Clemson football: 3 toughest remaining matchups

clemson football

Clemson football remains atop the ACC and AP Top 25 Poll after demolishing No. 7 Miami 42-17 last weekend. In the complete effort, Travis Etienne and Trevor Lawrence cemented themselves as Heisman Trophy candidates with dominant performances, while Clemson’s vaunted defense de-fanged Miami’s offense entirely. The Hurricanes 210 yards of offense to Clemson’s 550.

With D’Eriq King and the Hurricanes behind them, Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers only face two more ranked teams throughout the regular season. Except for its Nov. 7 opponent, Clemson should steamroll its remaining competition. A shot at the ACC Championship and another berth in the College Football Playoff are in sight.

However, before Swinney’s team celebrates another elite season, Clemson football must take care of business against its best remaining challengers.

Boston College Eagles

The Tigers have a nine-game winning streak over the Eagles dating back to 2011. However, if one of Clemson’s remaining unranked opponents could force a historic upset, it would be Jeff Hafley’s Eagles. In his first season as Boston College’s head coach, Hafley has his team sitting at 3-1 with the only loss coming against the North Carolina Tar Heels.

While the Eagles don’t feature nearly as many star prospects as Clemson, several players are performing at noticeably high levels this season. Wide receiver Zay Flowers is averaging one touchdown and over 100 yards per game. Notre Dame transfer quarterback Phil Jurkovec is averaging 295 passing yards per game and has eight touchdowns to only two interceptions.

Boston College usually has a strong running game and a hopeless air attack. Jurkovec is slowly changing that narrative. Unfortunately, the Eagles still haven’t found a suitable replacement for AJ Dillon, who entered the 2020 NFL Draft.

As for Boston College’s defense, it’s only given up 30 points once this season. Isaiah McDuffie leads the team with three sacks, and his 41 total tackles lead the ACC.

While the Eagles might keep pace with Clemson for a half, I have a hard time seeing Boston College sticking with the Tigers through four quarters. At some point, the floodgates will open.

The Eagles travel to Death Valley for their match against the nation’s top team on Oct. 31.

Virginia Tech Hokies

The Hokies rank 23rd in the most recent AP Poll, despite losing to North Carolina last week. Three games into their season, Justin Fuente’s team is 2-1, with both wins coming against ACC opponents. Surprisingly, Virginia Tech’s offense is lighting opponents up this year. The Hokies scored 45 points in their season opener, 38 in a win over Duke and 45 in last week’s 11-point loss to the Tar Heels.

Virginia Tech hasn’t beaten the Tigers since 2007, and two of Clemson’s five consecutive wins over the Hokies came in the ACC Championship Game. It’s unlikely Fuente’s team picks up a win when it plays Clemson on Dec. 5, but it has a respectable running game led by Kansas transfer Khalil Herbert. Herbert is second in the ACC in rushing yards with 450, only trailing Louisville’s Javian Hawkins.

Unfortunately for the Hokies, Clemson just held Miami’s Cam’Ron Harris to three yards on eight carries. Harris entered last week’s matchup averaging over 100 rushing yards per game. The main source of Virginia Tech’s high-scoring offense won’t work against Brent Venables’ defense.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The Fighting Irish and their fans wish they could forget their last game against Clemson. In 2018, the Tigers faced off against Brian Kelly’s Fighting Irish in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. Clemson decimated Notre Dame, winning 30-3 and advancing to the national championship where it embarrassed Alabama 44-16.

Three games into their season, the Fighting Irish hold the No. 4 spot in the nation with wins against Duke, South Florida and Florida State. A brush with COVID-19 caused them to miss some time, but Kelly’s team is back in action. They don’t face Clemson until Nov. 7.

Notre Dame is Clemson’s only high-ranking opponent remaining. A trip to the College Football Playoff runs through Notre Dame Stadium for Swinney’s Tigers. While Clemson might not repeat its 30-3 beating, the Tigers have some notable advantages against the Fighting Irish.

For starters, Lawrence blows Ian Book out of the water. While Book is a quality starting quarterback, he crumbles against tougher competition. Even behind Notre Dame’s offensive line, the senior isn’t safe from Clemson’s relentless pass rush. Running back Kyren Williams might give the Tigers some trouble, but I thought the same thing about Harris last week. Look how that turned out.

At the simplest level, Notre Dame lacks the talent to keep pace with Clemson throughout a game. Even after sending some of college football’s best players to the NFL less than a year ago, the Tigers have a new class of elite prospects on both sides of the ball. Outside of Alabama and maybe Georgia, no team can compete with Clemson football.