Clemson football will have back-to-back early season games against Top 20 opponents

CLEMSON – Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney tried to act surprised about being ranked fourth in preseason.

“Wow, man, wow!” Swinney said after Monday’s practice.

NC State and Wake Forest, back-to-back early opponents expected to be Clemson’s best challengers in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, both made Monday’s preseason top 20 of the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll. Clemson was No. 4, behind only Alabama, Ohio State and defending national champion Georgia.

Clemson travels Sept. 24 to No. 19 Wake Forest and plays at home Oct. 1 against No. 13 NC State.

“I don’t really care about that stuff,” Swinney said. “We were ranked (second) last year and we finished 15th. That’s the only thing that matters. … That’s just something to talk about right now. It doesn’t have anything to do with December or November. All that will be determined by what happens on the field.”

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney talks to the media before the first day of fall football practice at the Allen Reeves Complex in Clemson Friday, August 5, 2022.

In November, Clemson plays at fifth-ranked Notre Dame and will finish the ACC schedule at home two weeks later against No. 17 Miami.

Clemson is in its first full week of preseason practice leading to the Sept. 5 opener in the ACC Kickoff against Georgia Tech. The Tigers then have home games against Furman and Louisiana Tech.

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Wake Forest will be in the top 20 and could be inching towards the top 15 when it faces Clemson. The Demon Deacons will have played VMI, Vanderbilt on the road and Liberty. Facing Clemson is a monumental step up and that could be a problem.

NC State should be on a roll and just outside the top 10 when it comes to Clemson in October. The Wolfpack will start at East Carolina and then play at home for three straight games against Charleston Southern, Texas Tech and UConn.

Notre Dame plays Ohio State in a highly anticipated season-opener between top-five teams. Even if the Irish lose, they’ll have plenty of time to build their way back to a similar spot. The tough part of their schedule is back-to-back at North Carolina and BYU, followed by a home game against Stanford.

Miami doesn’t have to play NC State or Wake Forest this season. The Hurricanes won’t face Pitt, their expected challenger in the Coastal Division, until the last game of the regular season. There are trips to Virginia and Virginia Tech as well as a home game against UNC. But the big hurdle is Sept. 17 at Texas Tech.

Todd Shanesy covers Clemson athletics for the USA TODAY Network.

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Where will opponents rank in the USA TODAY Top 25 when they face Clemson?

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