Surging Clemson faces potential speed bumps
North Carolina State is seeking to turn the Atlantic Coast Conference from a runaway into a free-for-all this season.
Halfway through the season, third-ranked Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC) is a heavy favorite to win its second straight ACC title and earn another berth in the College Football Playoffs.
But the Tigers’ path is shrouded with potential speed bumps — starting with North Carolina State (4-1, 1-0) on Saturday.
• Florida State has Oct. 29 circled on its calendar; that’s when the No. 14 Seminoles host the Tigers in Tallahassee. Clemson is just 1-11 in its past 12 visits to Florida State.
• ACC newcomers Syracuse and Pittsburgh bring feisty attitudes in seeking their first victories at Death Valley next month.
• Clemson wraps up its season at Wake Forest, which has been a house of horrors and crusher of Tiger dreams through the years.
The Tigers are saying all the right things about the possible pitfalls.
“It’s a long season and a lot of football left,” Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson said.
Clemson seized control of the ACC two weeks ago with its dramatic, 42-36 win against Louisville and Heisman Trophy favorite Lamar Jackson.
Still, college football history is filled with sure bets that went bust in some of the unlikeliest ways.
Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher, his team’s ACC chances last year cut down on an unlikely kick-six TD by struggling Georgia Tech , isn’t abandoning hope of a title run by his two-loss team.
Fisher believes even the best teams in the conference must scratch and claw for victory most weeks.
“That’s what the ACC has become,” the coach said.
Nearly everyone has a chance.
In the Atlantic Division, Wake Forest and Louisville are one-loss ACC teams hoping for a Clemson to get upset.
In the Coastal, once a mish-mosh of middling teams — at this point two years ago all seven teams in the division looked like they could finish 4-4 — perennial powers Miami and Virginia Tech are scrapping for the top.
The 17th-ranked Hokies (4-1, 2-0) and new coach Justin Fuente won a showdown game at North Carolina last week and will try and keep things going at Syracuse this week.
Clemson quarterback Nick Schuessler throws a pass during the second half of the Tigers’ 56-10 win over Boston College at Alumni Stadium in Boston on Friday.