WHAT WE ARE HEARING: PREVIEW & PREDICTION FOR NO.5 CLEMSON AT BOSTON COLLEGE
- 2022-10-07 19:01:32
Welcome to another edition of What We Are Hearing!
The Tigers have completed their ACC Atlantic Division revenge tour by knocking off No.16 Wake Forest and No.10 NC State in back-to-back weeks. Those are the two teams that deprived the Tigers of a 7th straight division title last season. The Tigers beat Wake last year, but the Deacs won the division because it was their only loss and the Tigers had two conference losses, including double-overtime at NC State. So the Tigers are now in the cat-bird’s seat and control their own destiny with a 5-0 record. The Atlantic Division is one of the toughest divisions in the nation, though, and the Tigers still have undefeated Syracuse, Louisville and a road game at FSU, which was ranked last week, on the docket. Even this week’s game at Boston College now looks to be more of a challenge than it did a couple weeks ago. BC played its best game of the season last week, upsetting Louisville 34-33. When you have home field, an NFL prospect at quarterback like Phil Jurkovec and a dynamic playmaker like Zay Flowers, anything is possible!
This will be the Tigers’ first trip to Chestnut Hill since that frigid game in 2018, and just about every time the Tigers play there, Boston College designates that the Red Bandana Game, honoring the memory of BC alum and lacrosse player Welles Crowther, who died in the World Trade Center collapse while heroically saving as many as 20 others. Daob was given a red bandana by the Crowther family back in 2016, and he said that he still has it in his office. Of course, you all know that Dabo won his first game as head coach at Boston College back on All Saint’s Day, Nov.1 2008, so it will always hold a special place in his heart. I’m proud to say that I was there, freezing my tail off in the upper deck, with some of my MBA friends that I had just graduated with the previous May. I can still remember watching Dabo running along the barrier, high-fiving all the Clemson fans in the stands after the game and CJ Spiller wearing the leather helmet. The year before that, Matt Ryan ripped Clemson fans’ hearts out by throwing a 43-yard touchdown pass with 1:46 left after the Tigers had led for 3 quarters. And then Aaron Kelly, the Tigers’ all-time reception leader, dropped a long pass that hit him in the hands and would have saved the game. That loss in Death Valley cost Tommy Bowden and the Tigers their first division title and a trip to their first ACC Championship. It was Tommy Bowden’s tenure at Clemson in a nut shell: so close to winning the division year after year. A road overtime loss to BC in 2006 (thanks to a missed PAT) cost the Tigers the division, and a home overtime loss to BC cost them the division in 2005 (Matt Ryan’s first collegiate start, filling in for the injured starter). So Boston College cost the Tigers 3 division titles and potentially 3 ACC titles with 3 overtime wins! And the ultimate irony is that if the Tigers had won any one of those overtime games, perhaps Bowden would not have been fired in October of 2008. The Lord works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He? Fitting that Dabo’s first win in his Hall of Fame career was on the road against that very Boston College team that had cursed the Tigers for 3 straight years! He now has 11 straight wins over the Eagles.
Due to the quirkiness of the 2020 Covid schedule, the Tigers and Eagles played in Death Valley for 3 straight years. The last two meetings have been nail-biters. In 2020, Trevor Lawrence tested positive for Covid, so true freshman DJ Uiagalelei had to make his first career start on short notice. DJ was ready to answer the bell and showed tremendous poise in playing one of the best games in his career, completing 30 of his 41 passes for 342 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions. He also rushed for 25 yards and another TD. It was one of the great relief performances of all time. Boston College forced a punt to give it a chance to win, but Will Spiers pinned the Eagles at their 4-yard line with a 41-yard punt and just 1:18 on the clock. Freshman DT Bryan Bresee sealed the game on the next play by sacking Jurkovec in the end zone for a safety. The Tigers trailed 28-13 at the half but shut out first-year starter Phil Jurkovec and the Eagles in the second half for the 34-28 comeback win. The leather helmet was awarded to Travis Etienne, but he gave it to his freshman teammate, DJ, for leading the Tigers to victory in his first career start.
The Tigers hosted the Eagles in the first half of last season, when DJ and the offense were struggling to put points on the board with all kinds of injuries and inexperience on the offensive side of the ball. They were 2-2, coming off the excruciating double-overtime loss at NC State, and BC was 4-0, so it was a totally different set of circumstances when the two teams met last season. Will Shipley and Bryan Bresee both injured their knees the week before at NC State. The score was tied 13-13 in the 3rd quarter, but the Tigers’ defense held the Eagles to just 3 points in each of the last 2 quarters and held on for the 19-13 win. With Shipley out, Kobe Pace had one of his best games, rushing for 125 yards and the Tigers’ only touchdown on 6.9 yards per carry. Mafah added 58 yards on just 8 carries. Potter made all 4 of his field goal attempts. KJ Henry recovered a fumble, and there were interceptions by Nolan Turner and RJ Mickens. Turner was awarded the leather helmet after the game.
The O’Rourke-McFadden Trophy is on the line once again. Who will win the trophy and wear the leather helmet this year? On to the matchup…
Clemson leads the all-time series with BC 20-9-2. The series began with the 1940 Cotton Bowl following the 1939 season. No.12 Clemson beat No.11 BC 6-3 in that game, which featured legendary players Banks McFadden for Clemson and Charlie O’Rourke for Boston College, the namesakes of the trophy annually awarded to the winner. Frank Leahy was the head coach of BC for that first meeting. He has the second-best win percentage all-time behind fellow Notre Dame Head Coach Knute Rockne. Leahy lost just 13 games in 13 years as a head coach, and one of them was to Clemson. In fact, that 6-3 Cotton Bowl loss to the Tigers cost Leahy the all-time best win percentage, as he had 2 more wins than Rockne and just one more loss…Clemson has won 11 straight games versus Boston College, the fifth-longest active streak against a single opponent in Clemson history. It’s the seventh-longest such streak in program history…Clemson is 43-7 in night games since 2015, including 7 straight wins…Clemson, Alabama and Georgia are the only teams that are 3-0 versus teams above .500 this season. Clemson is the only team with multiple wins over teams currently ranked in the top 15…Last week was the Tigers’ 27th matchup of AP top-10 teams in Clemson history. The Tigers are now 15-12 in such games. It was the 22nd under Dabo Swinney, and he is now 13-9 in top-10 matchups…Clemson has won its last 8 games against opponents that beat the Tigers in their previous meeting…Clemson has won 11 straight games, the longest active win streak in the nation. It is the Tigers’ 11th win streak of 10 or more games in program history…The Tigers have won 37 straight games in Death Valley, the longest active home win streak in the nation and 11th longest all-time. It is tied with FSU for the longest streak in ACC history. No member of this Clemson team has lost a home game…Clemson is 56-1 at home in the CFP era, also the best such record in the nation. If not for a last-second 48-yard field goal by Pitt in 2016, the Tigers would have eclipsed Miami’s all-time record of 58 straight home wins last week. If not for the 2016 Pitt loss, the Tigers would have 59 straight home wins dating back to their 2013 loss to eventual national champion FSU….The Tigers have won 64 straight games when leading at halftime…Clemson has won 36 consecutive games as an AP top-5 team against unranked opponents, the longest active streak in the nation…Clemson is 97-3 against unranked teams since the start of the 2012 season…Dabo won his 155th game last week. He took the sixth-fewest games (186) to reach 150 wins. Urban Meyer holds the record at 176 games, followed by Barry Switzer, Gil Dobie, Fielding Yost and Joe Paterno. Switzer and Paterno are the only ones who, like Dabo, won all 150 games at one school….Clemson has the second-most wins and second-best win percentage since 2015 behind Alabama. The Tigers are 94-10 over that period while Alabama is 97-8. Ohio State is 3rd with a record of 84-10 since 2015. Clemson is also 2nd in wins since 2011 with a record of 136-21. Alabama is 145-14 and Ohio State is 128-20….Clemson has the most Power Five wins (96) since 2013. Alabama is 2nd with 94 and Ohio State is 3rd with 88….Clemson holds the all-time record for most wins over a 5-year span with 69 from 2015-2019….Dabo Swinney has the best active win percentage in the nation (minimum 10 years) at .812. Nick Saban is second at .803 and Jimbo Fisher was 3rd, but his loss last week and Lance Leipold’s win at Kansas has pushed Leipold (.757) ahead of Fisher (.755)….Dabo is currently tied for 11th on the all-time win percentage list but climbing quickly. He’s just one spot below legendary Oklahoma Head Coach Bud Wilkinson, who Dabo could pass for 10th next season….Dabo’s 155 wins are already the third-most of any coach in his first 15 seasons, but Dabo is only in his 14th full season. By the end of the 2023 season, Dabo should topple Urban Meyer’s record of 165 wins in his first 15 seasons….Dabo has the most active wins (155) that are all with one school. Mike Gundy is 2nd with 153 at Oklahoma State. Dabo is 9th on the active win list, one win ahead of Mike Leach….With a win in the Cheez-It Bowl over Iowa State last season, Dabo tied Bobby Bowden for most bowl wins (11) by any ACC coach in history….
BOSTON COLLEGE SYNOPSIS
Head Coach Jeff Hafley is 2-3 in his 3rd season at BC. Before that, he was defensive coordinator at Ohio State when the Tigers beat the Buckeyes in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl Semifinal. He was 6-5 in his first season at BC and 6-6 last year, leading the Eagles to a bowl game against ECU, which was canceled due to Covid. The Eagles got off to a rough start, losing the opener 22-21 to Rutgers, the next game 27-10 at VA Tech and a couple weeks ago 44-14 at FSU, but they played their best game of the season last week in upsetting Louisville 34-33 at home. The Eagles have a new offensive coordinator in John McNulty, and it’s probably taken them a few games to get their feet under them offensively. Former OC Frank Cignetti is now the OC at Pitt.
The ACC is once again the best quarterback conference in the nation, and for the 3rd straight week, the Tigers will have to face a big-time NFL prospect in fifth-year senior Phil Jurkovec, who transferred to BC from Notre Dame a few years ago. Jurkovec was out almost 2 months with an injury last season and missed the Clemson game. He has completed 64% of his passes this season for 230 yards per game with 10 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. The good news for the Tigers is that the 6’5, 215-pound is not a runner at all.
The bad news for the Tigers is that Jurkovec has one of the most dynamic playmakers in the country, WR Zay Flowers (#4), to throw to. The 5’10, 172-pound lightning bolt from Florida has twice as many receptions as anyone else on the team and three times as many as the next-closest wide receiver. With 34 catches for 481 yards and 5 touchdowns this season, he’s already matched his scoring total from last season and is 10 catches away from last year’s reception total. He had massive games against Rutgers in the opener and Louisville last week, scoring 2 TD’s in each. He had 5 catches for 151 yards last week, averaging over 30 yards per catch! Florida State did a good job containing him 2 weeks ago, limiting him to just 7 catches for 45 yards and no scores. Flowers can score any time he touches the ball from anywhere on the field, and BC will try to get him the ball in space as many times as possible on Saturday night. Flowers shocked many by remaining at BC, reportedly turning down multiple NIL offers to transfer to other schools during the offseason, including one for $600,000! ”It was just me making my own decision and me being a man and talking to everybody in my circle and talking about what was going on because $600,000 is a lot of money. It could change a lot for me and my family. I felt like at the time I just wanted to be loyal to my school and my teammates and what I was building here at BC.” It’s admirable to see such loyalty to one’s school and team in this day and age of the transfer portal. We saw Biletnikof winner Jordan Addison abandon his Pitt team that put him on the map for more fame and fortune at USC, but Flowers resisted the temptation, so kudos to him! Sophomore WR Jaden Williams (#0) has just 9 catches, but 2 of them are TD’s. Freshman WR Joseph Griffin (#2) has just 5 catches, but he's scored in each of the last 2 games. At 6’4, 200 pounds, Griffin is a threat in the red zone.
Pat Garwo (#24) leads the Eagles’ rushing game. The compact, 5’8 and 208-pound junior has rushed for 225 yards and 2 touchdowns this season on 3.6 yards per carry. Alex Broome (#20), a 5’8, 185-pound freshman, has 21 carries for 118 yards and one score. Flowers has 6 carries for 50 yards this season. Watch out for him on end arounds and reverses!
The Eagles have historically always had great tight ends. Last year it was Trae Barry. Before him, it was Hunter Long and Tommy Sweeney. While George Takacs (#80) isn’t of his predecessors’ ilk, the 6’6, 247-pound senior is an able tight end with 17 catches for 176 yards and one score this season. He is actually second on the team in receptions behind Zay Flowers.
Boston College has historically had a dominant offensive line, but the Eagles have suffered some big injuries up front already this season. They’ve lost two starters for the season, including All-ACC OG Christian Mahogany, and another was out last week with an injury. They also lost an NFL first-rounder in OG Zion Johnson from last year’s team. The Eagles have allowed 18 sacks this season, which is the most in the ACC and sixth-most nationally.
Defensively, the Eagles don’t have any superstars. They have just 10 sacks, which ranks No.63 nationally. They rank 55th in interceptions with 4 and 108th with just one fumble recovery. The Eagles are No.61 in 3rd down defense (36.49%) and No.80 in red zone defense (85% scores). They are No.115 in turnover margin at -.80 per game. The Eagles’ kicker is only 4-7 on field goals this season with a long of 46, so the Tigers have a decided edge in the kicking game.
The Tigers haven’t had their full arsenal on defense yet this season. They got Tre Williams and Andrew Mukuba back last week but were still missing 4 defensive starters in XE Xavier Thomas, who has not played yet this season, CB Sheridan Jones, CB Malcolm Greene and DT Bryan Bresee, who was hospitalized for a kidney infection during the week. Be sure to click HERE for our player availability report at about 6:00 before kickoff! After the corners struggled at Wake the week before, Dabo and Wes Goodwin moved Mukuba from safety to corner against NC State. The versatile sophomore can play anywhere in the secondary, and Dabo said on Tuesday that Mukuba is as good as any plyer they have on the team. When Mukuba was ejected late in the first half for targeting, Wiggins and freshman Toriano Pride had to hold their own at corner, which they did. In fact, Pride recorded the only interception of the game, the first of his career. Strong safety RJ Mickens, starting in place of Mukuba, when down in the second half with a stinger or shoulder injury, so true freshman Sherrod Covil was pressed into duty. He played reasonably well, but it will be interesting to see what Goodwin decides to do if Mickens cannot play on Saturday night. They could either start Mukuba at strong safety or continue to play him at corner with either Covil or Tyler Venables playing strong safety opposite Jaylyn Phillips at free safety. I asked Dabo on Wednesday if he would be comfortable playing the versatile Venables at strong safety if needed, and Dabo said that they are comfortable playing him anywhere. Venables was the Special Teams MVP against NC State last week, incidentally. Dabo would not give us any indication which of the injured players might play on Saturday night, so we’ll have to wait until we get our availability report a couple hours before kickoff on Saturday. We do know for sure that Bresee will not play this week. Dabo said that he is doing well and hopes to have him back against FSU in Tallahassee. Dabo has been saying for weeks that Xavier Thomas is really close, so I’ve stopped holding my breath for him to make his season debut. I can’t wait to see him finally play though because he sure looked great in August!
For once, we will have decent weather in Boston! Every time I’ve been up there, it’s been November and freezing cold, but the forecast for kickoff is about 50 degrees. Phil Mafah told me the other day that he’s never been to Boston, and most of the players on this team have never played BC at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, so I’m sure they’re excited about this new experience. As noted, the last couple meetings have been close. However, the Tigers’ offense is rolling and the defense bounced back last week, stuffing NC State for just 34 total rushing yards. The Tigers have the No.2 rush defense in the nation, and that’s bad news for the Eagles, who aren’t prolific in the running game anyway. Without a big run threat, the Tigers will be able to keep their safeties back to defend the pass, and Goodwin should be aggressive in blitzing Jurkovec. I noted the Eagles’ injury issues on the offensive line earlier. The Tigers need to get after Jurkovec early and often to keep him uncomfortable in the pocket. If he gets too comfortable, he could pick a team apart. Someone will always have to have eyes on No.4 though. That’s the biggest thing. He will likely get his catches and yards no matter what, but the key is containing him. If the Tigers keep him under 100 yards and one or no scores, the Tigers win easy. They’ll need to watch out for Jurkovec checking down to Flowers or Garwo to negate the pass rush. The Tigers will also need to continue protecting the football. In their two biggest games of the season over the last two weeks, the Tigers did not have one turnover (knock on wood), which was a big part of winning both. Any time you go on the road against a big underdog, the one thing that can give the opponent a chance is turnover margin. DJ has thrown just one interception in 5 games—and that was a deflection—after throwing 10 INT’s last season. Win the turnover margin again, and the Tigers win easy. Simple as that!
With the pressure of the last two games against top-15 divisional opponents and a road game at FSU looming, some might consider this a “trap game” for the Tigers. For most teams, that would certainly by true, but Dabo and the Tigers have been proven to be impervious to those types of games time and time again. The Tigers are 97-3 versus unranked teams since the start of the 2012 season. You don’t do that by having mental lapses or falling victim to “trap games.” Best is the Standard, and I expect the Tigers to play their most complete game of the season. They were close last week. DJ had another great game, completing 70 percent of his passes with 282 total yards, 3 TD’s and no interceptions. They also demonstrated that they can win without relying on Shipley or Collins, neither of whom scored in the NC State game after both had scored in each of the first 4 games. It broke a streak of 7 straight games with a TD for Shipley, and he was just inches from making it 8 straight. I’d be surprised if both Shipley and Collins don’t score on Saturday night. The Tigers’ tight ends have been dominant over the last few weeks, and sophomore Jake Briningstool has really emerged as a weapon—especially in the red zone. His confidence is through the roof after scoring TD’s in each of the Tigers’ last 2 games. He and Allen accounted for 3 TD’s at Wake, and Allen, despite not scoring against NC State, was named offensive MVP by Dabo because of his tremendous play without the ball. Expect to see a bunch more catches by Davis and Jake on Saturday night! And we should get to see freshman QB Cade Klubnik for the first time since the LA Tech game. He’s done very little in the few possessions he’s had since he drove down the field for a touchdown in his college debut against Georgia Tech, so maybe he will provide some late-game excitement.
Make it 12 in a row for Dabo over Boston College! The Tigers extend the nation’s longest win streak to 12 and improve to 4-0 in the ACC with a trip to Tallahassee coming up next.
The Prowl toward a 7th College Football Playoff and 4th National Title continues…..
CLEMSON 48 Boston College 13
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