Happy Columbus Day folks. Hopefully the Clemson bye week — along with one of the most memorable weekends in college football history — has treated you well.
Just in case you missed it, Oklahoma came back from 18 in the fourth quarter to down the Texas Longhorns in the Red River Rivalry. The Sooners triumphed on their offense’s final play from scrimmage thanks to a 33-yard Kennedy Brooks touchdown with a second to go.
Their victory was followed up by a No. 3 vs No. 4 Big Ten duel between Iowa and Penn State that by many standards surpassed its hype. PSU jumped out to an early lead, Iowa stormed back in the second half in a large part due to its lock down defense and Hawkeyes QB Spencer Petras hit his WR Nico Ragaini for a 23-20 game-clinching touchdown.
Oh, and Alabama lost too. That’s always fun to see, especially when it comes down to a final-second field goal in a 41-38 primetime thriller.
Saturday's prolific day of action did, however, give way to a much needed slumber for a Clemson team that has performed under its standards in the 2021 college football season. The Tigers currently sit at 3-2 overall and third in the ACC Atlantic division behind undefeated Wake Forest and 4-1 NC State.
Whether or not that trend changes will depend on the offense’s ability to improve while staving off the unpredictability factor that has plagued the program thus far. Tony Elliot’s squad clocks in at No. 112 in Sports Reference’s offensive team rankings, a whopping 108 spots behind their finish last year.
(Let this be your reminder that had Clemson scored exactly 15 points in each of their first five games, they would currently qualify as the undisputed #1 team in the nation.)
Admittedly, a few guys here and there have played with their hearts out, including some of the freshmen. Here’s to them, alongside the standout veterans.
Clemson Tigers Offensive Star: RB Will Shipley
The run game — by many standards — served as one of the biggest questions marks entering the 2021 season. Travis Etienne departed for the NFL, and what remained was Lyn-J Dixon and some underclassmen.
Enter Will Shipley, one of those underclassmen who has been a rare diamond in the rough on the Clemson offense. The freshman running back currently leads his team in touchdowns (5) and has registered 44 carries for 211 yards on the season.
He failed to take the field last week due to an apparent leg injury against N.C. State, but sources expect for him to be back within a few weeks time.
Honorable Mention: WR Joseph Ngata
Clemson Tigers Defensive Star: LB James Skalski
Truthfully, a plethora of Clemson defenders could make a case for themselves in this spot. Future high round draft pick Andrew Booth Jr., the young buck Andrew Mukuba and Baylor Spector all have worthy claims to such a high reward.
However, there is no high performer week in and week out like James Skalski. A sixth-year senior (defying the odds in multiple ways) and heart and soul of the Tiger defense, Skalski leads his team in both total and assisted tackles with respective tallies of 36 and 21.
His 2021 season has been highlighted in a number of categories, whether it be the career high performance against Georgia or the goal-line stop to preserve victory in the Georgia Tech game.
Honorable Mention: CB Andrew Booth Jr.
Clemson Special Teams Star: K B.T. Potter
For approximately four weeks, the Clemson Tigers garnered slim to none on special teams to boast for. Punting commanded the unit’s time on the field, the offense rarely set up the opportunity for a field goal and the return game qualified as nonexistent.
That finally changed (at least partially) last week against Boston College. B.T. Potter, who enters his senior season at Clemson, knocked through four field goals on four attempts, giving his team the deciding points in a close-nit victory vs the Eagles.
The Tigers kicker has served as very reliable on the season thus far with 13 made PAT’s on 13 tries and five made kicks on six field goals. His overall accuracy percentage — 83.3% — is on track to be the strongest of his college career.
Honorable Mention: P Will Spiers