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Game 11 Preview: Clemson Hosts Miami

The Quest for Win #10

NCAA Football: Louisville at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the weekly STS game preview. I apologize if this one is a little less in depth than usual, but life and work has given me a full plate this week! However, I’m excited for another chance at a 10 win season and to finally return in person to Death Valley. We will have real November weather so bundle up and bring all your hate and disdain for the Miami Hurricanes.

Clemson offense vs. Miami defense: I noted last week that Clemson’s offense is what it is and the staff seems to have embraced that after a very disappointing week up in South Bend. We saw more two back sets than we have all year and the passing game highlighted the tight ends and slot Antonio Williams almost exclusively. They leaned on the running game and were able to keep Louisville away from what had been making their defense successful (mostly) in route to a relatively easy win. Other than some fumble issues, the running game with Will Shipley, Phil Mafah, and DJU controlled the action. The downside, of course, is the overall lack of explosiveness and “homerun” plays for easy scores. The upside is when Will Shipley busts a highlight reel run or Phil Mafah and the OL drag the majority of the Louisville defense about 15 yards. You could feel Louisville pressing on offense knowing their possessions were going to be more limited and they largely abandoned their staple stretch run game as a result.

Now, this approach can’t win a National Title by itself in this era. This is exactly why Alabama made its offensive shift post 2014 to what they have been running since. Even UGA has been throwing the ball more than running it since 2018-19. A great defense and a great running game still wins a lot of games, but eventually the Tigers will have to rediscover their ability to take the tops off of defenses in the passing game if they want to reach the mountaintop once again. This may even be needed to beat UNC in a couple of weeks in the ACC Title Game. However, this current setup can and should beat the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday. I expect the Tigers to go right at Miami and mix the passing in as a compliment. As long as DJ can execute enough third down situations (like he did hitting Ngata on the first TD drive last week), that plan should get the job done and best compliment the defense.

Clemson defense vs. Miami offense: I think Wes Goodwin had “Damn the Torpedoes” on repeat planning for Louisville because he unleashed blitz after blitz after blitz all game long. Barrett Carter was ridiculously good in place of the injured Trenton Simpson and Wade Woodaz, in my opinion, was a revelation in his time spent at SAM (PROPERLY SETTING THE EDGE!). I call for more of both of these things. Simpson is a great talent and has been great in spurts, but perhaps his home really is at SAM in a rotation with Woodaz. We will see how this plays out as Simpson returns to health. Maybe it was scheme specific against the Cardinals style of offense, but Carter made the kind of impact I had envisioned Simpson making all season. He’d be the one on the Butkis finalist list.

Miami entered this season with the usual hopes and aspirations of being “back.” They forked out a lot of money on Mario Cristobal and NIL setups for recruits. However, like Texas A&M (who ironically played and defeated Miami earlier this season), a big money coach and some flashy recruits and transfers haven’t automatically vaulted their team into the top 10. Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, much like UVA’s Brennan Armstrong, has had a very disappointing season as full time starter (when he hasn’t missed time for injuries). Miami got run out of their own stadium by Middle Tennessee State as well as being owned by Florida State and Duke. They squeaked out wins over bottom feeders UVA and Virginia Tech. Their win last week vs. GT looked impressive on paper, but in reality was a four quarter game against GT with its backup QB who turned the ball over multiple times.

Now, this team isn’t devoid of talent and who knows if they start putting things together, but any Clemson fan should be appalled if this Miami offense can really hurt the Tiger defense in this game. I expect more of the heavy and various pressures packages from Goodwin to force Miami to make plays quickly and decisively, or better yet, in a sense of panic without regard to ball security. Van Dyke, if healthy, can sling the football but is not nearly the mobility threat of a Cunningham or Travis or Maye. His backups are a significant drop in terms of passers but can offer more QB run threat. Clemson’s defense should terrorize this offense the way FSU’s did just a couple of weeks ago.

Special Teams: The Tigers cleaned up their act in this phase with their punting last week. That certainly needs to remain the case, especially next week, but all of these upcoming opponents are going to be at an overall talent disadvantage and will definitely look to find some ways to get the Tigers in the kicking game if they can. One of Miami’s few bright spots the last time they came to Death Valley was blocked kicks. The staff moved Bryan Bresee onto punt protection last week to help clean up that unit.

Overall: Clemson has absolutely dominated the Miami Hurricanes since 2015 with blowout after blowout. It really has been a tale of two styles of programs, and Clemson’s firm foundation has always trumped whatever pomp and circumstance the Hurricane program has attempted to re-establish. Cristobal might be able to turn that around but it certainly isn’t in year one. Losing this game would be one of the biggest and most disappointing upsets in the last thirty years of Clemson football. Not on my watch!

Clemson 42-Miami 13