Last weekend was glorious! The Tigers rose up and played like I thought they would, although the nearly superhuman efforts of Lamar Jackson made things way too close for comfort. The best news was the offense looking like the unit we all expected to see this year. As for Will Merrit’s comments I talked about in last week’s preview, you know the ones about Clemson’s only chance being playing ball control, they were proven to be completely ridiculous as Clemson had to defend 99 plays and had nearly fifteen minutes less time of possession yet STILL won. Why? Because Clemson has some studs and Death Valley is the truth!
Now another screwy schedule quirk has Clemson going to play BC on a Friday night. The Eagles are predictably making this their all or nothing game with the red bandana and such. Steve Addazio always seems to put a fired up team on the field as well. However, Clemson’s talent advantage, as Ryan pointed out earlier in the week, is staggering. It will take a very sloppy and unfocused effort from the Tigers for this to be a game into the fourth quarter. It is possible with Clemson coming off such a huge win, but it is much more likely the team has found its footing and is ready to explode on the weaker sisters of the ACC.
Clemson offense vs BC defense: Once again the BC defense enters this game ranked number one in the country. However, when you look at the opposition the Eagles have faced that statistic isn't as impressive. Clemson would easily rank first in total defense if it had faced the same schedule. The best offense the Eagles have faced, and interestingly enough the most similar system to Clemson’s, is Virginia Tech’s who shredded them for over 200 yards rushing and passing in a 49 to 0 pasting two weeks ago. That said, BC is at home and is tough along the front seven. They shut down the Tigers’ run game last year, though Watson threw for over 400 yards and really should have topped 500 had he been sharper in the first half. The Eagles certainly must stop Gallman and Watson on the ground to have any shot at victory and will likely expose themselves to another air assault as a result.
Clemson’s wideouts have played much better as of late and the resurrection on Deon Cain vs Louisville is a bad sign for the remaining opposition. He is the best deep threat on the team and his acceleration to the ball (seen on his second touchdown) isn't matched by anyone else on the team currently. Cain’s final challenge is to be consistent, but the confidence has to be there after a rough start to the season. There should be many opportunities to make big plays on Friday if the Eagles try to play press coverage again.
Speaking of consistency, it would be nice to see the OL follow up their best performance of the year with another solid outing. They will be challenged up front once again by the strength of the Eagles’ front. A good showing here should be a great sign that the team is ready to really take off.
Clemson defense vs BC offense: I know the guys on defense are much happier watching the film on BC than what they watched prior to Louisville. The Eagles are better than the putrid unit they fielded last season, but only slightly so. They have a more capable quarterback in Kentucky transfer Patrick Towles, but he was a turnover machine there and has still struggled in that regard this year. Remember what Clemson did to South Carolina State’s offense? That is what VT did to BC’s two weeks ago. This should be a mismatch as the Eagles simply have to run the ball inside for their offense to work, and Clemson has been Alabama like in stuffing everyone’s inside run game. Unless there is another Lamar Jackson around to dress in the BC gear to pull Houdini acts when surrounded by Tiger defenders, it should be very difficult for them to manage much offense.
Addazio made a really shocking hire with Scott Loeffler to run his offense. His stints at Auburn and VT were underwhelming to say the least. This might be the hire that dooms ole Addazio as the Eagles haven't won a league game since 2014. BC’s brass likes him but how much losing can they endure?
Meanwhile Brent Venables continues to amaze. His initial game plans have been off the charts good and only fatigue and occasional lapses in focus have kept Clemson from being a top three defense these last two years. The defense is getting healthier with the imminent return of Austin Bryant who might see three or four snaps to kick the tires Friday. Even Adrian Baker is starting to test his knee on the scout team. Any contribution from either going forward is icing on the cake. Meanwhile Clemson continues to get some all world play out of the DL, led by Christian Wilkins, Carlos Watkins, and Dexter Lawrence. I'm also liking the progression of Clelin Ferrell who has put some vicious hits on folks in recent weeks. Van Smith and especially Jadar Johnson have been solid and will be counted on to not bust on the Eagles’ play action game. Converted QB Jeff Smith is the biggest threat for big plays for BC. In the old days, BC could just out physical Clemson and negate the speed disadvantages they might have had overall. Those were the old days though and now Clemson is as physical as anybody in the country, especially on defense.
Special Teams: My prediction last week said special teams could very well turn the game as they did vs. Louisville in 14 and nearly in 15 against Clemson. Lo and behold the Tiger teams were excellent when they had to be last week and had great kick coverage, a couple of great punts deep, and of course the clutch return from Artavis Scott that flipped momentum back to Clemson. I'm almost ready to stop worrying about this phase...almost. I would expect some funny business here from a team desperate for a big win, or in this case ANY league win, so the Tigers need to be alert.
Overall: This game is all about Clemson. BC has to have the unfocused, lethargic group that faced Troy show up in Boston. Even then the Eagles are not as good offensively as Troy. I'm glad this is the red bandana game where there might be a half decent atmosphere, though Swinney has been masterful at treating our PTBSD (Post Tommy Bowden Stress Disorder) since 2012.
Clemson 42 BC 10