Previewing NC State

NC State feasted on FCS and lesser FBS talent, jumping out to a 4-0 record in the early-going. They’re since 1-2 in ACC play and were outscored 17-7 vs. Wake Forest in the final 3 frames of their Week 7 win.

This week, they’ll face their toughest test of the season in Clemson, and they’ll likely do so without their leading tackler and defensive leader at the MLB position.

Is this setting up to be another definitive Clemson victory, or does it have all the makings of an unexpected NC State upset? Barring catastrophe, our money’s on a disciplined and hungry Clemson squad taking care of business in Raleigh.

Enjoy the preview show!

Successful Business Trip: 7-0

Whether or not the Canes’ pre-game antics woke Clemson up, the Tigers came to Miami Gardens ready to play. They countered Miami’s best offensive shot early, taking a 14-0 lead and intercepting Brad Kaaya on his first series.

What ensued was nothing short of a historic blowout, as Clemson handed The U its largest margin of defeat in the program’s storied 90-year history, and matched its own largest win dating back to the 1981 Championship season.

The win helped Clemson to jump to No. 3 in the AP poll, and considering other outcomes around the country, the Tigers should control their destiny for a playoff berth.

While it’s important to keep our eyes on the prize (competing for a National Championship), we took the time to appreciate this win and evaluate where Clemson’s program has come.

Enjoy!

6-0: halfway home, but the road only gets tougher

penalty-flag

Facing an early deficit off a freshly stalled drive — in which the offense failed to convert on its quixotical longball and between-tackles run plays — Andy Teasdall’s kick narrowly escaped the outreached grasp of his backfield trespassers. One of them collected his plant leg, and he dutifully crumpled in a heap, enabling a fresh start for his team met by that trusty deterrent, the personal foul roughing call.

Clemson didn’t look back, as ScElliott found the corner pieces of BC’s defensive jigsaw puzzle. When the final whistle blew, over half a dozen Tigers put their mark on 532 yards of total offense. Some of this production can be attributed to an awful starting field position, but it shows that this team can sustain drives against the best fronts, and move it when backed up deep.

That Brent Venables defense was once again up to the task, limiting freshman quarterback and newly-minted starter, Jeff Smith, to a 15.9 QBR on 7/22 for 87 yards passing. The Eagles had more luck on the ground, averaging 4.5 ypc on 38 rushes, and extended drives throughout the game. BC also amassed two big plays, but neither ended up impacting the outcome. Best of all, the Tigers avoided the injury bug on defense.

In this week’s show, we dug deeper into the outcome:

At the midway point, let’s reflect on the year to-date and what lies ahead.

The Tigers weathered their toughest 3-game stretch of the season, and won the next matchup handily. Since opening kick versus Wofford, Clemson’s suffered a single meaningful injury to a starter. But man, what an impact it’s had. Sidelining Mike Williams — the anchor of the passing game and human safety blanket for Deshaun Watson — has indeed limited the ceiling of your Clemson Tigers’ offensive production. Fortunately, the defense has picked up all of the slack and then some. Remaining healthy, as STS’s Ryan Kantor detailed masterfully, will be critical to ongoing success on both sides of the ball.

As we look at the remaining 6 games — @Miami, @NC State, home vs. Florida State (AP No. 9), @Syracuse, home vs. Wake Forest, @South Carolina — what stands out to me isn’t just that FSU matchup, but the cluster of road tests.

Sun Life Stadium won’t be winning any attendance contests, but it’s also the site of Clemson’s most humbling game in memory, and this may be Al Golden’s most talented roster yet. Raleigh has been a place where Clemson ambition’s gone to die in the recent past. The yankee orange team would relish nothing more than to elbow their way into this league with a signature upset. And could a rejuvenated Gamecocks team under interim coach Shawn Elliott step up and slay Goliath?

Only a prepared and focused team will survive this slate — and displace a resurgent Florida State squad from the ACC throne. Have we seen this Clemson team play a flawless half, let alone game? Not particularly. Do they possess the means of beating any of these teams multiple ways? Definitively so. In-game coaching adjustments and utilizing the depth of talent paved the way to victory over BC. Coupled with Clemson’s special brand of discipline, this bodes well for the weeks ahead.

Boston College Preview

How will Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott’s offense fare against a top-ranked national defense? Will the Tigers D stymie a punchless BC offense? What is the best Pumpkin beer of the season?

All of this and more, on the BC preview show.

5-0: locked in and focused

Clemson improved to 5-0 on Saturday, winning 43-24 against Georgia Tech.

The defense pitched another gem, giving up two quasi-meaningless blown coverage TDs and a FG on a turnover deep in our territory.

Even more encouraging was the awakening of our passing game, despite rainy conditions. DW4 spread the ball around, and we saw some tremendous play from nearly everyone in the WR corps (yes, even Charone Peake was making plays — mainly in the blocking game). The Wayne Train kept on chooglin’, and the O-Line’s play has been nothing short of inspiring.

Best of all, Clemson avoided major injuries in a matchup that typically produces several.

This was a complete team win, and those expecting a letdown had to look elsewhere in the top 10 for pay dirt.

Let’s enjoy this one, before we move onto our toughest offensive test of the year against the stout Boston College defense:

Weighing our options (and the GT Preview)

clunker

Offense:

Clemson can beat you in many ways. A prolific passing game (App State), a grind-it-out running game (Louisville), and a go-up-early then do-just-enough-to-hang-on performance (Notre Dame).

We’re looking to see the Tigers’ offense put together 4 quarters of heady offensive play, led by No. 4, against a sputtering Georgia Tech defense. Key things to look for:

  • How many times does Artavis Scott take our breath away?
  • Does ScElliott stick with Charone Peake in the boundary WR spot, or test Deon Cain or Trevion Thompson at the 9?
  • Will Jordan Leggett get more looks over the middle?
  • Can Deshaun improve his mechanics, and step into his throws?

This week presents our offense the opportunity to make a statement, that they’re able to live up to pre-season expectations and emerge as the key position group on this team.

Defense:

When Paul Johnson’s triple option attack takes the field, it’s tough to avoid the temptation to call it a gimmick. Known as much for semi-legal cut blocks as it is for effective clock-control and efficiency, when it works, it’s nigh impossible to defend (and among the most frustrating styles to root against). You’ll hear the announcers praise “assignment football”, which as far as I can tell means tackle the guy with the ball, and don’t get caught sleeping on WR coverage. While the eye is drawn to the edges, I think this game is won or lost with Clemson’s ability to pressure up the middle. If the Tigers can seal the A-gap, eliminate The Dive, prevent cutbacks, and get pursuit when the ball-carrier moves outside, it should be enough to mitigate drive-extending 3rd and shorts, or actual conversions. Fortunately, we’ve got a stable of bruisers in Carlos Watkins, Christian Wilkins, and Scott Pagano to throw at them.

Prediction:

We know the defense will show up to play, and hopefully they’ve got the conditioning to keep up, after most starters played 65 grueling snaps vs. Notre Dame. I’m also looking for another fast start from the offense, as this Georgia Tech team struggles coming from behind (though we did see them bounce off the mat vs. ND).

35-17 Tigers. Now let’s hear what Ben and Cody had to say!

4-0: Notre Dame Recap & Quacking Tiger Interview

Clemson took down the Fighting Irish under the bright (and rain-soaked) lights of Death Valley. We break down our favorite moments, warning signs, and the season implications of this marquee win:

And as a bonus, we also hosted ShakinTheSouthland’s Quacking Tiger for our inaugural interview. He broke down the ND win, shared thoughts on the 2015 roster, and provided some yet-unpublished recruiting notes for the 2016 and 2017 classes. Big thanks to QT for joining us!

Game 4: Notre Dame Preview Show

For the first time since the Carter administration, Clemson hosts the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Joining the party is the ESPN College GameDay crew, and Sportscenter will be doing a remote broadcast from Clemson.

In this week’s show, we break down ND as an opponent, discuss their early-season schedule and injuries, and surmise how Clemson’s strengths & weaknesses will stack up.

Tune in for ales, predictions, and more!