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Wednesday Notes: Triple Option Take Two

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

With a quality home Thursday night win under its belt, Clemson now turns its attention to the Citadel, a program with lesser talent but a similar look to what the Tigers faced last week. The downside of Thursday night games is that it creates logistic nightmares for traveling fans, but a perk is that it gives the Tigers two extra days of rest prior to their eleventh game of the season. I know I'm beating a dead horse at this point, but the defensive side of the ball continues to impress. Thursday night was the best this program has looked against the triple option in several years. Clemson did an admirable job stopping the Dive and forcing the Jackets outside where they really weren't any more effective. The defense isn't perfect (as evidenced by some of the mistakes in that game), but the strides we've made are impressive. Having a defense that can finally get off the field prior to the other side putting together long 7 or 8 minute drives is refreshing.

Higgins, of course, had tongue planted firmly in cheek as he contemplated The Citadel’s monumental task in Saturday’s noon game at Death Valley. The Bulldogs (5-6) will be heavy underdogs against the 9-1 Tigers, who are preparing for their Nov. 30 showdown against rival South Carolina. The Bulldogs have lost their last five games against FBS teams by an average score of 51-13, and fell 45-17 in their last visit to Clemson in 2008. This will be the Tigers’ second game against an FCS squad this season; they defeated South Carolina State, 52-13, on Sept. 7.

Clemson opened up yesterday as big big favorites against the Bulldogs, in the form of 40.5 points. That line has since moved up and now rests at 42.5. That's a big number especially in a game where Dabo will likely be resting his quarterback in the second half to ensure he's healthy and ready to go for next weekend. Speaking of our quarterback, how many people's hearts stopped last week when #10 took a shot to the shoulder and went down? Raises hand. In those sort of situations you hope for the best and it turned out we got pretty close to that with Tajh running out of the locker room several minutes later. That would not be the proper way for him to say goodbye and it was fantastic to see Boyd back on the sidelines wanting to go back in. He's a tough kid and we are going to need that toughness on display over the next two weeks. It will be difficult watching #10 for the last time in Death Valley on Saturday. What he has done for this program cannot be understated. He has helped take this program from a mediocre underachieving ACC program to one that's top ten in the country that can go toe to toe with just about everyone in Division I. Thanks for all you've done for us Tajh.

But Boyd had X-rays done, and no breaks were discovered. He bounded out of the locker room, grabbed a ball and even pestered offensive coordinator Chad Morris to go back in. Boyd didn't have to, though, with Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC) ahead 41-24 and cruising to a third straight victory since losing to No. 2 Florida State last month. "If it was a dire situation I felt like I needed to play, I felt like I could've," Boyd said. "But we were in a situation where it wasn't needed." Will he slow down at all with Football Championship Subdivision opponent Citadel up next for Clemson on Nov. 23? "No, man, I'm not going to miss my last game in the valley," he said. "I'll throw a pad in there and I'll be fine."

From the fans perspective, it's hard to get excited about Southern Conference foe the Citadel coming when everyone knows what's on tap next weekend. What is nice however, it Clemson's luxury of getting to play a non-ACC team the week before South Carolina, something that hasn't happened in a long long time. Our rival in Columbia has been doing this for a while, that is teeing up a weaker opponent prior to the Clemson game to essentially give themselves two weeks to get ready for the Tigers. That advantage is no more as Clemson is facing a similar opponent as the Gamecocks, who are taking on Coastal Carolina this weekend.

After Citadel (5-6) comes the annual contest with the Gamecocks on Nov. 30. South Carolina has won four straight in the series. But Swinney said that's for next week. Right now, the Tigers are all about trying to slow down the Citadel's triple-option offense, which is fourth in the FCS at more than 284 yards a game. "This is college football. Crazy things happen. Balls hit off pads and ricochet and guys catch balls and run for touchdowns," Swinney said, referring to Auburn's late touchdown pass to defeat Georgia last Saturday. "I'm not trying to act like Citadel is a team we shouldn't beat, but to act like they can't beat us? That's crazy," Swinney continued.

If you ask Dabo or any other coach he will likely say it shouldn't make a difference who you play the week before and I think there's some truth to that. If Dabo were to spend all week preparing for South Carolina with Citadel on tap, then you chance coming out flat on Saturday and losing some much needed confidence heading into next weekend. Another potential issue is that you worry about players worrying too much about a game that's still far in the future and adding pressure that doesn't need to be added. Focus on each game and continue to do what we've been doing for the last several weeks and we have a great shot to walk out of Death Valley and Columbia with two much needed wins.