Clemson back-to-back: No. 21 Wake Forest, then No. 12 NC State

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson’s opportunity to take control of the ACC’s Atlantic doesn’t get much clearer.

The fifth-ranked Tigers have the chance become the division’s clear favorite – or fall into a pack of contenders fighting things out for an Atlantic crown.

Clemson (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) faces the two other top division hopefuls, starting Saturday at No. 21 Wake Forest (3-0), the defending division champs who open league play this week.

Then comes a Clemson home game vs. No. 12 North Carolina State (3-0), which defeated the Tigers in 2021 for the first time in 10 years.

Sweep them both and – before October truly gets going – Clemson has separation and tiebreakers over the two teams voted mostly likely to thwart the Tigers’ drive back to a ACC title. A loss or two and the Tigers would have an steep hole to climb out to regain the league title it held from 2015 through 2020.

“If we want to get to where we want to be at the end of the season,” Clemson defensive end K.J. Henry says, “we’ve got to handle our business.”

Business for the Tigers has been very good in the past decade.

Clemson holds a 13-game win streak over Wake Forest and a 9-1 mark over North Carolina State. The lone defeat in that span was last season when the Wolfpack won at home, 27-21, in overtime.

The Demon Deacons’ last win against Clemson came in 2008, which led to the ouster of then-coach Tommy Bowden and the promotion of current Tigers coach Dabo Swinney as an interim choice.

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson has long heard of all the teams his program couldn’t beat. He remembered losing five straight to Florida State and three in a row to N.C. State after arriving – but the Demon Deacons have won their past two against FSU and four of the past five over the Wolfpack.

“You could go through half the ACC and we had not beaten,” said Clawson, in his ninth season at Wake Forest. “Obviously in the Atlantic Division, this is the one we haven’t gotten yet. But there’s a lot of teams that haven’t got them because they haven’t lost a lot of games.”

Clemson knows what’s at stake and will keep the same mindset they’ve used in winning their last nine games, the longest streak among Power Five teams.

“We try and bring that juice every single week, every single day,” Clemson linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. said. “We try and treat every week like it’s the biggest game of the year.”

For the next two weeks, it is.

Don’t count on complacency from the Tigers, offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter said. The Demon Deacons “are the reigning champs in our division and we have the opportunity to build off of this season and continue to gain confidence,” he said.

North Carolina State has already hit some bumps to start the season, even in a hype-filled year.

The Wolfpack started the season ranked 13th in the preseason AP poll, matching the program’s highest to start a season set in 1975, only to survive at East Carolina in Week 1 when the Pirates missed two critical late kicks.

Two games later, preseason ACC player of the year Devin Leary at quarterback and his offense had an inconsistent showing in a home win against Texas Tech, including having touchdowns negated by both a penalty and a goal-line turnover. But the defense with 10 returning starters dominated the game and kept the Wolfpack in control.

“We’re going to try to get better,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. “I think that’s what really good programs do. It doesn’t matter who you play, it’s how you play.”

Clemson gives raises, contract extensions to staff

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson’s board of trustees approved raises for special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach Mike Reed and defensive tackles coach Nick Eason.

Reed and Eason also received one-year extensions keeping them tied to the Tigers through Jan. 31, 2026.

Reed, who’s been with the Tigers since 2013, had his yearly salary increased $50,000 to $800,000. Eason, the former Clemson standout defensive lineman, joined the staff this past season. He also had his compensation upped by $50,000 to $800,000.

Seven other assistants were given one-year extensions by the trustees’ compensation committee, but without a raise in salary.

Co-defensive coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn had their contracts extended through Jan. 31, 2026.

Defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall, tight ends coach Kyle Richardson, offensive line coach Thomas Austin, running backs coach C.J. Spiller and wide receivers coach Tyler Grisham all got one-year extensions through Jan. 31, 2025.

New offensive coordinator Garrett Riley last month received a three-year contract at $1.75 million per season.

Clemson will pay its 10 on-field assistants $7.475 million this season, an increase of $925,000 from the total for 2022.

The Tigers went 11-3 last season, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

South Carolina’s Beamer suspends three freshmen from program

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said freshmen Monteque Rhames II, Anthony Rose and Cameron Upshaw were suspended from the football program.

There was no reason given for the suspensions in the school’s statement Friday. Online records showed Rhames, 18, was booked last night and was being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on charges of carrying weapons on school property and obstructing justice.

“Our student-athletes know what is expected of them,” Beamer said. “They know that both the university and the football program will hold them accountable for their actions and decisions.”

None of the three have played for the Gamecocks.

Rose is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back from Miami who enrolled in January 2022 and redshirted this season. Rhames and Upshaw were part of South Carolina’s latest recruiting class and enrolled last month.

Rhames is a 6-5, 235-pound defensive lineman from Sumter and Upshaw is a 6-2, 193-pound safety from Perry, Florida.