Clemson

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AP Top 25: La.-Lafayette leads 10 new teams in rankings

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Sun Belt rivals Louisiana-Lafayette and Appalachian State were among 10 new teams ranked Sunday in first regular-season Associated Press college football poll, which was stripped of the teams not yet scheduled to play a fall season.

There was no change at the very top: Preseason No. 1 Clemson received 60 of 61 first place-votes this week.

After all Division I teams were eligible to be voted on for the preseason Top 25, the panel of 61 voters was permitted to consider only the 60% of Football Bowl Subdivision teams scheduled to play in the fall now that the season has started.

That meant preseason No. 2 Ohio State, No. 7 Penn State and No. 9 Oregon, along with six other Big Ten and Pac-12 teams, dropped out of the rankings. The Big Ten, Pac-12, Mid-American Conference and Mountain West have delayed their seasons due to concerns about playing amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the Big Ten is taking some steps toward a possible mid-October start.

With those teams gone, Alabama moved up to No. 2. Oklahoma is No. 3, followed by No. 4 Georgia and No. 5 Florida. Defending champion LSU, with one first-place vote, is No. 6.

The Sun Belt Conference has two teams ranked for the first time since the conference began sponsoring football in 2001, with Louisiana-Lafayette at No. 19 and Appalachian State at No. 23, tied with Kentucky.

The Ragin’ Cajuns pulled off maybe the biggest upset of the weekend, winning at Iowa State 31-14 on Saturday. The Cyclones had been ranked No. 23 and are the one team currently scheduled to play to fall out of the rankings after being in the preseason Top 25.

Louisiana-Lafayette was last ranked in 1943.

POLL POINTS

The rest of the newcomers to the Top 25:

– No. 16 Memphis has the highest ranking of those teams entering the poll. Not surprising. The Tigers were first among the others receiving votes in the preseason poll and opened the season by beating Arkansas State last week. That same Arkansas State then turned around and upset Kansas State on the road Saturday. The Tigers might have to sit on that ranking for a little while. Players being sidelined by positive COVID-19 tests and related quarantines forced the postponement of Memphis’ game Friday against Houston.

– No. 17 Miami also garnered some support in the preseason. The Hurricanes join on the strength of a 31-14 victory Thursday against Conference USA contender UAB.

– No. 18 Louisville beat Western Kentucky 35-21 to open its season and is ranked for the first time since 2017.

– No. 20 Virginia Tech has already had two games postponed. The Hokies were supposed to open their season Saturday against North Carolina State, but the Wolfpack’s preparation for the season was delayed by a COVID-19 outbreak. Now Virginia Tech is dealing with coronavirus issues of its own and its game next week against Virginia has been postponed.

– No. 21 BYU opened the season on Labor Day, beating Navy 55-3. But the Cougars’ next game has been postponed because of positive COVID-19 cases among the players.

– No. 22 Army has opened the season with two victories by a combined score of 79-7.

– No. 23 Kentucky is scheduled to start the season Sept. 26, along with the rest of the SEC.

– No. 25 Pitt opened the season by beating Austin Peay 55-0 in a game that was shortened in the second half. With the Panthers up 42-0 halftime, the teams agreed to play 10-minute quarters.

CONFERENCE CALL

SEC – 8 (Nos. 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 15, 23t).

ACC – 7 (Nos. 1, 7, 12, 17, 18, 20, 25).

Big 12 – 3 (Nos. 3, 9, 11).

American – 3 (Nos. 13, 14, 16).

Sun Belt – 2 (Nos. 19, 23t).

Independents – 2. (Nos. 21, 22).

RANKED VS. RANKED

Just one as the SEC still sits idle. BYU at Army would have qualified but for the postponement.

No. 17 Miami at No. 18 Louisville. Two of teams that benefited from solid openers against C-USA teams. Louisville’s Micale Cunningham and Miami’s D'Eriq King make for an exciting quarterback matchup.

Swinney: No. 1 Clemson ready to begin another title run

Ken Ruinard
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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is not sure he has ever been this eager to start a season for the top-ranked Tigers after months of uncertainty due to the global pandemic.

“I’ve seen our culture win the day since March,” Swinney said Tuesday. “This is a very close football team, it’s a well-led team, a very smart team and it’s an exciting team. I can’t wait to see them play and get to do what they love to do.”

The Tigers open the COVID-19-altered season at Wake Forest on Saturday night. The coach believes he has a healthy, confident team that is ready to make a run for a sixth Atlantic Coast Conference crown and sixth trip to the College Football Playoff following the suspension of spring workouts in March and a troubling run of coronavirus cases in mid-to-late June.

“There’s nobody that has to be here,” Swinney said. “But everybody’s here.”

That includes quarterback Trevor Lawrence, a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, and two-time ACC player of the year in tailback Travis Etienne.

“It’s time to play,” Lawrence said.

But the quarterback has also found the time to become a team-leader off the field, speaking out for social justice and the rights of players.

Lawrence posted goals on social media put together by several college players across the nation that call for change, including ensuring teammates are registered to vote and have election day (Nov. 3) “free from athletic obligations” to cast ballots, and using messages and statements on uniforms and helmets to raise awareness of social injustice.

Lawrence and Clemson running back Darien Rencher were leaders in a march last June to protest the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.

“I know that there’s a lot of eyes on me. Critics, but also younger generations and people looking up to me,” Lawrence said. “I want to use my platform the right way.”

The QB said none of his off-field actions took away from his mission on improving his game: working on his footwork, reading defenses and throwing accuracy heading into his junior year.

“I think we’re in a really good place,” Lawrence said. “There’s been a lot going on and now, I think we’re in a spot where we can focus a little bit more on football.”

Lawrence is 25-1 as a starter, that loss in perhaps his worst showing in college when he was just 18 of 37 without a touchdown in a 42-25 loss to LSU in the national title game last January.

Lawrence won’t have some of the targets that helped him pass for 36 touchdowns last season. Receiver Tee Higgins left for the NFL while Justyn Ross, who would’ve been a junior this season, is out for the year after spinal fusion surgery.

Higgins and Ross combined for 21 touchdown catches and better than 50% of Lawrence’s 3,665 passing yards from a year ago.

Expect Etienne, who returned for his senior season instead of going pro, to pick up some of that load. Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, also running backs coach, said Etienne has steadily improved his pass catching and can play a bigger role out of the backfield.

Sophomore Joseph Ngata, a starting receiver, said the long, strange offseason gave him and teammates more time to work on themselves.

“I think it was a blessing in disguise in some ways,” he said. “We’ll see it.”

Tigers center Cade Stewart, one of four new starters along the offensive line, has grown antsy with the longer than normal fall camp. Clemson was supposed to open its season last Thursday night at Georgia Tech.

Stewart welcomes the routine of game week because it leads to finally getting back on the field.

“I think everyone’s super excited because that feeling of routine and normality,” he said. “That’s the reason we come here because of the structure.”

Clemson to play FCS opponent Citadel for Tigers’ home opener

Ken Ruinard / staff via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson will start its home season against Citadel on Sept. 19, filling the lone nonconference spot on its COVID-19 revamped schedule.

The Tigers were originally scheduled to face Citadel on Nov. 14 before the global pandemic affected the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule.

The ACC adopted a 10-game conference schedule with one non-conference opponent. Clemson was set to face Akron, Notre Dame and state rival South Carolina along with Citadel as its non-conference foes on its old 12-game schedule.

It will still face Notre Dame on Nov. 7 because the Irish will compete in the ACC this season.

Citadel is part of the Division I Southern Conference and competes in the Football Championship Subdivision. Its league has chosen to hold off conference play until the spring, but has left it up to its members if they want to play nonconference games.

The Bulldogs’ contract calls for them to receive $450,000 from Clemson.