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Clemson versus Boston College Game Preview

The Tigers will get a pulse check on the offense on Saturday as they look to continue to push for a championship.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Wow, what a week!  It all started with the Washington Huskies putting a bad loss on the real USC in Los Angeles on a Thursday night.  The heat on Sarkisian was predictable, but it was impossible to foresee how things unravelled for him. Now the Trojans are on coach #5 in the past two years (even though the interim coach now was the interim coach for the bowl game a couple of years ago).  Saturday rolled around and the Gamecocks were predictably taken behind the woodshed by LSU, but instead of moving forward and creating an exit plan for the program, Steve Spurrier abruptly hung up the visor and took the first lifeboat off the Titanic.  In the meantime, the Clemson Tigers stared all the upset alert folks in the face and promptly put an orange boot into the hindparts of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.  So much for that turnaround game for GT, Lee Corso, little Herbstreit, Ovie Mughelli, etc.  Dabo rightly called out the ESPN led media circus for their lack of attention to detail and disregard for the facts of the present day.  The same ESPN who had an analyst who still thought Maryland was in the ACC.  The same ESPN who seemed to believe Clemson has some crazy two-headed playcalling system.  I'm not always right about how things are going to go for Clemson, that is certain, but I do know that it didn't take much watching of the Tigers and Jackets to sense the mismatch that came to be.  I certainly stated last week in the preview I felt the Tigers were just way too good up front for GT to deal with, and that was the case.  It really isn't Corso or little Herby that bother me, considering one is just an old man who has had a stroke and the other is just a young kid, but the lack of respect for Clemson came before the season from many who should know better.  Dabo stated after the Oklahoma win that Clemson "ain't seen nothin' yet!"  Those words are beginning to ring very true.  It seems the national media has begun to take full notice.

Now, to the real task at hand.  The feisty Steve Addazio brings his Boston College squad to Tigertown on the heels of one of the most gut-wrenching losses I have witnessed in many years.  BC held Wake Forest to 5 first downs and 142 yards of total offense...and lost.  Wake gave the ball to the Eagles inside the 12 with 56 seconds to go and BC couldn't even attempt a tying field goal.  On top of that, the Eagles have allowed 26 points in their three ACC games and are winless in league play.  Say what you want about the Cole Stoudt led Tigers from the Louisville game to the Georgia State game, it didn't come close to approaching that kind of mess.  The Tiger defense should feast on the Eagles on Saturday.

Clemson offense versus Boston College defense: This certainly will be something to watch.  The Eagles have been playing lights out on defense all year long despite their ineptitude on offense.  They held Dalvin Cook to 54 yards rushing.  Though I don't feel the Eagles are quite as good as their numbers on defense, they are certainly a legitimate top 10 unit on that side of the ball.  They are talented enough and show tremendous assignment discipline.  I felt earlier in the season that if the Tiger defense could stone Appalachian State's offense that I would declare it a legit unit.  That has proven to be the case.  Now, if the Tiger offense can create some significant offense against the Eagles, especially in the run game, Tiger fans should feel very confident that the offense is legit.  Clemson has to avoid the turnovers and certainly can't give a touchdown to the Eagles on a bad snap play the way they did vs. GT.  Anything crazy there or in the special teams area could put this game in jeopardy should the Tigers struggle to score the way others have against BC.  It will be a war in the trenches on this side of the ball.  This is a game where the talents of Deshaun Watson and the skill positions are likely going to have to be the difference.  The Tigers showed great signs of life in the passing game after a couple of rough weeks against good defenses and some crazy weather, but some concerns still remain for me.  I believe this OL is light years better in the run game but is very average in pass protection.  Adam Gotsis in particular caused problems for the Tigers on some passing plays.  Clemson has done a great job of jumping on opponents and getting the lead, but the question remains if the Tigers can throw themselves back into a game if it starts badly or the run game is stuffed.  Should Clemson get Wayne Gallman loose on this defense, the remaining opponents should be quaking in fear.

I'm sure I am not alone in being a member of the Hunter Renfrow fan club.  This is how a potential 5 heart situation should be handled.  Get the kid to walk-on and if he proves to be a true baller, like Renfrow has, THEN scholarship the guy.  The program should be in a position to do this type of thing a lot more moving forward and hopefully young Dawkins will be the last of the offers to guys who aren't getting offers close to this level.  Renfrow starting is great news considering his efforts blocking have surpassed anything G-Hop has done to this point.  The fact Renfrow has made some great catches and drawn some big penalties is just icing on the cake.  Deon Cain sent a shot across the bow of Charone Peake last weekend as well.  This is about the time young bucks like Cain start to figure it out, normally.  This was around the time that Nuk Hopkins emerged in 2010 as the top WR on the team.  Clemson is going to need some playmaking on the outside in this game because it is hard to forecast putting long, multiple play drives together against BC's defense.  The Tigers simply have to exploit the advantage on the perimeter.

Clemson defense versus BC offense: On paper this looks like a complete mismatch.  The Eagles began the season having to face a complete turnover on the offensive line and quarterback.  Injuries have struck and left BC with several backups in key spots.  The result has been pretty ugly as the Eagles have managed a measly 21 points against bowl division competition and just 7 in ACC play.  BC lost to Wake 3-0, which is bad in itself, but considering they had the ball inside the 15 yard line TWICE inside the last 2 minutes and still couldn't score just boggles the mind.  Last year, the Eagles' standard offense was completely dismantled by the Tiger defense, but BC threw a bevy of gimmick plays that caused problems.  I expect more of the same on Saturday as Boston College will no doubt throw caution to the wind and empty the playbook in hopes of generating some kind of explosive plays.  Much like Louisville, the Eagles are waiting to declare a quarterback for this game after rotating Troy Flutie and Jeff Smith.  Flutie has been the better passer of the two, but Smith is more suited for the zone read run game the Eagles featured last season.  Either guy is going to be terrorized by the Clemson front seven on Saturday.  I recall Tommy Bowden talking about playing Clemson in the 80's when teams would "come in two busses and leave in a bus and two ambulances."  Those days have returned as this defense has put a physical beating on every opponent.  Dabo Swinney has brought physicality back to the program.  This is bad news for Boston College whose early success in ACC play against Clemson came from being the more physical team.  As long as the Tigers are assignment sound and don't get fooled by double passes, reverses, wheel routes, etc., the Eagles shouldn't sniff the endzone.

Special Teams:  Hooray for the Tigers finally looking pretty good in this area in all phases.  That certainly needs to continue.  One area to watch out for on Saturday will be the punt coverage unit for Clemson against the Eagles and their small, shifty return specialist Sherman Alston.  Alston is averaging 10 yards a return and can break a big one if the Tigers aren't disciplined.  BC has to hope to generate some kind of an advantage in this area to pull off the upset. This might be a game where field goal kicking is needed to generate some points.  It was interesting to see Ammon Lakip get the nod for the second FG in the GT game.  It might be a case where Lakip will take the longer field goals while Huegel handles the shorter kicks (40 and in).  That is merely speculation of course, but regardless points will most likely be at a premium in this game .

Overall:  The Tigers really responded to the challenge of "getting up" for a struggling GT team last week.  The offense should be relishing the opportunity to test its abilities against the current top defense in college football.  The Tigers have been outstanding early in games and have set the tone each time out.  The Tigers have outscored the opposition 50-6 in the first quarter and 120-23 in the first half this season.  The Eagles will be in huge trouble should they fall behind early as their offense just cannot be expected to catch up.  BC's only hope is to find a lead somehow and hang on for dear life with their defense.