"I (State Your Name) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against the enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the uniform code of military justice, so help me God."
Back in May, 1992, in Columbia, SC, I took that oath. There isn't too much military history in my family, so, to be honest, I really didn't understand what I was signing up for. All I knew at that time was that I needed to get away. And wow, what a choice I made!
This will be my first Military Appreciation Day at Clemson. I've followed Clemson forever and have heard stories about how great it is and that no one does it better. I am sure I will shed a tear or two yet will beam with pride. It's a championship military, best in the world, and it's championship time at Clemson, where "Best is the Standard!"
The Tigers have already clinched the Atlantic Division of the ACC and secured a spot in Charlotte for the ACC Championship. There was some uncertainty as to whether Dabo would stick with the traditional all-purple uniform tribute to the military or break out the Orange Britches since the Tigers have an opportunity to clinch the outright division title on Saturday. He used the purple and orange combo for Military Appreciation Day in his first full season of 2009 when CJ Spiller and the Tigers clinched the division title against Virginia. However, Trevor asked Dabo about it on Wednesday, and it sounds like Dabo will stick with the all-purple uniforms this time.
What to Expect from Louisville
The Cardinals are led by quarterback Malik Cunningham, a dual-threat QB who came within a play of beating Clemson last year, but the Tigers were able to come up with an amazing goal line stand. Cunningham has already gave the Tigers bulletin board material with comments about last year's game, all but guaranteeing a Louisville victory and ending the Tigers' record-setting 38-game home win streak.
Cunningham has passed for 1,477 yards and 8 touchdowns with 4 interceptions. He's also rushed for 541 yards and 11 TD's. The offense starts with Cunningham, but doesn't end with him. It's a three-headed monster at running back, much like Notre Dame, and it starts with Tiyon Evans, a Hartsville, SC native, who averages 6.7 yards per carry with 5 TD's. They also have Jawhar Jordan, who is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. That is more than enough to keep the chains moving and the Tigers' offense off the field. Throw in Trevino Cooley at 4.7 yards per carry and a couple scores, along with a couple of solid receivers and tight end Marshon Ford, and the Louisville offense can be very explosive.
Defensively, the Cardinals are ball hawks with 14 interceptions on the season. They have also recovered 10 fumbles. Momo Sanago, Yasir Abdullah, and Monty Montgomery lead the way on defense for the Cardinals with a combined 21 tackles-for-loss, and YaYa Diaby has 6.5 sacks. The defense is fast, very opportunistic and playing with more confidence than ever. We all remember the 8 turnovers and 8 sacks against Wake alone a couple weeks ago!
What to Expect from Clemson
It's championship season for the Tigers. The ACC Atlantic Division has already been clinched. In a few weeks, the State Championship will be on the line, and then the Tigers head to Charlotte for the ACC Championship.
There is no better coach In America that gets his team ready for championship football than Dabo Swinney. As Dabo says, everyone remembers November. It may have started badly, but what a month it is going to be!
Clemson fans may feel like little Jenny, yelling "Run, Forrest, run!" over the next three weeks. However, it will not be Forrest Gump doing the running, but instead Will Shipley and Phil Mafah. Shipley is averaging 5.9 yards a carry with 11 touchdowns. Mafah is averaging 4.5 yards per carry with 2 TD's and has been instrumental in converting 3rd and 4th downs. As impressive as the numbers are, the physicality with which Mafah and Shipley run doesn't show up on the stat sheet and wears defenses down.
Through the air, it has been the Davis Allen and Jake Briningstool show this season. The tight ends have combined for 7 touchdowns. Allen had a great game at Notre Dame, while Briningstool has been somewhat quiet in the last couple games. Freshman Antonio Williams has been the best surprise of the season, leading the team with 33 catches for 390 yards and 2 scores. Those 3 will need to show up on Saturday, along with Ngata, because TD leader Beaux Collins is out with a separated shoulder. Perhaps it will be the perfect time for Randall, EJ Williams or Brannon Spector to step up as well! If DJ can just regain his mojo that he had in the first 7 games of the season, this offense will start rolling again and scoring in the high 30's.
Defensively, what can you really say. The defense has had to overcome the death of Bryan Bresee's sister and several starters missing games all season long. However, the defense has been stellar for the most part with a couple hiccups. There was the Wake game when the entire secondary was out, and then there were the 263 total rushing yards allowed at Notre Dame last week. The Tigers had the No.7 rush defense coming in, so no one saw that coming. The good news is that they would have only allowed 14 points last week if not for the blocked punt and two interceptions. And they only allowed 14 points in the previous game against Syracuse despite 4 turnovers.
The defense has showed several glimpses of the preseason expectations. You only have to go back to the middle 8 of the Florida State game, where the defense shut down FSU, forced a fumble and turned a close, 17-14 game into a 34-14 lead less than 5 minutes into the third quarter. The defense did the same thing at Boston College after a slow start. In the aforementioned Syracuse game, the defense shut out Syracuse in the 2nd half, allowing the come-from-behind victory. Hopefully, the Notre Dame game was a wakeup call, and the defense will start to play for 4 full quarters every game rather than 2 or 3!
What We Can Expect in the End
It's championship season. The ACC Atlantic Division has been clinched. Throw in the fact that it's Military Appreciation Day. It's a game Dabo doesn't lose. As stated earlier, Malik Cunningham gave the Tigers bulletin board material. Last year's meeting was a nail-biter, but this game is in the Valley. It's always emotional for Military Appreciation Day, and I look for more than a few salutes from Shipley and Mafah in the end zone. The home win streak stays intact at 39 straight, and the Tigers clinch the outright division title, their ACC-record 9th, not counting the divisionless Covid year of 2020!