Tigers face challenging slate

Clemson was not ranked in the top 25 of the preseason Coaches poll released on Friday, but the poll did give an indication to the difficult nature of Clemson's 2010 schedule.

Clemson will play No. 13 Miami (FL), No. 17 Georgia Tech, No. 18 North Carolina, No. 20 Florida State and No. 23 Auburn this year, one of just nine schools nationally to have at least five games against USA Today preseason top 25 teams on their schedule. Miami (FL), LSU and Mississippi State will all play six top 25 teams according to the USA Today poll, while Clemson, Duke, Virginia, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee all play five.

Clemson has three of those five games on the road and join Miami (FL), LSU and Mississippi State as schools from the above list with three road games against ranked schools.

Clemson must play three preseason top 25 teams in a succession and four out of five at midseason. Dabo Swinney's team plays at No. 23 Auburn on September 18, at home against No. 13 Miami (FL) on October 2 (after an open date), and at No. 18 North Carolina on October 9. After a game against Maryland, the Tigers face No. 17 Georgia Tech at home on October 23.

If Clemson plays three consecutive games against top 25 opponents this year it would be the first time since 2001 when Clemson played Florida State (14), Maryland (13) and South Carolina (22) in consecutive games near the end of the season.

This year's schedule could be among the toughest in school history in terms of playing ranked opponents. The Tigers have played five top 25 teams on the date of the game just three years in school history. Clemson had five games against top 25 teams in 1988, 1999 and 2005.

Last year Clemson played four games against top 25 teams, but all four of those teams were ranked in the top 15 at the time of the game. It was just the second time Clemson played four games against top 15 teams in the same year. The 1999 season was the other time that has happened.

Being left out of the preseason poll is not always a bad indicator for the Tigers, especially in recent years. Four times in the last 10 years (2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009) Clemson has been ranked in the final top 25 after not being ranked in the preseason poll. Only Boise State has had more final top 25 rankings without a preseason top 25 in the last 10 years. The Broncos have done that five times, while Clemson, Boston College and Oregon State have all done it four times apiece.

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