Dabo Swinney's Clemson Tigers are at a point now where they expect to contend for division titles in the ACC each year, and with quarterback Tajh Boyd back for one final season, they should do just that in 2013. Their primary competition in the Atlantic Division figures to be Florida State, and while that's going to be a difficult and pivotal game, it's also a home game for the Tigers. Last season, Clemson finished 7-1 in the ACC, it's lone loss coming to FSU, which cost the Tigers a shot at the ACC title.
2013 Clemson schedule
Projections from Football Outsiders' 2013 college football almanac.
In addition to that hurdle, Clemson has Georgia and South Carolina bookending its schedule. The Tigers will open the season against the Bulldogs on Aug. 31, which should provide us some idea of what to expect from Swinney's club over the course of the rest of the year. Clemson capped 2012 with a bowl victory over LSU, proving that it is capable of beating good teams out of the SEC; expecting the Tigers to beat both the Bulldogs and the Gamecocks this season would be a bit optimistic, though.
The conference schedule is a favorable one -- the Tigers have no imposing road contests. Clemson opens league play at N.C. State, which is rebuilding after replacing Tom O'Brien and has question marks in numerous places on the roster. The Tigers also will travel to Syracuse (new quarterback, among other things), Maryland (coming off 4-8 season) and Virginia (also not good last year).
The challenge, again, will be topping the Seminoles, because if recent history is any indication, the division will come down to the outcome of that game. Clemson and FSU have separated themselves a bit from the rest of the Atlantic, and if the Tigers beat the 'Noles when they meet in mid-October, they will probably be in the driver's seat for their second ACC title game appearance in three years.