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Clemson vs. Appalachian State: Game Preview

The Tigers look to build on a dominant first game performance as the trip to Louisville looms.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

As a Wofford guy (noted last week), I'm hopeful the Tigers are just that good and the Terriers will be OK against their FCS opposition.  That was a baby seal clubbing on Saturday.  Now I can get back to full speed Tiger supporting as game 2 approaches with the Mountaineers.  It is going to be interesting to see the Tigers defend against a tempo/spread attack after seeing option in week one.  Clemson should have a much better idea about the capabilities of the secondary and the post-Beasley pass rush after this game.  The Mountaineers rebounded from a poor start last year to finish strong and are carrying momentum into this game.  It is a good incremental step up in competition as the Tigers look to grow the young depth and new starters before the conference slate begins.

Clemson offense versus App. State defense: I know Clemson fans were thrilled getting to see Deshaun Watson back at the controls of the offense.  #4 is just smooth as it gets and makes the game look easy.  The job done up front was pretty impressive as well.  I get the whole "it was just Wofford" thing, but let's remember the many times the Tigers have had issues against out-manned defenses in the run game the last few years.  The Tigers didn't need to rely on explosive plays for generating offense most of the day.  The attack was methodical and efficient, especially with the first unit on the field.  Wofford didn't mix things up on the front as much as I thought they would, but the fear of getting torched over the top was evident in their scheme.  The loss of Mike Williams was certainly the low point of the day, and it now becomes very important for Charone Peake to provide that big year at the 9 position.  He will certainly get more chances to flaunt his reputed speed and will see a lot more balls than the 5 position would see.  I'll be watching to see if Clemson gets any single high safety or zero coverage looks this week.  I noted last week that Clemson should be able to run at will against the soft 2 deep looks if it wants to really be good and that was the case in week one.  I still believe most teams will try to handle the Tiger run game with the safeties back and take a bend/don't break approach, but Watson is so much more adept than Tajh Boyd was at taking the easy stuff and not forcing the issue that Clemson isn't self destructing like it did at times with Boyd.  App. State uses the 3-4 base just like Wofford but features more exotic pressure packages out of it.  The young OL will certainly have more on its plate this week, but it is a good thing because you don't want the Louisville game to be the first time they see some heavy stunting and blitzing from a 3-4.  Defense is not the real strength of this team and Clemson should enjoy a sizable advantage on this side of the ball.  The Mountaineers will be hoping to generate a turnover or two while playing defense with its offense on Saturday.

One thing I'm looking for is who really comes in behind Gallman this week.  Zac Brooks certainly looked impressive during his time against Wofford and I'd like to see him going in ahead of Davidson, personally.  I'd put both Brooks and Dye ahead of the other two guys after game one.  Also, the tight ends didn't have much to do other than block against Wofford.  I'm interested to see how they are going to get worked in as the season goes on.

Clemson defense versus App. State offense: The first week was very encouraging on the defensive side of the ball.  I was worried about the discipline the team would show considering how many new faces were seeing significant action.  However, the team looked very well coached and in control nearly all day and there wasn't a huge drop-off when the subs happened.  Of course, the level of athlete is going up with the Mountaineers, and they will look to attack in a lot more aggressive manner than the Terriers.  If Pagano can show up this week like he did last week, that is going to spell major trouble for opponents going forward.  It will be interesting to see if he can do that.  The biggest thing to watch this week is pass rush, in my opinion.  App. State will probably try to use their quick game as much as possible, but I expect Venables to press on the corners and have Kearse and Green ready to jump the short stuff and force them to hold the ball and attack downfield.  Last year's defense was devastating against teams that had to hold the ball to throw, but this team hasn't had a chance to show if it can be the same or not.  What can this team produce with the four man rush?  We will know a lot more about the defense after this game for sure.  The Mountaineers have scored at least 31 points for the last 8 games dating back to last year, so they are no pushover on this side of the ball.  They also have a mobile quarterback in Taylor Lamb who ran for 483 yards last year and a healthy 6.2 yards a carry.  The Tiger defense will be tasked with chasing around Lamar Jackson in the Louisville game, so this should be good preparation for lane discipline and containment.

Clemson should be in the nickle most of the day in this one, so the Travis Blanks/Dorian O'Daniel competition will really heat up.  Cordrea Tankersley will get to show if he can really cover as I doubt the Mountaineers will mess around with Mack on the other side.  If the defense is dominant this week, I'll be ready to get fully excited about this year's chances of being special.  If there are some issues, we should know it after this week.

Special Teams:  Lordy was this a mess at times last week.  I am really hoping to get away from using the moniker "Special Olympic Teams" but the punt fielding efforts witnessed against Wofford has me seeing THIS.  The good news is the kickoffs were reaching the endzone and Artavis Scott demonstrated some next level return ability to go with his already impressive receiving skills.  The jury is definitely still out here.

Overall:  Clearly this game is a step up in competition from last week, but the step App. State is taking is much larger.  I watched some film of their destruction of Howard and it was evident Howard couldn't tackle, rush the passer, or cover.  The Mountaineers are dangerous enough on offense to make things interesting for a while, potentially, and they are projected as a bowl team by ESPN.  This game is a nice gradual step as the huge games at Louisville and against Notre Dame loom on the horizon.  The Tiger offense is a pretty known commodity as long as #4 is at the controls, but the defense remains a bit of a mystery.  Much of that mystery will be solved on Saturday.