Week 5 for the Clemson Tigers could potentially serve as a turning point for this season. Beat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and things start to get very interesting. Lose to the Hokies, and the Tigers could start to lose some of the momentum they've built through the first four games. This game will show to the Clemson fanbase and to the college football world whether the Tigers are for real or not. Virginia Tech, as pointed out by Dabo this morning, has won 12 straight ACC games and have had seven 10-win seasons in a row. This is a quality program that always gets the best out of its players and their tenure in the ACC can be characterized as dominance. Most people believe Clemson can wins game at home, but winning a big conference game on the road, against this Frank Beamer led squad, and things will really be clicking.
They're very big and physical up front. Their two backs, #4 and #2 have scored 10 of their 11 rushing touchdowns. Wilson has averaged 130 yards a game. They're a handful. Their receivers are all good. It's a very good group. They've got guys who are very productive. And they spread it around. It's not just one guy you have to defend. Defensively we've got to stop the run. That's where it starts for us. If they have a big night running the ball, it'll probably be a long night for us.
This makes a lot of sense. The Clemson offense has carried this team thus far in the season, and we are going to have to get a strong performance from Kevin Steele's defense if we are going to be successful in Blacksburg on Saturday. The numbers aren't pretty. Here is where Clemson stands nationally through the first four weeks of 2011.
Rushing Defense #85
Pass Efficiency Defense #82
Total Defense #90
Scoring Defense #66
One of the biggest question marks Clemson fans and Vegas for that matter (who opened with Clemson as 7 point underdogs in large part to the fact that they are coming off two emotional home wins) have is whether Dabo can get this group to refocus, put Florida State behind them, and prepare for this physical dogfight on Saturday. It's a legitimate question, as Clemson has struggled in road games coming off of big home wins (i.e. Boston College in 2010, South Carolina in 2009).
I think they're ready. They've been an easy group to refocus every week. And I think our schedule has helped us, to be honest with you. We haven't had a chance to think about the last game, because we've been consumed with the next game. We're going on the road, so that's a little different too. These guys, they have a ton of respect for our conference opponents. Every game counts.
One of the problems in looking at this game is trying to figure out what this Virginia Tech team is really like. Sure they sit at 4-0, but they haven't played any quality opponent yet, and their most difficult test thus far has been playing East Carolina on the road. Hope much has Virginia Tech been hiding? It's tough to tell. What we do know is this is still going to be a Frank Beamer coached team, so it's safe to assume he will have his team prepared and they will be a physical football team come Saturday. One thing is for certain, the Hokies haven't faced the two quality battles in the trenches that the Tigers have the past two weeks. Who that bodes better for? I guess we'll find out in a few days.
Well, they're 4-0. They've played some solid teams. That's all you can go by. You can still evaluate personnel and schemes, which is what we're most interested in. We'll get their best. It's going to take our best as well.
The Chad Morris vs. Bud Foster matchup will be one of the most intriguing in college football this weekend. I said last week Chad Morris earns his paycheck against Florida State. Well this weekend we see if he deserves a big raise. This offense will likely make a mistake or two. They are young and they are playing their first road game in a cold and loud stadium. How will the Chad scheme against Foster? How will his offense respond to adversity? Will Tajh continue to be able to show poise in the pocket and be able to pick up critical third downs with his arm and with his legs? Besides the South Carolina game, this is going to be the most difficult test for this offense the rest of the season. Lets hope Tajh and Chad are the quarterback and coordinator we think they are.
Their defense will be a challenge for us. It's two weeks in a row we've played a top 10 defense. Virginia Tech is certainly as good as there is out there. They're giving up 10 points a game, 231 yards a game. They're top five in all the statistics. They're only giving up 43 yards rushing and 27-percent on third down. They also lead our league in sacks and second in the league in interceptions. They play an 8-man front and a lot of robber coverage, which is something you don't see a lot of. But it all goes back to their personnel. They've got good people.
If there has been one weakness with this offense its been picking up first downs on short yardage plays. Clemson has proven it can pick up big chucks of yards at a time, something that has been evident against both Auburn and Florida State. To win on Saturday, the Chad Morris attack must be able to pick up the third and fourth down short yardage. They are just as critical as the long chunks, as they help establish a rhythm and help keep this potent offense on the field.
Sometimes it's a bad call but in our case I haven't had a problem with any calls we've made. We've just had one or two or three guys who have not done their jobs. It's disappointing because we've had a couple games where we didn't get it. You have to have 11 guys do their job and execute. When they don't have that, you won't be successful.
Can Clemson finally win that big road game? I think most fans are still in the wait and see mode at this point, including myself. They know history far too well. Is this team different, does it still have four physical quarters of football in it after two emotional wins at home? This game could separate the 2011 Tigers from years past, but at this point I'm not completely optimistic. But boy would I love for this squad to prove me wrong on Saturday.