Clemson faces difficult early road

Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel and the Seminoles host Clemson on Sept. 22.

CLEMSON — Clemson football begins away from home, faces likely Atlantic favorite Florida State early in the season on the road, and will try to avoid a fourth-straight loss to South Carolina as the Tigers hopes to repeat least year’s double-digit win campaign.

The following is an analysis of Clemson’s schedule 40 days from the opening kick in the Georgia Dome:

Sept. 1 vs. Auburn in Atlanta

Clemson snapped a 14-game losing streak against the then defending national champions last September, and could start its first winning streak against Auburn since winning back-to-back years in 1950 and 1951.

Clemson will open away from Death Valley for just the seventh time since 1975, and while it is 1-5 in openers away from Clemson, Auburn has lost star tailback Michael Dyer to a transfer, and Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier is expected to make his first start. Auburn does return nine defensive starters including star defensive end Corey Lemonier (9½ sacks) who will test Clemson’s young line.

Sept. 8 vs. Ball State

Clemson last played Ball State in 2002. Clemson should be heavily favored against the MAC opponent.

Sept. 15 vs. Furman

Furman is Clemson’s oldest rival, having first met in 1896 and last in 2007. Furman has had little modern day success at Clemson.

Sept. 22 at Florida State

This game could very well determine the Atlantic Division. The Seminoles are a national title contender with an incredibly talented and deep defensive line, led by speed-rushing end Brandon Jenkins. The Seminoles also have a talented secondary and return 10 defensive starters.

FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel has superstar potential with his size, speed and athleticism, and he improved as 2011 went along, not throwing an interception in his last 121 pass attempts. Clemson has lost its last two games at Florida State.

Sept. 29 at Boston College

Boston College is typically a tough out for Clemson, though the Tigers have won three of the last four meetings. Clemson did lose at 2010 in Boston College when the Eagles broke from their offensive tendencies and Kyle Parker played poorly for Clemson.

Boston College should improve offensively from last season’s 4-8 team as it returns 10 starters, but on defense it loses four starters including linebacker star Luke Kuechly.

Oct. 6 vs. Georgia Tech

Clemson’s perfect season came to an end at Georgia Tech last season. Clemson was hurt by its inexperienced backfield as running back Andre Ellington was injured.

Under Kevin Steele, the Tigers’ defense largely struggled against the Georgia Tech option and Brent Venables will get his first chance against the Yellow Jackets’ offense as the new Clemson defensive coordinator. The home team has won six of the last seven meetings in the series.

Oct. 20 vs. Virginia Tech

Clemson defeated Tech on the road and in the ACC title game last season.

Virginia Tech lost star back David Wilson, but is still talented and has a Heisman contender in quarterback Logan Thomas.

Oct. 25 at Wake Forest

The Demon Deacons return just 11 of 22 starters from last year’s 6-7 team. Clemson needed a comeback from a 28-14 third-quarter deficit to win. Clemson has won three straight vs. Wake.

Nov. 3 at Duke

With 17 starters back, including 65-percent passer Sean Renfree, the Blue Devils might have a shot to become bowl eligible. Clemson has only won five of its last nine meetings in Durham.

Nov. 10 vs. Maryland

Maryland loses five offensive starters from last year’s 2-10 team but returns dual-threat quarterback C.J. Brown, who gave Clemson fits last season. Will Venables’ defense be better able to handle a dual-threat quarterback?

Nov. 17 vs. N.C. State

The Wolfpack is an ACC sleeper team with Mike Glennon stepping out of Russell Wilson’s shadow to quietly become one of the better QBs in the country.

Nov. 24 vs. South Carolina

South Carolina has the talent to beat Clemson for a fourth straight time, something that hasn’t happened since 1951-54. South Carolina has won three straight games by an average margin of victory of 20 points.