Clemson football’s best 2023 games include FSU, Notre Dame

Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis (13) narrowly escapes the grasp of Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee (11) near the goal line during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Clemson won 34-28. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis (13) narrowly escapes the grasp of Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee (11) near the goal line during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Clemson won 34-28. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)


A massive ACC home opener and two can’t miss non-conference Power Five games are the highlights of Clemson’s 2023 football scheduled announced Monday night.

Here’s your instant analysis on the full 12-game schedule, including the most intriguing program and toughest stretch for coach Dabo Swinney’s Tigers as they shoot for an eighth ACC title in nine years.

Most intriguing opponent

Sept 23: Florida State at Clemson

Clemson fans weren’t too happy with the final AP Top 25 rankings of the 2022 season, which slotted No. 11 Florida State two spots above No. 13 Clemson despite the Tigers beating the Seminoles head to head — in Tallahassee — in October.

But that’s the level of respect (and hype) coach Mike Norvell’s program is commanding after a resurgent 10-3 season that saw Florida State topple eventual SEC West champion LSU in its season opener and finish second behind Clemson in the now-defunct ACC Atlantic.

FSU returns starting quarterback Jordan Travis, who’s started 35 games and holds program records for QB rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. He also had Pro Football Focus’ highest season-long grade (91.5) among FBS quarterbacks.

Oh, and the Seminoles also signed the No. 2 transfer class in the country, per 247Sports. That group includes three of the top 15 players in the portal: former Virginia cornerback Fentrell Cypress II, former South Carolina tight end/running back Jaheim Bell and former Western Michigan defensive lineman Braden Fiske.

There’s enough talent here to justify at least an AP top 15 preseason national ranking. Clemson and Florida State will likely wind up No. 1 and No. 2 in the ACC preseason poll, too. Buckle up for a league-defining matchup on Sept. 23 – and perhaps a championship game rematch?

Notre Dame cornerback Benjamin Morrison (20) begins to celebrate with teammates Xavier Watts (26) and Gabriel Rubio after Morrison’s interception of a pass by Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in South Bend, Ind. Notre Dame won 35-14. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) Charles Rex Arbogast AP

Toughest stretch

Oct. 21-Nov. 4: at Miami, at N.C. State, vs. Notre Dame

Coming off its open date, Clemson plays back-to-back road games for the first and only time in 2023 … then returns home to play a team they’re 2-2 against since 2018.

Miami might be manageable — the Tigers have outscored the Hurricanes 178-30 in their last four meetings — but N.C. State and Notre Dame have both dealt Clemson a season-altering loss in the past two years.

That’s a key late-season stretch that could either position Clemson as a top team in the first College Football Playoff ranking of the season or damage the Tigers’ résumé with UNC and South Carolina looming late.

Easiest stretch

Sept. 4-Sept. 16: at Duke, vs. Charleston Southern, vs. Florida Atlantic

Duke’s stunning turnaround under first-year coach Mike Elko has turned this into a sneaky fun season opener — Clemson visiting Durham for the first time since 2012 against a much-improved Blue Devils squad.

But history favors the Tigers. Outside of being the more talented team on paper, they’ve won 12 of their last 14 season openers and they’re 12-2-1 all time in season openers against ACC teams.

Clemson’s first-month mindset should be clear: Handle the Blue Devils on Labor Day and put yourself in a position to cruise past FCS Charleston Southern and Florida Atlantic in your two annual “buy games” and get ready for Florida State on Sept. 23.

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South Carolina defensive back Nick Emmanwori (21) recovers the fourth-quarter punt return fumble by Clemson’s Antonio Williams. Joshua Boucher

Best non-conference game

Nov. 25: Clemson at South Carolina

In recent years, this spot’s been reserved for Clemson’s other annual non-conference Power Five opponent: Georgia, Notre Dame, Texas A&M. Not this time.

South Carolina is king of the Palmetto Bowl up until the last of the November after beating Clemson, 31-30, in Memorial Stadium last year – an instant classic that snapped a 40-game home winning streak and eliminated the Tigers from College Football Playoff contention.

Coach Shane Beamer’s program is surging with the early No. 10 recruiting class of 2024 and quarterback Spencer Rattler and wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr. – who torched Clemson last year in Death Valley – among many starters back in the fold.

South Carolina could very well command a preseason top 25 ranking this fall. And given the Gamecocks’ late-season surges in 2021 and 2022, it’s worth asking: could this be the teams’ first ranked rivalry matchup since 2013?

Best quarterback battle

Nov. 4: Notre Dame at Clemson

Last year, Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman shredded Clemson for 337 passing yards and six touchdowns in a 51-45 double overtime loss. Now he gets an encore.

Hartman, who graduated from Wake Forest as the ACC’s career leader in passing touchdowns (110), gets one more trip to Death Valley as Notre Dame’s likely starting quarterback. Hartman, widely considered the top available quarterback in the transfer portal, transferred there earlier this month.

That sets up a great duel between Hartman and Clemson sophomore quarterback Cade Klubnik, who at that point will be eight games into his partnership with new offensive coordinator Garrett Riley.

UNC quarterback Drake Maye (at Clemson on Nov. 18) gets an honorable mention here, but the Tigers did stymie him in the ACC title game.

Clemson football 2023 schedule

  • Sept. 4 (Mon.): at Duke
  • Sept. 9: vs. Charleston Southern
  • Sept. 16: vs. Florida Atlantic
  • Sept. 23: vs. Florida State
  • Sept. 30: at Syracuse
  • Oct. 7: vs. Wake Forest
  • Oct. 14: OPEN
  • Oct. 21: at Miami
  • Oct. 28: at NC State
  • Nov. 4: vs. Notre Dame
  • Nov. 11: vs. Georgia Tech
  • Nov. 18: vs. North Carolina
  • Nov. 25: at South Carolina

This story was originally published January 30, 2023 8:40 PM.

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Chapel Fowler has covered Clemson football, among other topics, for The State since June 2022. He’s a Denver, N.C., native, a 2020 UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus and a pickup basketball enthusiast with previous stops at the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer and Chatham (N.C.) News + Record. His work has been honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors, the North Carolina Press Association and the Associated College Press.

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