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The Tiger

If Tigers beat Wolfpack, is the ACC Atlantic locked up?

The Clemson Tigers have gotten off to an outstanding start to the 2018 season winning each of their first six games. While the start has been impressive, there is still half a season left to work with.

Of the six games remaining on their schedule, four will be played in front of their home crowd at Death Valley. The two biggest games remaining are this week’s matchup with No. 20 NC State and in-state rival South Carolina on November 24th. The Tigers will face their first ranked opponent against NC State in a game that has huge implications for the ACC Atlantic. Both teams will come into the game with an undefeated record and the winner will walk away with a clear path to the ACC championship game. In last year’s matchup, the Tigers barely edged the Wolfpack by a score of 38-31 on the road. This year’s NC State team, lead by senior quarterback Ryan Finley, should prove to be another tough test for Clemson.

Following the NC State game, the Tigers will stay at home to face Louisville and Duke. After losing former heisman winner Lamar Jackson to the NFL, Louisville has not been able to replace the production of their superstar. The Cardinals are just 2-4 on the season and are coming off a blowout 66-31 loss to Georgia Tech. Unlike Louisville, Duke has exceeded expectations this season and enter week eight with a 5-1 record overall. As long as the Blue Devils take care of some weak opponents, they should enter Death Valley with an 8-1 record and possibly being ranked. Duke made a quick appearance in the top 25 last month before losing to ACC Coastal rival Virginia Tech. Duke will be looking for their first win over the Tigers since 2004.

After the three game home-stand the Tigers will hit the road for games against ACC opponents Florida State and Boston College. Florida State is having another underwhelming season with a 3-3 record overall and a 1-3 record in conference play. Even in the games they have won, the Seminoles have been unimpressive as they have beaten Samford, Northern Illinois, and Louisville by a combined 32 points. In last year’s game, despite entering with five losses, the Seminoles trailed the Tigers by just three points in the fourth quarter. While Florida State has struggled this season, expect them to be ready to play spoiler in front of their home crowd at the end of the month.

Clemson will open up their November slate with a matchup against the Boston College Eagles on the road. Boston College is currently 4-2 and are shaping up to be a formidable opponent late in the season. The Eagles are led by sophomore running back AJ Dillon who has already compiled 677 yards and seven touchdowns this year. The strengths of the eagles figure to play right into the strengths of the Tigers however as Clemson’s defensive line is perhaps the team’s biggest asset.

Clemson will wrap up the regular season with the highly anticipated annual contest with rival South Carolina. The Tigers have dominated the Gamecocks in recent years winning the past four consecutive matchups. They have walloped the Gamecocks over the past two season especially, winning by a combined score of 90-17.  The gamecocks are putting together another mediocre season with a 3-3 record and no wins against ranked opponents. Quarterback Jake Bentley has been a big part of the team’s mediocrity as he has already thrown seven interceptions in the five games that he has played in. South Carolina will need Bentley to step up his game if they want to have a shot of winning in Death Valley, but given his track record against the Tigers, an upset seems like a long shot.

While the Tigers should be favored to win each of their remaining six games, there will certainly be some challenges along the way. Given the Tigers lack of top 25 wins this season, they will likely have to win each of their remaining games including the ACC championship game if they want to be in the College Football Playoff. Dabo Swinney and the Tigers will look to take on the rest of the season one game at a time as they try to put up their first undefeated regular season since 2015.

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