Boston College comes into this contest riding a 10-game ACC losing streak after going 0-8 last season and starting 0-2 this year. Their last conference win came over Syracuse on November 29th, 2014.
Snapping that streak against Clemson will be tough as there is a clear disparity in recruited talent. We saw this in some position groups last week when Clemson hosted Louisville. In particular, we pointed out the gap between Clemson’s D-line and Louisville’s O-line. Clemson’s raw talent advantage in that matchup was one of the biggest reasons we picked the Tigers to win the game and the pressure Clemson’s defensive front generated turned out to be a major factor in the close victory. With that said, let’s look at the Clemson and BC offenses.
As you’d expect, Clemson has advantages across the board. The one place where we see BC pull even is at QB where transfer QB Patrick Towles was a 24/7 four-star. Since he transferred from Kentucky, that might be an indication that he might not be quite as good as Deshaun Watson.
BC’s offensive line is actually a touch above Louisville (one more 3-star, one fewer 2-star) and we’ve seen them have some success in run blocking over the years. RB Jon Hilliman has returned from injury and will be key for their offense to get anything going.
At the skill positions, they’re identical with Louisville at a 2.90, which really illustrates some of the player evaluation/development and plain offensive coaching ability differences between the staffs (Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, for all his imperfections, is quite talented). It also goes a long way to show just how much a dynamic QB makes a difference for an offense and elevates the game of those around him. Clemson’s skill guys average a 4.00, but more on them later. Let’s look at the defenses:
Boston College is #8 in the S&P+ in defense, but they don’t have talent comparable to the teams ahead of them (e.g., Michigan, Clemson, Ohio State, etc.). The “Dudes” are very well coached on this side of the ball and hence they have consistently over-performed. Their front-seven is very physical and will test Clemson’s O-line. Last season, Clemson eventually had to lean on the passing game, but with Watson and Clemson’s WR corps that was just fine. Though he struggled with the deep ball early in that game, Watson found his groove and carved up the BC secondary. While we always like to see the running game get established, this may be a great opportunity for Watson to connect on some deep balls and return to form in that area. Take a look at the gap between Clemson’s WR/TE/RB corps compared to the BC secondary.
BC doesn’t have the highly rated transfers (Shaq Wiggins, Josh Harvey-Clemmons) that Louisville does in their secondary and Clemson’s receivers (save a Ray-Ray McCloud drop turned INT last week) have appeared to really turn the corner since the eight-drop game against Troy.
I expect Clemson to come out a bit flat in this one given the circumstances (short week following an emotional win), but they should be able to pull away even with a sluggish start. While establishing the run is always ideal, this is one where I’m really looking for Watson to connect on some deep balls and keep the BC defense off-balance.