Head-to-Head Results: Clemson leads the all-time series with a 51-27-1 record (first meeting was in 1899). The series has been called the Textile Bowl since 1981 and Clemson leads the trophy series as well with a 21-9 record. Clemson has dominated the series recently with 7 wins in a row, their longest winning streak in the history of the series.
Head Coach: Dabo Swinney (4th season, 28-16) … took over for Tommy Bowden midway through the 2008 season. Has Clemson in the ACC Championship Game this year for the 2nd time in his 3 full seasons.
Players to Watch:
QB Tajh Boyd (#10, RS-So.) in his first year as starter for the Tigers has played well most of the season (3,017 yards, 27 TDs, 7 INTs) but has struggled somewhat of late with 4 INTs in the last 2 games. He is a big, athletic, strong armed QB that can make plays with his legs so he is very tough to defend.
RB Andre Ellington (#23, RS-Jr.) is a very fast, elusive runner that is a threat to break a long run at any time. He missed the Georgia Tech game (Clemson’s only loss) with an injury, but he is back now and fully healthy. Leads the team with 171 carries for 843 yards (4.9 ypc) and 9 TDs.
WR Sammy Watkins (#2, Fr.) hurt his shoulder last week against Wake Forest so it’s not certain that he plays. If Watkins does play his explosiveness and big play ability make the Clemson offense very dangerous. He leads the Tigers with 68 rec, 1,034 yards, and 10 TDs and even has 3 rushes of longer than 20 yards. He’s also a huge weapon on kickoff returns with 25 returns for 661 yards and 1 TD. Watkins is the odds on favorite to be the ACC Player of the Year … as a true Freshman. (note his high school’s mascot)
DE Andre Branch (#40, RS-Sr.) is a NFL caliber pass rusher off the edge for the Tigers. He currently leads the ACC with 8.5 sacks. He’s second on the team with 60 tackles as well. It’ll be a long, painful day for Mike Glennon if the Pack offensive line can’t block him.
DT Brandon Thompson (#98, Sr.) is another NFL caliber player on the defensive line for the Tigers. Defensive tackles usually don’t rack up large tackle totals, but Thompson is third on the team with 59 tackles so he wreaks a lot of havoc in the middle of the line. He also has 2.5 sacks and 5.5 TFL.
Offensive Summary: The Clemson offense has been flying high this season under new Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris averaging 37.3 points and 478.1 total yards per game. They are stocked with fast, athletic skill players that make it tough to key on just one or two guys. The offensive line is experienced, but has struggled at times protecting QB Boyd. They are turnover prone, but expect them to put up lots of points.
Defensive Summary: The defense has given up 27 points or more in 6 of their 10 games. They have several NFL prospects on the defensive line and their secondary is suspect. The stats, however, show that they’re much better against the pass (190.1 ypg … 20th in nation) than the run (188.3 ypg … 90th). Expect us to try and run the ball to control the clock and take several shots down field throughout the game. The playcalling will have to be much more creative and aggressive than the past few games if we hope to pull off the upset.
Keys to the Game:
1. TDs not FGs … In the past 3 games the Pack offense has scored 0, 13, and 10 points. That will not cut it this week. We will have to score in the 30s to win this game so that means we cannot come out flat in the 1st quarter and we have to score TDs (not FGs) when we have scoring opportunities.
2. Force Turnovers … The Tigers offense has at times been turnover prone this year and the Pack defense is one of the best in the country at forcing them. Also, the Pack is 5-0 when forcing 3 or more turnovers this year and 0-5 when forcing 2 or less.
3. Control the Clock … Clemson has a high scoring, big play offense that can score very quickly. The best way to stop an offense like that it to keep them off the field so Mike Glennon and Co. will need to do something they haven’t been able to do all season … sustain long drives and eat up a lot of clock.
Prediction: Clemson is a surprising 9-1 and ranked #7 (AP & BCS), but the most surprising thing about their season is how they have avoided their annual “Clemsoning” … a WTF loss to a far inferior team. With only us and South Carolina left on their schedule, we are the only team that fits that description. With Clemson clinching the Atlantic Division last week and possibly looking ahead to the big rivalry game with South Carolina next week and/or the ACC Championship Game the week after, the Pack has a few more situational angles in their favor. Vegas only has Clemson as a 7.5 point favorite too. All these things give us slight hope of pulling off the upset, but I just don’t see how our offense is going to score enough to keep up.