Three regular-season losses for the first time since 2014 doomed Clemson football’s hopes for a seventh consecutive berth in the ACC Championship Game last season, but the Tigers salvaged an 11th consecutive season with 10 or more victories by ending the year with six consecutive wins.
That finish has Clemson once again eyeing an ACC title and return to the College Football Playoff in 2022, but there could be plenty of serious challenges along the way.
Here are Clemson’s 2022 opponents ranked in reverse order based on difficulty:
12. Furman (home)
Clemson has dominated its FCS rival from the Upstate, winning 31 consecutive games against the Paladins and outscoring Furman 89-14 in two games in the rivalry under coach Dabo Swinney. There’s no reason to believe this year’s result will be any different.
11. Louisiana Tech (home)
Louisiana Tech went 3-9 last season, with four of those defeats coming by four points or less. A “high octane” offense under first-year coach Sonny Cumbie promises more excitement for the Bulldogs, who could surprise some teams in Conference USA, but the fireworks are likely to be kept to a minimum in Death Valley.
10. Syracuse (home)
The hard-luck Orange lost three straight games by three points last season, including a 17-14 decision against Clemson. Sean Tucker, who gouged the Tigers for 157 yards in 2021 and is the best running back in the ACC, returns for Syracuse, but not much else.
9. Georgia Tech (away)
The Yellow Jackets, who were quite the nemesis in Swinney’s first few years, are no longer an annual threat, although Clemson’s 14-8 victory last season was a bit too close for comfort. Tech went 3-9 in 2021 and may be hard pressed to match that win total.
8. Louisville (home)
Clemson is unbeaten in seven games against Louisville since the Cardinals joined the ACC. Versatile quarterback Malik Cunningham is back from last year’s 6-7 team, but so is the bulk of Clemson’s defense.
7. Boston College (away)
Although there have been some close calls, the Tigers have won 11 consecutive games against Boston College. Things could prove interesting once again with quarterback Phil Jurkovec returning for the Eagles.
6. South Carolina (home)
The Gamecocks made big strides in 2021 in their first season under coach Shane Beamer, but the “cycling out” of Clemson predicted by South Carolina play-by-play announcer Todd Ellis in 2017 continues to be in a holding pattern. Clemson has won seven in a row in the series and outscored the Gamecocks 68-3 in their past two meetings.
5. Miami (home)
Miami is coming off a 7-5 season and primed for more success in 2022. First-year coach Mario Cristobal left Oregon to take the reins at his alma mater and has plenty of weapons at his disposal, including quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2021.
4. Florida State (away)
It may be difficult to believe, but the Seminoles haven’t had a winning season since 2017 and patience is wearing thin in Tallahassee. Clemson rolled 59-10 in its last visit to Florida State but will expect a considerably better effort from the Seminoles this time around.
3. Wake Forest (away)
This isn’t your daddy’s Wake Forest anymore. The Demon Deacons went 11-3 and won the ACC’s Atlantic Division a year ago before falling to Pitt in the ACC Championship Game. Clemson continued its domination of the series, however, pummeling Wake 48-27 in Death Valley to improve to 13-0 against the Deacons under Swinney, so expect coach Dave Clawson’s club to be hellbent on revenge when the Tigers head to Winston-Salem in the season’s fourth game.
2. N.C. State (home)
N.C. State snapped an eight-game losing skid against Clemson by winning a two-overtime thriller last season in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Wolfpack has much of its talent returning, including quarterback Devin Leary, and is considered a serious challenger for the ACC title. The Oct. 1 showdown should be a good one at Death Valley, where N.C. State hasn’t won since 2002.
1. Notre Dame (away)
Clemson will pay a regular-season visit to South Bend on Nov. 5 – almost two years to the day since Notre Dame outlasted the Tigers in two overtimes, 47-40, at Notre Dame Stadium. Clemson returned the favor several weeks later in the ACC Championship Game with a resounding 34-10 victory, and this will be the teams’ first meeting since. We’ll find out quickly what the Fighting Irish under first-year coach Marcus Freeman are made of – they open the season at Ohio State.
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Clemson football schedule 2022: Who will be Tiger's toughest opponent?