Clemson’s toughest home game (by a wide margin) is this Saturday as the #12 Texas A&M Aggies head to Clemson fresh off a blowout Thursday night win over Texas State. This will be the last time a Power Five non-conference opponent not named Notre Dame or South Carolina will come to Memorial Stadium until 2025 when LSU comes to town (Clemson plays UGA in 2024, but in Atlanta).
Clemson fans would love to see the Tigers’ streak of 20+ point wins extended to 12, but after QB Kellen Mond threw for 430 yards against Clemson last season, extending the program’s win streak to 17 may have to do.
To get us ready for for this big matchup, we connected with Rush Roberts from Good Bull Hunting. Please consider giving him a follow on twitter here and enjoy the Q&A!
STS: Clemson and Texas A&M both earned blowout home victories last Thursday. Against Georgia Tech, Clemson’s defense and running game provided encouragement, but QB Trevor Lawrence looked rusty. Meanwhile, the Aggies took on an overmatched Texas State squad and QB Kellen Mond looked good as he threw two TD passes (21 yards and 3 yards) and ran in another in the first half. He added a third passing TD before they went to the second-string offense. Mond obviously went off against Clemson last year. What kind of threat does the 2019 version of Kellen Mond pose the Tigers? How much will Fisher lean on him to carry the load against the Tigers?
GBH: I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that last year’s Clemson game was the best performance of Kellen Mond’s two-year career as a starter. The fact that he could rise to the level of such a great football team and almost pull off the upset speaks volumes as to what his ceiling can be. Mond has put in the work and steadily improved over each of the last two offseasons, and so far there’s been no reason to believe that he won’t be even better in 2019 than he was last year. The key to his improvement in year two of Fisher’s system will be consistency: he made one bad decision against Texas State, and they made him pay with an interception inside the 5-yard line. Mond cannot make those kinds of errors again this week. If he can play within himself and run the offense smoothly and efficiently, he’ll put the team in position to make big plays.
STS: While Texas A&M’s Mike Elko may be a top five defensive coordinator in the country, most Clemson fans feel that Brent Venables is the very best in the game today. Despite that, Coach Fisher has found ways to adjust and get yards against Venables’ defenses (not just last year, but going back to his FSU days). Are there any tactics in particular you expect the Aggies to employ to continue the trend?
GBH: One thing we might see is a healthy dose of a one-two running back combination in an attempt to keep the defense on their heels. Jashaun Corbin is still the clear number one (he had 22 carries on Thursday for 103 yards), but true freshman Isaiah Spiller looked really impressive in relief (also over 100 yards on 7 carries, including an 85-yarder). He’s a thicker guy than Corbin, but both are capable of picking up yards either inside or on the edge.
STS: I’m a Kellen Mond fan. He’s got a lot of talented pass catchers around him this year too – though losing their incoming 5-star TE to injury hurts. A&M should have a top three offense in the SEC. The Tigers should have by far the best offense in the ACC. Both defenses had a lot of turnover. As such, are you expecting a shoot-out?
GBH: I think we’ll see scoring similar to last year, maybe low thirties or high twenties. Enough to keep it interesting, but not a Big 12 game. Of course, a lot of people probably thought the same thing right before our game against LSU last year.
STS: When Clemson has the ball on offense, what individual or position matchup gives you the most concern? Which, if any, gives you some optimism?
GBH: Linebackers against your inside receivers or tight ends. This is a very thin position group depth-wise, and they weren’t asked to do a whole lot against Texas State. I feel much better about our defensive line depth against your ridiculous offensive line this year, despite losing a few key players.
STS: On Athlon Sports’ Cover 2 Podcast, one of the hosts picked A&M to play in the National Championship for the 2020 season. I think that pick may be reasonable if (!) Kellen Mond returns for an additional season, which remains to be seen. Is Texas A&M really still a year away or it just commentary on scheduling as Clemson and Georgia come off the Aggies’ regular season schedule next season?
GBH: I think it’s probably a combination of both. We’re replacing a school record-setting running back and one of the nation’s most prolific tight ends on offense. The defense is also not quite as deep as it needs to be to make that kind of run just yet, particularly at linebacker. We could see a much-improved team this year finish with the same record due to the schedule. If Kellen Mond returns for his senior year, 2020 will be our best shot at winning it all in quite a while.
STS: The Tigers open as 16.5 point favorites. What are your thoughts on the spread and how the game will play out?
GBH: I think that’s a bit generous for Clemson, but I understand it: it’s one of the perks of being defending champs and one of the nation’s elite programs. I think the Aggies can keep it within ten, and if we play mistake-free football I think there’s a great chance at an upset. I can’t wait for this game.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this Q&A, please check out the other half where we answered questions for Good Bull Hunting. You can find that here.