Heading to College Park this weekend, Clemson has a chance to get back on track with a win over UMd on the road. I guess you could say Ralph Friedgen and the boys from UMd are hungry, well, because Ralph is always hungry (in all fairness dude has trimmed up since the last time we saw him, he must be rolling with Boomer or Dan Marino and needs to be in a promo for the commercial).
But first, a few comments on Swinney's presser. I will not break down the Dabo press conference from earlier in the week (see Dr. B's blog below for this analysis) but will chime in on some of the high points.
- Three plays or thirty plays, Clemson lost the football game. Yes, I agree that had Parker been able to complete a late pass, game over. If we don't miss a field goal early in the fourth quarter, the late-game trip to the red-zone requires only a chip shot field goal. And if your aunt had a unit, she would be your uncle. I get it, Clemson is close, but close doesn't matter. Let's shore up the core issues with this football team as discussed earlier (WR play, play selection, snapping the football).
- Team Goals. This is the part that I would usually go ape-shit about. After UGa/Bammer/whoever else would beat our ass, Bowden would play the old "We Still Have a Shot at Achieving Goals" card. I guess the difference between Swinney's statement and Bowden's is that Swinney accepts responsibility for a loss and really believes that Clemson can play at a sustained level for the rest of the year. With our defense, Clemson will be in every game played this season. Clemson has to punch the ball in when placed in such a situation.
- Will Korn. Obviously the staff feels that Parker is a better QB than Korn. Thus, the staff doesn't owe Willy Korn any playing time. I do believe that Korn will receive playing time if Swinney and Napier believe he will positively contribute when in the game (which is something that has not happened for Korn this season).
- Tough Schedule. Swinney thinks that this test will help the Tigers over the long haul. TCU is a well coached football team. After losing to Tech, Clemson wasn't in the national championship chase. On that note, I think that playing a quality opponent was beneficial for the Tigers and gives this team more aspects to be critical about than a 36-3 win over Furman would have done.
What can we take out of this, you may ask. First, I think Clemson has the potential to win a bunch of football games this year. Being close simply means that you were in a position to be successful but failed to execute in critical situations. Clemson must learn from these situations to become a better team. (Please do not think that I am endorsing a loss. Losing sucks and is unacceptable. However, I am a realist and realize that CU is about where I expected them to be at this point in the season). The TCU loss will more than likely be the last free pass for Swinney.
Point #2 just shows the attitude of the program and fan base. It is particularly disappointing that this program has been stuck in neutral for so long that no one seems to care that the possibility of greatness has already been lost. At this point, any sort of championship would be cherished. We haven't won shit in 18 years! Losing sucks...wins and championships are the metrics that programs should be evaluated upon. A conference championship would at least give the program something to build upon and a feather for the cap.
Item 3 states the obvious. Clemson is not in a position to screw around with players and playing time. The 11 that give us the best chance of winning should be on the field. If the coaches believe that playing Korn will help us win, then by all means go ahead. This aint intermurals, it's division one football.
Additionally, T. Boyd will be in the mix next season. Unless something out of the ordinary happens to Parker (including a huge offer following the MLB draft), Korn will be in a dogfight to try to gain playing time with both KP and Boyd both being great athletes. He is talented enough to start at a lot of places and will leave before riding the pine his entire college career.
Tough out of conference opponents are great to play if they don't beat up on you too bad. Since Clemson as a whole (coaches included) lost in Atlanta, this game was really all upside for the Tigers (assuming they didn't get embarrassed, which did not happen) as it was out of conference and against a ranked opponent. The close loss gave the Tigers a good test against a well coached squad. It also exposed several areas of this team that will have to improve in order to complete item #2. Once again, losing sucks and a well coached TCU team came to Clemson and simply outplayed Swinney's group.
On to Maryland. This is a BAD Maryland team. After getting trashed by Cal, the Terps squeaked one out against James Madison, lost to MTSU, and got rolled up by Rutgers. Maryland has turned the ball over 13 times in these games, 5 int's and 8 fumbles. Anything less than a royal beat down by the Tigers would be considered a failure in my book against this young Terp team.
Coach Fridge is an interesting character and has enjoyed some success at UMd. Many of you will remember him from his days as offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech. Ralph Friedgen has been called an offensive genius in the past. Ralph historically likes to have a hand-full of plays that he is comfortable running, then execute these plays from a variety of formations. He tends to utilize a lot of formations to try to gain advantageous match-ups.
Since James Franklin (offensive coordinator) rejoined the staff, he has implemented a west-coast offense. SR QB Chris Turner will be leading this offense, with JR Da'Rel Scott leading the rushing attack. Scott is a pretty good back, averaging around 5.7 ypc and three rushing scores on the season. See team an individual stats here.
I look for Clemson to have big numbers on defense Saturday. Maryland has allowed 3.5 sacks per game this season and boasts a negative 10 turnover margin to this point in the season, with the other lines looking just as bad
(stats Courtesy of the ncaa.org). Clemson's defensive front should have a nice day against a fairly inexperienced offensive line.
As shown in the stats above, UMd's defense has been pathetic. They are giving up an average of 38.25 ppg...against Cal, James Madison, MTSU, and Rutgers. If Clemson is going to have a monster game on the offensive side, this date should have a star beside it.
Additionally, there are a few folks in the DC area who are not exactly excited about where the program is going. This is an interesting read about RF's future with the Terps and when James Franklin will take over this squad. As you can read, UMd opened the Friedgen era 31-8 and have since gone 34-31. This jolly giant seems to have lost his luster over the years.
What Clemson will need to do this week is simple. We want to see productivity on first and second downs. No Clemson fan wants KP to be in 3rd and 8 situations throwing to an unproductive group of receivers. The suggestion from this group is run the freaking ball on consecutive downs to get a manageable 3rd down attempt. We should expect improvement up front. Last week's offensive line play was pleasantly surprising. With the addition of Hairston, we should be able to get some movement against Maryland. I personally would love to see us run the ball up and down the field and incorporate Ellington into the flow of the game. Parker needs to show more accuracy slinging the ball, especially with the poor performances put in by the receivers (it would be specifically nice to get the TE up the field and catch some balls. I think Allen and Palmer have the potential to be some nice targets for KP this season). Defensively, keep on trucking. Force UMd to make mistakes and play good fundamental defense.
Here is what I am looking for this weekend (Please note Tracy Johnson almost decapitating someone on the reverse to Cooper).