2013 Clemson @ Virginia Game Preview

2013 Clemson @ Virginia Game Preview - Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson heads up to the Commonwealth to battle the White Meat of the ACC this weekend. We'll give you the general information and overall assessment needed to prep for Clemson's final trip North this season.

Overall

Virginia comes into this game with a horrid 2-6 record on the season. This record lacks a single conference victory and includes a loss to Ball State. To say the least, this is a disappointing season for a Virginia team that appears to be loaded with young talent. The highlight to date has to be a sloppy opening week win over BYU in a game that was delayed due to inclement weather. I will point out that UVa missed a last second kick that would have won the football game against Maryland. Otherwise, their ACC contests have been largely one-sided.

General Game Information

Game Time 3:30 PM EDT
Stadium Scott Stadium (61,500)
Host City Charlottesville, VA
Television ABC
Play by Play Announcer Mike Patrick
Color Commentator Ed Cunningham
Sideline Jeanine Edwards
Clemson Radio Clemson Tiger Sports Network (WCCP FM)
CU Play-By-Play Pete Yanity
CU Color Commentary Will Merritt
CU Sideline Reporting Patrick Sapp

Coach / Team Information

Clemson Maryland
2013 Record: 7-1, 5-1 ACC 2-6 , 0-4 in ACC
Rankings: 9 AP, 8 USA Today, 8 BCS NR AP, NR USA Today, NR BCS
Location: Clemson, SC Charlottesville, VA
Colors: Clemson Orange and Regalia Orange & Blue
Enrollment: 20,768 20,399
Athletic Director: Dan Radakovich Craig Littlepage
Head Coach: Dabo Swinney, Alabama ‘93 Mike London, Richmond ‘83
Record at Current School: 47-22 (.681) 18-27 (4th season)
Career Record: 47-22 (.681) 42-32 (6th year)
Offensive Coordinator: Chad Morris Steve Fairchild
Base Offense: Spread Pro Up-tempo
Defensive Coordinator: Brent Venables Jon Tenuta
Base Defense: 4-3 4-3
Athletic Website: www.clemsontigers.com www.Virginiasports.com

Head Coach

Mike London is in his fourth season as the head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers. London’s college football experience began as a defensive back for the Richmond Spiders back in the late ‘70’s/early ‘80’s. In 1988, London returned to Richmond as their outside linebackers coach. He spent the decade of the ‘90’s and the first half of the 2000’s bumping around at William and Mary, Richmond, Boston College, then Virginia. After spending 2005 in with the Houston Texans, London returned to UVa in 2006 as their defensive coordinator then was named head coach at his alma mater in ’08. London moved up to UVa in 2010 to lead the Wahoos following the Chessmaster’s departure.

London is known for his ability to bring in talent. Virginia’s ability to recruit has improved dramatically since his arrival. London grew up in the Virginia Beach area and has done his best to chip away at pulling in players from this talent-rich area. As most know, this is a very fertile area for athletic talent and ML has effectively pulled a lot of the higher ranked players that VPI would normally land.

Offense

Steve Fairchild is in his first season as UVa’s offensive coordinator. Prior to taking the position in Charlottesville, Fairchild was an assistant with the San Diego Chargers in 2012 and was the head man at Colorado State from 2008-2011. His resume includes approximately a decade and a half as an assistant out West then seven years as an NFL assistant before taking the head job at CSU. He finished his college ball as quarterback for Colorado State in 1980.

Coordinator Steve Fairchild runs a pro-style offense up at Virginia. This incorporates 12 and 21 personnel packages and typically places the quarterback under center. Their offense is very vanilla compared to a lot of the offenses we see on a week-in/week-out basis during college football season. Virginia will run standard sweep and draw plays, you’ll see the occasional screen and play action pass, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Virginia run some option/read option at various points in this football game. UVA runs their offense at a very high pace like ours.

Quarterback David Watford leads this Virginia attack. He is a very capable quarterback who is completing just over 60% of his 314 passes this season for over 1700 yards. Watford, however, has thrown just seven touchdown passes on the year compared to his nine interceptions. Further, the signal caller has been sacked 16 times this season. Surely Virginia will try to roll Watford out of the pocket where he has been comfortable throwing at times this season. Further, I would not be surprised to see him carry the ball on either designed runs or instructed to run if pressured and/or if there isn’t an immediate open receiver. He is a mobile guy and Clemson doesn’t exactly have the best track record against mobile, running quarterbacks.  On the season, Watford is credited with 75 carries for 121 yards and 2 TDs.

The UVa rushing attack is largely Kevin Parks. The Junior has 614 yards and 9 touchdowns on 144 carries. Parks is a patient back who doesn’t have the breakaway speed. He will wait for the hole/crease to emerge then hit it running downhill. At 5-8, 205 lbs., he has a lower center of gravity and is shiftier than one would suspect. Behind Parks is Khalek Shepard. Shepard has 38 carries for 248 yards. He has, however, only one game with 10 or more carries this season (UMd, 10 carries for 81 yards) and will likely take the field to give Parks a breather. These backs have also contributed significantly in the passing attack. Parks has 29 receptions for 285 yards and a TD. Shepard has 21 grabs for 115 yards.

Virginia likes to spread the ball around. In addition the backs with 50 catches on the year, four receivers/tight ends have over 15 receptions on the season. This is really where they could damage Clemson's underneath coverage over the middle and in the flats. They are pretty good here. This group is led by Tim Smith who has 350 receiving yards on 23 catches. Darius Jennings has 28 catches for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns so far. Do not forget about tight end Jake McGee. McGee has an impressive 31 catches and didn’t play last weekend. It will be interesting to see McGee’s availability and if how his "lower extremity injury" will impact him this week.

Defense

Jon Tenuta has been all over the place in college football. Tenuta graduated from the University of Virginia where he played defensive back from 1978-1981. He got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant at UVa and has been all over the United States since. Stops include Vandy, Marshall, K-State, Oklahoma, SMU, and Ohio State. Since the turn of the century, Tenuta’s stops include the defensive coordinator role at UNC, Georgia Tech, and Notre Dame. He was on Tom O’Brien’s staff at NCST and, when O’Brien was let go from State, he and Tom landed spots on the Virginia staff.

We’ve said this before and will repeat again: We believe that Tenuta is similar to Reggie Herring—an excellent position coach but lacking as a coordinator, possibly the most overrated DC in the country. Tenuta is known as an aggressive coordinator who will roll the dice. Clearly, this will either force the opponent into mistakes or will result in his defense getting torched. Overall this season, Virginia’s defense has not impressed me much other than the victory over BYU. Otherwise, UVa had a shutout against VMI but has given up 27 points in each of their losses sans a 14-7 loss against an underwhelming Pitt squad.

Clemson will need to do a much better job adjusting to the blitzer. Not only does Tajh need to recognize the blitz and get guys into position to pick up the blitzer but our receivers absolutely have to identify these situations and run proper hot routes. In consecutive weeks we saw Mike Williams make mistakes in these type situations. This is not only detrimental to the team because—at best –it ensures an incompletion and—at worst—it is a turnover. Clearly Boyd is flustered being the teacher and not necessarily the student. We all know what happens when Boyd is flustered and out of rhythm, and it is not good.

The Final Verdict

Heading to Virginia is an item that excites no one. Virginia is a team with impressive roster talent yet has greatly underperformed on the year. I could see UVa giving Clemson some problems particularly if the Tigers struggle with various blitz situations and defensive aggressiveness by the Wahoos. In that respect, this is a good exercise for the Tigers as this is an area that has to improve. Tajh has to run the football and complete some early passes to get comfortable. If Clemson’s strategy is to again go out of the way to protect Tajh’s leg, the coaching staff needs to just play Stoudt and give Boyd two full weeks to get completely healthy. This isn’t a knock on Tajh, only an observation that playing the QB position with a bum leg affects mechanics AND Boyd uses his legs frequently to pick up yardage/move the sticks and get into a groove.

All this said, we have been begging for The Chad to run a back 20+ times a game instead of Tajh. I still stick by this comment and want to see Hot Rod carry the ball more and more. Getting Boyd into a rhythm/asking him to scramble to move the sticks is one thing…having your quarterback take the brunt of rushing punishment is another. Let’s see if we can get McDowell going against this aggressive defense through misdirection, draw plays, counters, and even through a screen pass or two.

Of course, we’ll all be watching the Clemson offensive line. Lately this area of the team has been spiraling downhill—especially in the redzone. I won’t even begin to hypothesize why this digression occurred but will only say it has and must be corrected.

The Clemson defense will need to wrap up and simply play good fundamental football. Virginia doesn’t do anything particularly special and this Clemson defense has played pretty well for most of the season. Obviously, we’ll need to contain Watford as he can run and/or create space to keep plays alive. Virginia is giving up an average of two sacks per game so I do expect Clemson to put pressure on Virginia—obviously if the Tigers can get up and force UVa to throw more, Vic Beasley will pin his ears back and get after the Cavalier offensive backfield.

Overall, Clemson should roll. We have heard this several times this season only to have the defense bail this team out. Don’t let me fool you, Virginia is a bad team that has issues it will have to overcome to become a respectable team. However, Virginia has loaded up on talent the past couple years. Anytime you have talent, you have a chance. They will give Clemson their best shot on Saturday so hopefully this Tiger football team will arrive ready to play a decent all around football game—something this team hasn’t done in quite some time now.

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