Tigers have big road tests at Auburn, Florida State

Clemson players run down the hill at Memorial Stadium prior to every home game. The Tigers have seven home games this season and play their home opener Sept. 12 against Troy.

CLEMSON — It would be difficult to quantify how often this has occurred in college football history, but Clemson will play its first three road games of the year under the lights on primetime television, and there is a distinct possibility the fourth will follow suit.

The Tigers already knows their season opener is at Auburn on Sat., Sept. 3 at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. locally at Jordan-Hare Stadium). They also know their first two ACC road games are midweek affairs: Thurs. Sept. 22 at Georgia Tech and Fri. Oct. 7 at Boston College, both at 7:30 in the evening.

Road game No. 4? If Clemson and Florida State are each undefeated, or at least in the top 10 when Oct. 29 rolls around, it will be mighty difficult for the ACC and ESPN to keep those teams off the television set for that 8 p.m. national game of the week slot.

So while it’s probably not being discussed very thoroughly inside the West End Zone, the Tigers will have to be extremely road-tough in terms of hostile environments — and get some solid late-morning shut-eye in those hotels.

WHO: at Auburn

WHEN: Sept. 3, 9 p.m.

SERIES: Auburn leads, 34-13-2

LAST MEETING: Clemson 26, Auburn 19 in Atlanta (Sept. 1, 2012)

VEGAS LINE: Clemson by 7½

THE SKINNY: Clemson’s .167 winning percentage in Auburn is Clemson’s second-worst on the road against any opponent with at least three trips. (Clemson is 0-7 at Alabama). Good Auburn teams traditionally have run the ball well; Jovon Robinson (5.46 yards per carry) should have Auburn’s No. 1 job with Peyton Barber and Roc Thomas no longer around. Former Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is now running Auburn’s defense.

WHO: Troy

WHEN: Sept. 10, 12:30 p.m.

SERIES: Clemson leads, 1-0

LAST MEETING: Clemson 43, Troy 19 in Clemson (Sept. 3, 2011)

VEGAS LINE: None posted

THE SKINNY: This game breaks a streak of five consecutive Clemson football games away from Memorial Stadium. Troy junior quarterback Brandon Silvers set the NCAA freshman record for completion percentage with a 70.5 percent clip in 2014, and he fired 20 touchdown passes last year — but the Trojans are 7-15 in games he starts. Troy has not been to a bowl in five years.

WHO: South Carolina State

WHEN: Sept. 17, noon

SERIES: Clemson leads, 3-0

LAST MEETING: Clemson 73, S.C. State 7 in Clemson (Sept. 6, 2014)

VEGAS LINE: None posted

THE SKINNY: Clemson has played at least one FCS team each of the last nine years and holds a 30-0 record against the Football Championship Subdivision members. In all of Division I football, Clemson has the most wins against FCS opponents without a loss. S.C. State is beginning to develop higher-level athletes, with multiple players picked in the 2016 NFL draft. The Bulldogs led all FCS teams with 121 tackles for a loss in 2015.

WHO: at Georgia Tech

WHEN: Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m.

SERIES: Georgia Tech leads, 51-27-2

LAST MEETING: No. 6 Clemson 43, Georgia Tech 24 in Clemson (Oct. 10, 2015)

VEGAS LINE: Clemson by 12½

THE SKINNY: Last year was the first under Paul Johnson the Yellow Jackets did not average at least 275 yards on the ground or finish in the top six nationally in the category; Georgia Tech totaled just 30 rushing touchdowns last season after a stretch with at least 45 each year from 2011-14. Senior linebacker P.J. Davis led the team in tackles and TFLs last year, while defensive end KeShun Freeman and sophomore linebacker Brant Mitchell are strong returning pieces.

WHO: Louisville

WHEN: Oct. 1

SERIES: Clemson leads, 2-0

LAST MEETING: Clemson 20, Louisville 17 in Louisville (Sept. 17, 2015)

VEGAS LINE: None posted

THE SKINNY: Louisville has 18 returning starters. Of the 10 teams the Tigers took on each of the past two years, Louisville is the only one Clemson didn’t beat by double digits at least once. All 16 Cardinals who caught a pass in 2015 are listed on the online post-spring roster, and All-ACC selections Keith Kelsey, DeAngelo Brown and Devonte Fields return to Louisville’s defense.

WHO: at Boston College

WHEN: Oct. 7, 7:30 p.m.

SERIES: Clemson leads, 13-9-2

LAST MEETING: Clemson 34, Boston College 17 in Clemson (Oct. 17, 2015)

VEGAS LINE: None posted

THE SKINNY: Despite ranking No. 1 in total defense, Boston College won just three games in 2015. The Eagles scored 100 points in their first two games (both vs. FCS teams) and 106 points in their final 10 games, recording a 1-9 mark against FBS competition. Four of BC’s leading six tacklers are back, highlighted by third-team all-ACC linebacker Matt Milano.

WHO: North Carolina State

WHEN: Oct. 15

SERIES: Clemson leads, 55-28-1

LAST MEETING: Clemson 56, N.C. State 41 in Raleigh (Oct. 31, 2015)

VEGAS LINE: None posted

THE SKINNY: With Jacoby Brissett gone to the pros, N.C. State looks to a quarterback competition between redshirt sophomore Jalan McClendon and redshirt freshman Jakobi Meyers. N.C. State was 29th nationally in total defense at 350.7 yards a game in 2015 with a perfect 7-0 mark when allowing the opponent no more than 305 yards a game. The Wolfpack has a 68-69 record since 2005.

WHO: at Florida State

WHEN: Oct. 29

SERIES: Florida State leads, 20-9

LAST MEETING: Clemson 23, Florida State 13 in Clemson (Nov. 7, 2015)

VEGAS LINE: Florida State by 3½

THE SKINNY: Dalvin Cook, who had shoulder surgery in early April, was one of only two backs in the nation to reach 1,000 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns and an average of at least seven yards a carry. Quarterback Sean Maguire missed all of spring practices after breaking his ankle in the Peach Bowl, but is on track to return for fall camp to compete with freshman Deondre Francois. FSU’s ninth-rated total D should only get better in 2016 behind an experienced defensive line featuring DeMarcus Walker, Derrick Nnadi and Josh Sweat.

WHO: Syracuse

WHEN: Nov. 5

SERIES: Clemson leads, 3-1

LAST MEETING: Clemson 37, Syracuse 27 in Syracuse (Nov. 14, 2015)

VEGAS LINE: None posted

THE SKINNY: Duking it out to become the Orange’s starting quarterback are sophomore Eric Dungey, junior Zack Mahoney, redshirt junior Austin Wilson and true freshman Rex Culpepper, a former Clemson-offered recruit who enrolled in January. Key returning skill players include punt returner Brisly Estime, receiver Steve Ishmael and running back Jordan Fredericks. Dino Babers is one of four new head coaches in the ACC.

WHO: Pittsburgh

WHEN: Nov. 12

SERIES: Pitt leads, 1-0

LAST MEETING: Pittsburgh 34, Clemson 33 in Gator Bowl (Dec. 30, 1977)

VEGAS LINE: Clemson by 15½

THE SKINNY: Running back James Conner, the 2014 ACC Player of the Year, returns to school after a season-ending knee injury and treatment for cancer. Senior quarterback Nate Peterman is one of three returning ACC quarterbacks who threw 20 touchdowns in 2015, and four offensive linemen return led by tackle Adam Bisnowaty and guard Dorian Johnson. Safety Jordan Whitehead was the ACC’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.

WHO: at Wake Forest

WHEN: Nov. 19

SERIES: Clemson leads, 63-17-1

LAST MEETING: Clemson 33, Wake Forest 13 in Clemson (Nov. 21, 2015)

VEGAS LINE: None posted

THE SKINNY: Junior quarterback John Wolford has started 22 games and thrown for more than 3,800 yards, while Kendall Hinton got some experience as a freshman. By late November, it’s possible Wake Forest will see what redshirt freshman Kyle Kearns has got. The Demon Deacons haven’t played in a bowl game or beaten a top 25 opponent since 2011.

WHO: South Carolina

WHEN: Nov. 26

SERIES: Clemson leads, 67-42-4

LAST MEETING: Clemson 37, South Carolina 32 in Columbia (Nov. 28, 2015)

VEGAS LINE: Clemson by 20½

THE SKINNY: By the time Nov. 29 rolls around, the Gamecocks could be starting quarterback Brandon McIlwain or Jake Bentley, neither of whom were collegians when the calendar flipped to 2016. The Gamecocks’ defense was dealt a difficult hand when leading linebacker Skai Moore was ruled out for the 2016 season as he recovers from surgery for a herniated disk in his neck. The leadership will have to come from senior cornerback Rico McWilliams and senior linebackers T.J. Holloman, Jordan Diggs and Jonathan Walton.