CLEMSON, S.C. – With a big matchup looming next week, Clemson would prefer to make quick work of visiting Furman in its season opener on Saturday.
The second-ranked Tigers hope to do just that by building an early lead so they can get their stars out of the game and start looking ahead to a trip to Texas A&M that could prove critical in their quest for a second national championship in three years.
TV: 12:20 p.m. ET, ACC Network. LINE: None
Clemson, which has won three straight ACC titles and qualified for the four-team College Football Playoff in each of the last three seasons, returns 61 letter-winners from last year’s 12-2 squad.
“We’ve got all the ingredients,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told reporters. “I think we’ve got talent. We’ve got experience. We’ve got depth. We’ve got character. We’ve got good leadership. So we have, I think, all of the things that it takes.”
The Tigers have won 30 consecutive meetings between the in-state rivals dating to a tie in 1937, including a 41-7 rout in the most recent matchup in 2012. Furman has recorded six wins against FBS opponents, including a 16-15 victory over UCF in 2015.
ABOUT FURMAN (2017: 8-5)
The Paladins are coming off their first FCS playoff appearance since 2013 after earning a share of the Southern Conference title in coach Clay Hendrix’s first season.
They return nine starters on defense, including safety Aaquil Annoor (64 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss) and nose guard Jaylan Reid (45, 8.5, two sacks).
However, they have big holes to fill on offense - including one at quarterback, where either Harris Roberts - an engineering student at Clemson through a dual-enrollment program - or redshirt freshman JeMar Lincoln will replace All-Conference passer P.J. Blazejowski.
ABOUT CLEMSON (2017: 12-2)
Incumbent quarterback Kelly Bryant, who needs 123 passing yards to become the 15th player in Clemson history with 3,000, won the starting job to begin the season, but highly touted freshman Trevor Lawrence is likely to see playing time.
Bryant's favorite target is receiver Hunter Renfrow (60 receptions in 2017), and the Tigers have their top two rushers returning in Travis Etienne (766 yards, 13 TDs) and Tavien Feaster (669, seven). Clemson has eight starters back from one of the nation’s best defenses, including the entire line.
1. The Tigers are opening the season against the Paladins for the ninth time - and first since 1998 - and have won all eight of the previous meetings.
2. Clemson has won a program-record 15 consecutive regular-season non-conference games.
3. The Tigers are 32-0 against FCS opponents since the division was formed in 1978, with 31 being double-digit victories.
PREDICTION: Clemson 52, Furman 7