Well, there are a lot of bad vibes coming out of last weekend. Some of our worst nightmares came to life and things a lot of fans had been worrying about surfaced when Deshaun Watson left the G.T. game with a knee injury. Cole Stoudt, to my view, was totally mentally unprepared to play in the game. He's not a stud QB but is a lot better player than what we saw on Saturday past. The only explanation is he had no real expectations to play and when he got in and acted like a robot on the throwback play and threw it regardless of the defense; he just never recovered. Replay showed he did look before he threw and Leggett was covered up in addition to Golden sprinting up to pick the ball. He's got to know to throw that one to the third row. Many fans have clamored for Dr. Shuess to start on Saturday, but Stoudt will get the nod and truthfully is still probably the best option if Watson is out.
This is a good time for Stoudt to get some feel good action against one of the most pitiful defenses in all of college football. Stoudt's one and only 300 yard performance came in a similar setting against S.C. State earlier this year who did things like leave Artavis Scott 10 yards wide open. I expect the crowd Saturday will give Stoudt the proper cheers any senior who has given his life to Clemson University should get despite the quacking about the booing (wink to QT). Now, Stoudt is asking for it if he can't play at a good level against the Panthers. What would help is if the other players don't let their performance level drop just because #4 isn't on the field. That definitely happened in Atlanta.
Now, onto the matchups.
Clemson offense versus Ga. State defense:
When I say just what the Dr. ordered, this is what I mean. Georgia State is giving up 43.8 points per game and has allowed at least 30 in every outing. They are winless in the Sun Belt conference. Their offense throws it a ton and thus puts that defense on the field a lot more often as a result. The Panthers have given up over 3000 yards rushing already this season...let that sink in. If ever there was a time for Clemson to look like a good running team, this would be the game. If we still see multiple tackles for loss and short yardage disasters like we have much of the season in this game, it will be the ultimate indictment of the offensive line and tight ends. Clemson should be able to win this game without attempting a pass. It is as important for the line and wideouts to get the good mojo going as it is for Stoudt. From my vantage point, it wasn't like we had guys getting wide open against GT against a lot of man coverage. Mike Williams was nowhere to be found and was blanketed on the few targets he got in Atlanta. He needs to win those matchups when Watson isn't out there to put the ball in the perfect spot.
The one real bright spot last weekend was Wayne Gallman. He had a hiccup or two in pass protection, but he continued to show improvement in his vision. There is no doubt he would have topped 100 had Watson been able to play the entire game because once Stoudt came in, GT was free to key on him on every run look. He still managed to pop a 30 yard run even under those circumstances. What I'd like to see is a nice dose of Tyshon Dye as Gallman's primary backup. Time to take the training wheels off in this matchup and let Dye get 12-15 carries. We need to be able to pound the ball at the coot defense in two weeks even if Watson is playing the way most everyone else has done this year.
So, basically this matchup is one big Dr. Phil session for the offense. Hold hands, sing Kumbayaa, run for well over 200 yards and put up a bunch of points. Just please, PLEASE, let the injury train stop.
Clemson defense vs. Ga. State offense:
I'm sure the Tiger defense is so happy to be done dealing with the option that they can hardly stand it. Poor Vic Beasley has been going for weeks without a sack thanks to constant 3 step drops and other tactics to keep him off the quarterback. Now he and the rest of the defense get to face a spread offense looking to throw the ball a lot, so the opportunities for big plays will be there. The challenge will be staying disciplined and not looking to make a play outside of an assignment, which was a bit of an issue early against Wake Forest. The defense played about as well in Atlanta as it did in Clemson the year before. The results, in my opinion, would have been similar had Watson stayed in the game and staked the kind of lead we were looking to get. GT still would have made some plays as they did the year before (when they ran for 248 and had over 400 yards total), but would have been in trouble trying to play catch-up. Holding GT out of the endzone on all but one drive is about as good as it gets against a Paul Johnson team. In a normal Clemson offensive year when the team isn't playing new guys at nearly every skill position and has its starting QB, that would result in an easy win.
This is a good time for a bounce back effort by the Tiger secondary. Though G.T. only passed for 102 yards, the efficiency they were able to have was disturbing. We all know visor boy will have the back shoulder fade on the short list of things to come at us with. Of course, our defensive line will be able to be more aggressive against the traditional offenses it will see the next two weeks. Even still, Clemson was able to sack GT 3 times when they had given up only 7 before the game. The defense still produced two fumble recoveries. Creating turnovers and handling third/fourth downs will be the key against the coots in two weeks. As for this week, just play to the standard and the plays will be there to be made. I said in the GT preview that the Tigers just needed to make sure all drives ended with a kick of some kind. Unfortunately the three picks happened and the team couldn't recover. This defense is so good that the offense just needs to move the sticks on most drives and NOT turn it over. The three losses have all come as a result of either a bunch of 3 and outs (UGA), or turnovers (FSU and GT). The multiple seniors on this defense have a chance to finish up strong and put themselves among the greatest defenses in Clemson history.
This unit keeps chugging along with steady if unspectacular play. Outside of Humphries screwing up twice at Wake, this area hasn't cost us since the debacle in Tallahassee (knocking on wood). I've officially stopped hyperventilating before a Lakip field goal attempt and am approaching the state of calm enjoyed during the latter portion of the Catman era. Kickoff returns continue to produce, at best, OK field position. Last weekend was a time when the team desperately needed a big play from the return unit to flip momentum but it didn't happen. Look no further than the coots against Florida for evidence of special teams turning a certain loss into a win. The coots struggled mightily on offense but thanks to two blocked kicks, they managed to steal that game. Clemson has exactly one game this year where a huge special teams play helped win the game and two where we lost thanks in part to terrible plays by the unit. They need to at least even that 1-2 record up by season's end.