Breaking Down Clemson’s 2021 Football Schedule

by Aaron J. Bass

Photo courtesy of Clemson athletics

Clemson, SC – A new year has started in the upstate.

2021 is in full effect. On Thursday, we got our first peek at the new Clemson football schedule.

The Goals

The goals for Clemson Football remain the same:

  • Win the opener
  • Win the division
  • Win the state
  • Win the conference
  • Win the closer

It has never been Clemson’s goal to make the College Football Playoff or win a national championship. As head coach Dabo Swinney says, “That is all a byproduct of us accomplishing all our goals.”

Win The Opener

Clemson will open up the 2021 season with a rivalry renewed. For the first time since 2014, Clemson will play Georgia in a bitter rivalry that now has new meaning. This time however, it will be a neutral-site clash in Charlotte.

Back in the day, Clemson facing Georgia was an annual fixture as the two would trade home-and-homes year in and year out. However with the expansions of the ACC and SEC, the two rivals grew apart.

The most recent clashes was a home-and-home series back in 2013 and 2014. The Tigers took the first meeting at Death Valley, but the Bulldogs surged for a dominant win the next season in a contest that featured the debut of Deshaun Watson. What’s similar to the last series is that not much separates these two powers.

Both Clemson and Georgia have quickly become two of the biggest names in college football. Clemson has won two national championships in past five years. The Dawgs, on the other hand, have only made one College Football Playoff and national championship appearance in that time. However, they are poised to make a run in 2021.

The Tigers and Bulldogs both return significant playmakers for the 2021 campaign. Clemson will be returning all 11 starters on defense. Georgia will return their offensive trifecta in JT Daniels, Zamir White, and George Pickens.

Former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. (Clemson athletics)

Both teams will also have to replace playmakers as well. The Bulldogs will have to replace their entire secondary as transfers and pro decisions leaves their secondary room shorthanded. However, Clemson will have to replace quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Trevor Lawrence, two-time ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne, and two starting wide receivers in Cornell Powell and Amari Rodgers.

This neutral-site clash will truly be good on good and new on new action.

Win The Division

Following Clemson’s second game vs. South Carolina State, the Tigers will open up conference versus another rival from Georgia. The Tigers will play host to a Georgia Tech team they thumped 73-7 in Atlanta last season. With the Yellow Jackets still in a rebuild, it’s hard to expect a competitive match-up this go-around but head coach Geoff Collins has the 404 bought in.

A team on the rise that our Tigers need to watch for is NC State. The Wolfpack finished last season 8-4. That led to many pundits to call for Dave Doeren to be named ACC Coach of the Year over Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly. The Pack are returning a lot of key talent. Match that with their 5-1 home record last year and it is easy to see where the Tigers could be caught on the back foot.

Another trap game the Tigers will need to watch for is a trip to Syracuse. Yes, the Orange are not expected to do very well in 2021. However, do not let that cloud your judgment.


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Syracuse has only beaten Clemson once since 1996. We all remember that Friday the 13th, the horror of watching quarterback Kelly Bryant go down and Brent Venables’ defense getting ran through.

Prepare for a doozy again, because this one is on a Friday again. Thankfully, this go-around, it will not be on the 13th. Nonetheless, the Tigers do not traditionally play well on weeknights.

Outside of NC State and Syracuse, there are not many teams that can stand toe-to-toe with the Tigers. Boston College, Pittsburgh, and Wake Forest are expected to be very similar in style and talent. Louisville still has a lot to figure out ahead of this season, and Florida State is still the dumpster fire it was in November after it refused to play despite Clemson making the trip to Tallahassee and the ACC determining the contest was safe to play.

Win The State

It took a true act of God to save South Carolina from yet another trouncing at the hand of Clemson in 2020. Don’t expect the Gamecocks to be as lucky in 2021.

The Palmetto Bowl makes its return as Clemson will have to travel to Columbia to face South Carolina. The game will take place at Williams-Brice Stadium this year, which is slightly upsetting for Clemson, seeing as the Tigers were slated to host the 2020 match-up before COVID-19 nearly ended the world. That’s probably all there is for the Tigers to be sour about in this one.

South Carolina has a new coach at the helm for 2021, Shane Beamer. Beamer was the tight ends coach at Oklahoma before he moved to Columbia. However, it is very unlikely he will see similar success at South Carolina as he did in Norman.

The Beamer era is already off to poor start as the Gamecocks have been plagued with transfers this offseason. Match with with an appalling 94th-ranked recruiting class, according to the 247Sports Composite, and you have a recipe for pure disaster. Clemson fans won’t shed any tears over that.

Win The Conference

Nothing is official as ACC Kickoff is still months away, but it is expected that the Tigers will be voted as the favorites to win the conference. Clemson has won it in each of the last six seasons.

It is anticipated that either North Carolina or Miami will make it out of the ACC Coastal as champions. With the ACC Championship still 10 months away, it’s probably too early to break down that potential contest.

Win the Closer

It appears Clemson is poised for another title run as the Tigers have a rather favorable schedule for the 2021 season. It is hard to pinpoint where the Tigers may fall outside of Week 1 vs. Georgia.

It’s hard not to anticipate that the Tigers will complete all of their regular season goals and be position to make their seventh straight College Football Playoff. Checkout the complete schedule below and send us your 2021 predictions.

  • Sept. 4: vs. Georgia (in Charlotte, N.C.)
  • Sept. 11: vs. SOUTH CAROLINA STATE
  • Sept. 18: vs. GEORGIA TECH
  • Sept. 25: at NC State
  • Oct. 2: vs. BOSTON COLLEGE
  • Oct. 9: Open Date
  • Oct. 15 (Friday): at Syracuse
  • Oct. 23: at Pittsburgh
  • Oct. 30: vs. FLORIDA STATE
  • Nov. 6: at Louisville
  • Nov. 13: vs. CONNECTICUT
  • Nov. 20: vs. WAKE FOREST
  • Nov. 27: at South Carolina

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