Three games left and that's a wrap on the 2012 regular season. Am I the only one that feels this season has flown by? Perhaps that has something to do with Clemson dominating its last 5 opponents, having covered the spread in all of those games. I'm starting to get the sense that this program has turned the corner, even if it's a small corner. Beating a pretty decent Duke squad on the road handily, and doing the same to Wake Forest and Boston College (two venues the Tigers always seem to struggle with) makes me think this program is really moving in the right direction. The Clemson squads of years past would find a way to lose one or even two of those games and would be sitting here at 6-3, not 8-1.
he numbers were ridiculous -- more 700 yards of total offense and nearly 9 yards per play for the Tigers -- and Clemson was relentless in a 56-20 victory. Quarterback Tajh Boyd had another record-setting day, while Duke’s defense was embarrassed and outplayed to the extent it was easy to forget the Blue Devils are already bowl-eligible....Clemson (8-1, 5-1 ACC) did exactly what it was supposed to do -- win -- and it left no doubt that it was the better team.
Maybe the ACC is down this year, but I sort of think that Clemson is just exponentially better than it was four or five years ago. This program isn't just beating ACC teams on the road, it's dominating them. Back to back road games are never easy, and both those games were over in the first half. Clemson has always been able to hold serve at home, it's on the road where this program has gotten into trouble. Going 4-1 on the road (I count Auburn as a road game) is excellent, now it's time to keep this mojo going and win out at home.
The other big thing is Clemson continues to prove it is a more matured, focused team. I know we can get tired of hearing about the "playing to standards" talk but the fact is it is important. That’s what great teams do. And I think we’ve seen the culture of the Clemson team change this year. One key is that Boyd has really emerged as a key leader.
On to this week. Maryland comes to town this week, battered, beaten, and struggling to find answers all over the field. If you haven't followed this Terrapin team closely, well its been a house of horrors for Randy Edsall's squad. They lost their first string quarterback to a transfer, and their second through fourth string quarterbacks have all gone down to season ending injuries.
It's pretty safe to say that Maryland's grand quarterback experiment - starting linebacker Shawn Petty under center after four season-ending injuries claimed every signal-caller on the Terps' roster - was unsuccessful. Hosting Georgia Tech and needing a win, the Terps' offense was understandably hapless, their defense was often porous, and the Yellow Jackets profited with an easy 33-13 win.
Last week they turned to converted freshman linebacker Shawn Petty, because well, the Terps didn't have anyone left. The experiment didn't go exactly smoothly for Maryland, as they were beat down at home to a struggling Georgia Tech team. The Terps tried everything with Petty, zone read, triple option, full on spread, nothing seemed to work until late in the second half. Now the Terps go on the road, with a freshman linebacker at QB, and have to take on a Clemson squad that is playing as well as any team in the conference. Yikes.
The plan on offense was seemingly to try to protect Petty's arm, but Maryland's running game, which totalled only three yards per carry, wasn't good enough to move the ball on Georgia Tech's defense. And Petty's arm looked more or less exactly as you'd expect it to. He improved later in the game as Georgia Tech rested their starters and started to play off the line of scrimmage, but it was an adventure early on.
If that's not bad enough for Maryland, today it was announced that Demetrius Hartsfield, the team's leading defensive tackler (78 tackles) and best defensive player is out with an ACL injury. Goodness. Something is in the water in College Park, because frankly I've never heard of such a string of injuries as what the Terps have faced this year.
Does Edsall have his team walk under ladders on the way to the practice field every day? Is the turtle mascot going to be replaced with a black cat? Whatever has caused this bad luck, Edsall's team is on an unfortunate run that is almost unprecedented. Maryland had to use linebacker Shawn Petty at quarterback last week because the first four quarterbacks are out for the year. Now the Terps' best defensive player is out too.
On offense, Maryland is going need monster production from freshman sensation Stefon Diggs this weekend if they are going to be able to move the ball, on the road, against an improving Clemson defense. Diggs is explosive, racking up monster stats at receiver (721 yards 6 TDs), punt returns (221 yards) and kick returns (567 yards 1 TD). Edsall's gameplan will revolve around getting Diggs the ball in space, early, often, and all game.
WR-KR Stefon Diggs: Last year's post-signing day surprise has lived up to his billing and has already established himself as one of the ACC's most dynamic playmakers. He caught 11 passes for 152 yards last week against BC, and ranks fourth in the league in receiving yards per game. He caught five of Maryland's nine completed passes against Georgia Tech. He's already been honored as an ACC player of the week four times.
Clemson is sitting pretty right now. All three games remaining are at home, a place where Clemson has dominated opponents over the last two seasons. There is a ton to play for even if Florida State does what we think they will do and wins out. The possibility of a birth in the Sugar Bowl (a very real possibility) is more than enough motivation for this squad to finish the season with three wins. Go out and beat a struggling Maryland squad on Saturday and this program is one step closer to a potential elusive BCS birth.