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A Clemson student is set to play QB against Clemson in Week 1

He’s in a double-degree program with Furman, and it’s allowed.

Louisville v Clemson Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Clemson plays Furman on Saturday in both teams’ season opener (12:20 p.m. ET, ACC Network). On Furman’s roster and set to play QB against Clemson is a Clemson student.

Harris Roberts is a redshirt senior for the Paladins, where he did his first three years of undergrad schooling. But Roberts wants to be an engineer, and Furman doesn’t have an engineering program. Instead, the school has a program that allows students to complete three years at Furman to earn a pre-engineering bachelor’s degree, then two more years at either Clemson, Georgia Tech, or NC State to finish off an engineering degree.

Roberts explains his life to Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples:

After a year at Clemson, Roberts has adjusted following an initial culture shock. After three years at Furman taking classes with between 10 and 30 students, Roberts had a few early classes at Clemson with as many as 150 students. Even his current upper division engineering classes have 30 to 40 students. “It’s really strange because you’re used to going to class at Furman. It’s a small school. You know everybody,” Roberts says. “You go to Clemson and it’s this huge campus. There are 20,000 students.”

Until recently, Roberts stayed fairly quiet about his unusual academic/athletic arrangement. “In the past, I’ve kind of just snuck into class and kept to myself,” he says. “If I explained to someone that I played football at Furman, then a million questions would come right after that. But now everybody knows.”

Roberts’ primary game-day duty for Furman in 2017 was holding on placekicks. He’s been in a position battle with redshirt freshman JeMar Lincoln, but per Staples, Furman’s coach says both QBs are likely to play. Roberts probably won’t be uncomfortable playing in Death Valley, where he’s spent the last year parking right behind Memorial Stadium.

There’s a specific NCAA rule to let Roberts live this odd double-life.

The rulebook classifies Roberts’ double-degree program — his bachelor’s at Furman, his mechanical engineering degree at Clemson — as a “cooperative educational exchange program.” And it allows students in those programs to play and learn at different places:

A student-athlete may represent the certifying institution in intercollegiate athletics even though at the time of competition the student is enrolled in another institution in a cooperative educational exchange program, provided:

(a) The certifying institution considers the student to be regularly enrolled in a minimum full-time program of studies; and

(b) All work is placed on the student’s transcript and accepted toward his or her undergraduate degree at the certifying institution.

Roberts would probably rather win with Furman, but if he loses, he can take solace in not getting in the way of his current school’s Playoff hopes.

“I guess he can’t lose,” Dabo Swinney told reporters this week.

The alternative view is that he can’t win. If Furman were to beat Clemson and maybe stunt the Tigers’ Playoff hopes before they ever got off the ground, he might not be the most popular kid on the campus where he now attends classes. But that’s a bridge to cross only in the unlikely event of the 46-point underdog Paladins getting to it.