Clemson Football’s Top 5 Games of 2024

College Football talking season is upon us. If you can look past the ever-quotable Dabo Swinney and his Transfer Portal takes, or even beyond the massive news coming from the NCAA about paying student-athletes, there’s still actual football to discuss. Today, let’s discuss Clemson Football’s five biggest games of the upcoming season, and what the Tigers should be looking for in these matchups this Fall. We’ll count them down from fifth to first in order of impact, starting with a late game visit to Lane Stadium.

5. Clemson vs. Virginia Tech

November 9 – Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA

A trip to Blacksburg to face the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium is not always an easy thing to do, especially with a team as deep as 2024’s version that will be waiting to meet you there. Returning all 22 starters, coach Brent Pry has the Hokies in a great position to compete in the ACC yet again.

Offensively, players like Ali Jennings and Da’Quan Felton will look to give this young Clemson secondary fits. Quarterback Kyron Drones started to figure things out the later part of the 2023 season, and he’ll look to continue that success in 2024. On defense, junior linebacker Keli Lawson helped the Hokies defense hold opponents to 23.9 points per game, while senior defensive end Antwuan Powell-Ryland Jr. wreaked havoc on opposing offenses – wracking up over 100 yards in tackles for loss.

Recent history would suggest Clemson has the upper hand in this matchup, but nothing can be assured when going on the road late in the season into a hostile environment like Lane Stadium and Enter Sandman. While a difficult task, the Tigers will be circling a few other games on their schedule this season as well.

4. NC State vs. Clemson

September 21 – Clemson Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC

The Wolfpack will pose an early-season litmus test for this 2024 Clemson Football team. Having beat Clemson in two of the last three, NC State has been a thorn in the side of Dabo and Co. for years. Ever owning the “little brother” syndrome, last year’s 24-17 Wolfpack win in Raleigh felt like salt in the wound of an already relatively down year for the Clemson program, where NC State fans didn’t even “rush the field” after winning – just a regular home win for the Wolfpack faithful.

To add insult to injury, again, the 2024 version of NC State will not be a walk in the park. Coach Dave Doeren has continued to keep his team in the ACC title hunt through an infusion of talent via the Transfer Portal, as well as by relying on stalwarts with returning experience. On offense, an experienced offensive line will play to the strengths of its skills players, one of which being KC Concepcion, who makes the offense tick. The new gunslinger in town is former Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall, who may be the biggest pickup for NC State out of the Transfer Portal thus far. Throw in the likes of Duke transfer running back Jordan Waters, and this Wolfpack offense will be humming in 2024. Defensively, senior defensive end Davin Vann and senior safety Devan Boykin will look to fill the holes that players like Payton Wilson have left.

All in all, the first conference game at home is crucial for the Tigers, who will need to try to get off to a good start in ACC play. Clemson has to have this one, but maybe not more than they’ll like to have the other three games on this list.

3. South Carolina vs. Clemson

November 30 – Clemson Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC

Is it a do-or-die year for coach Shane Beamer? With another difficult schedule on the horizon for the South Carolina Gamecocks, the program will need to perform well in 2024 – including a good game against Clemson in Death Valley – to get their head coach off of the hot seat. The Tigers will do their best to make sure that doesn’t happen.

While the 2024 version of the Gamecocks aren’t as much of a competition as some of the others teams on this list, it always means something a little bit extra when it comes to playing the in-state arch-rivals. First-year starter and highly-touted quarterback LaNorris Sellers will hope to be the Gamecocks’ savior this Fall. He’ll have teammates like Juju McDowell, Nyck Harbor, and exciting transfer prospect and former Arkansas running back Raheim Sanders to help. Sellers will also hope to have better support from an offensive line that was much maligned and blamed for many of the team’s 2023 challenges of their previous quarterback, Spencer Rattler. The South Carolina defense is definitely the strength of this team, with Nick Emmanwori and Jalon Kilgore leading the charge. Even in a win last year in Columbia, Clemson couldn’t muster an offensive touchdown against this rugged Gamecock opposition.

On the flip side, look no further than the Clemson loss to South Carolina at home two seasons ago – which ultimately kept Clemson out of the College Football Playoffs – as motivation to not let this late-season rivalry game fall by the wayside. While there are two other games that play a bigger role in the success of Clemson’s 2024 season, a win or loss against South Carolina in the regular season finale means everything to those who know this rivalry well.

2. Clemson vs. Georgia

August 31 – Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA

As rivalries go, this might be one of the biggest that hasn’t had a chance to express itself as often as some fans would like. Recent iterations of this game have given us plenty of back and forth affairs, but the 2024 version of this game has national media predicting that it will replicate the current trajectory of the two programs – Georgia showing its continued dominance at the top of the College Football landscape, and Clemson slipping back into the decades of good-not-great territory. Outside of the national storylines this game will bring, it will mean so much more to fans, recruits, and players looking to check the “win the opener” goal off of the list.

Coming off of a 13-1 campaign, the Georgia Bulldogs are the class of the power five. After losing a close SEC championship game to Alabama, Georgia focused that disappointment into a 63-3 drubbing of ACC champion and playoff-snub 13-1 Florida State in the Orange Bowl a few weeks later. The Bulldogs don’t need any more motivation and momentum going into another game against an ACC opponent looking to flex their muscles. Quarterback Carson Beck comes back to follow up his all-conference 2023 campaign with an all-american performance of his own. He’ll have receiver RaRa Thomas and tight end Oscar Delp, among others, to throw the ball to. Add in big-time Transfer Portal recruit and former Florida Gator running back Trevor Etienne and the Bulldog offense will be a force to be reckoned with. Defensively, its more of the same for Georgia. Elite playmakers all over the field, primarily from top-tier recruiting across the board. All-american safety Malaki Starks is back, as well as former Clemson commit Daylen Everette and top-rated recruit KJ Bolden, who will look to keep coach Kirby Smart’s defense the best of the best.

While a statement opportunity for Georgia, a solid Clemson showing will place them in a good place both internally and nationally as a program that hasn’t lost it’s footing for “elite” status just yet. For all of the reasons listed, this game could be switched to be listed as the biggest for 2024, but it comes in at a close number two on this list.

1. Clemson vs. Florida State

October 5 – Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL

Nothing says “rivalry” like all the stakes pushed in to the middle of the proverbial “conference powerhouse and pecking order” table than the age-old back-and-forth between Clemson and Florida State. Maybe more so than any other game this year, the 2024 version should be one for the history books. Last year’s game was great, with Clemson falling in overtime in Death Valley. More than the final score, what will this year’s game say about the state of these two warring programs?

Opposite to Dabo, Coach Mike Norvell took a faltering basement program back to national relevance using a quick-fix approach of the Transfer Portal. Recently coupled with great recruiting classes, Norvell is looking to keep Florida State at the top of the ACC food chain. The defense returns a salty group to defend their conference title, which led many ACC and national categories due to the efforts of players like defensive end Patrick Payton, cornerback Fentrell Cypress, and linebacker DJ Lundy. The Seminoles will add Georgia Transfer linebacker Marvin Jones Jr. to help sure up that side of the ball. On offense, senior running back Lawrence Toafili will be joined by Alabama transfers Malik Benson and Roydell Williams. Oh, and did we forget to mention? If you’ve been living under a rock, you may have missed that former Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei is now the starting quarterback at Florida State. If this matchup needed any more juice, DJ U transferring to play for the Seminoles added all it needed and more. He’ll be looking to show his former team how much they miss him, while the Tigers will be looking to show their former signal caller what he is missing.

Conference title chances, against a true road rival, led by a former Tiger quarterback, coached by a staff that values the opposite of what Clemson values, will be must-see football action – and be the most important game for this 2024 Clemson football team.

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