CLEMSON -- Clemson football received a double dose of difficult news Monday. First, Jadeveon Clowney chose South Carolina over the Tigers, and hours later the 2011 football schedule was released.

Ten teams on Clemson's schedule went to bowl games and six teams won at least nine games.

Clemson faces a daunting three-game stretch early in the season, playing defending national champion Auburn in the third game of the season (Sept. 17) at Death Valley, followed by hosting Atlantic champ Florida State (Sept. 24) and traveling to play at ACC champion Virginia Tech on Oct. 1.

It's not the type of schedule Dabo Swinney was seeking as the Tigers are coming off their first losing season in 12 years.

"This is certainly the most challenging schedule since I have been at Clemson, including my time as an assistant," Swinney said. "I don't know how many teams nationally have three straight games against FBS teams that won at least 10 games the previous year. "All Clemson fans will be excited to have the defending national champions come to Death Valley. It was a thrilling overtime game at Auburn last year, and I know it will be a special environment at our place this year. Florida State and Virginia Tech back-to-back is a tall order to open the conference schedule," he said. "And that is just in the first five games."

After the difficult three-game stretch, Clemson travels to play at Maryland (Oct. 15), is home against North Carolina (Oct. 22), at Georgia Tech (Oct. 29), then an open date before closing with Wake Forest (Nov. 12), at N.C. State (Nov. 19) and at South Carolina (Nov. 26).

"We are going to have to improve on the road over last year," Swinney said. "The five teams we play away from home won 44 combined games last year. Those will all be difficult places to play with sold-out crowds."

--Former Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier has joined the Alabama staff as a quality control assistant. Napier was fired after Clemson's bowl loss.

Check out the Clemson blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks and follow on Twitter @travis_sawchik.