving forward-- as in ZERO. 


If Clemson stops shooting themselves in the foot, they will be just fine. But if they piece together another red zone hot mess along the way, this season will be a disappointment for a group that was talking about National Championships before Duke punched them square in the mouth.

Key 2: Two-Back Sets

The two-back set we saw at Duke looks like a promising wrinkle this year. Not to mention the wheels Cade Klubnik displayed while tracking down Jaylen Stinson on the huge fumble return. Between Will Shipley, Phil Mafah, and Cade Klubnik the Tigers should go all-in with the “Dirt Raid” offense. Right now, the entire group of wideouts has yet to prove trustworthy-- I’d pound the football against everyone. 

If there is anything that drives me crazy, it is when Clemson can’t take the top off a defense because teams are in a Cover 2 defense. If that were the case around CFB-- NO ONE would have big plays. You have to get teams out of the look; winning on the ground is a sure-fire way. 

Two high safeties cannot continue to make Clemson’s downfield passing game a non-factor. I’d like to see a few shots to the sidelines at least, and I think we will.

Key 3: Build Confidence

At times in Durham, it felt like shadows were chasing Klubnik from the Orange Bowl matchup with Tennessee. I believe he’s got the tools to be a great quarterback at Clemson, but the Tiger fans have been spoiled by the play of Trevor Lawrence and Deshaun Watson during their first few years on campus, and that’s skewed the expectations. 

I mentioned on the radio show this week that not only is it plausible, but it’s likely that you’ve already seen the best quarterback you will ever watch at Clemson. With that out of the way, you might have to be patient with Klubnik until he gets his feet in live game action under him. I don’t think we are there yet. 

If his wideouts were turning 50/50 balls into 80/20 plays maybe he would have some more confidence, but even on great throws, Klubnik didn’t get much help from the wideouts and tight ends. That’s got to get better so he can get right between the ears.


This game will get away from the Buccanneers, as the Tigers just have too much talent. Not to mention the sour taste that still lingers after what was ultimately an embarrassing display at Duke.

In all honesty, even with the mistakes Clemson had, they still should be good enough to beat the Blue Devils, which means that not only did they shoot themselves they underperformed across the board. Not today.

Clemson 45, Charleston Southern 10

Swanny’s Predictions: 

Date 2022 Schedule Predictions Swanny’s Prediction Actual Score ✅ or 

9-4-2023 No. 9 Clemson @ Duke 38-17 Clemson  28-7 Duke
9-9-2023 No. 25 Clemson vs. Charleston Southern 45-10 Clemson

✅ = Correct Prediction

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Keys to Victory: No. 25 Clemson vs. Charleston Southern

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