1. FLORIDA STATE
at Tallahassee, Fla.
Last year: FSU won 51-14 at Clemson
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Why it’s important: Winner is lock to win ACC Atlantic.
FSU report: Several of Jameis Winston’s complementary pieces bailed for the NFL, but coach Jimbo Fisher reloaded with a top recruiting class.
Ed McGranahan says: “The thinking was the Seminoles with a freshman QB were ripe for picking in Death Valley last year. We know how it ended.”
2. SOUTH CAROLINA
at Memorial Stadium
Last year: USC won 31-17 at Columbia
Why it’s important: Tigers trying to end five-game losing streak to Gamecocks.
USC report: Steve Spurrier returns with a new contract, and playing in Clemson or anywhere hasn’t been a problem for the past five seasons.
McGranahan says: “Spurrier and his staff outcoached Dabo Swinney and his in at least the past three games.”
at Memorial Stadium
Last year: First year for Cardinals in ACC
Why it’s important: Louisville becomes one of Clemson’s top ACC rivals.
Louisville report: He’s a creative offense mind, but new coach Bobby Petrino will miss QB Teddy Bridgewater. It could take time to rebuild.
McGranahan says: “Louisville came within 23 seconds of playing for the national title, a 38-35 loss to UCF costing the Cards an undefeated season.”
4. GEORGIA TECH
Last year: Clemson won 55-31 at home
Why it’s important: Key division game
Tech report: QB Vad Lee transferred to James Madison (“triple option was never my thing”). But Tech was again one of the most prolific run-first teams in nation.
McGranahan says: “It appears the offensive tapestry coach Paul Johnson wove has begun to unravel, though he wouldn’t admit it after a 7-6 record last year.”
at Athens, Ga., ESPN
Last year: Clemson won 38-35 at home
Why it’s important: Win moves Tigers way up in polls
Georgia report: Having Jeremy Pruitt fix the defense is the biggest issue. The Bulldogs can ram it down your throat with Todd Gurley.
McGranahan says: “Mark Richt revamped his defensive staff, assembled an impressive recruiting class and plunged forward after an 8-5 season.”