WHAT WE ARE HEARING: PREVIEW AND PREDICTION FOR CLEMSON AT MIAMI
- 2023-10-21 11:44:19
Welcome to another edition of What We Are Hearing!
It’s hard to believe, but we’re about to begin the second half of the season. The Tigers’ bye came at a great time, with several players needing to heal up, and they’re coming off back-to-back wins to finish the first half with some momentum. Just as they emphasize winning the “middle eight” of every game, now they need to win the middle eight of the season by winning back-to-back road games before hosting Notre Dame in Death Valley in November. Conversely, the Canes are coming off back-to-back losses after a 4-0 start, including a home win over Texas A&M. A last-minute coaching blunder cost them at home against Georgia Tech a couple weeks ago, and last week they were pummeled at UNC. Neither the Tigers nor the Canes can afford any more ACC losses if they want to have any shot at making it to Charlotte, so we can expect a dog fight under the lights in Miami Gardens on Saturday night. Miami fans are planning a “white-out,” so there will be no confusion about which fans are rooting for which team! The Tigers have the No.5 defense in the nation, and the Canes have the No.7 offense, so the irresistible force is about to meet the immovable object! On to the matchup….
Clemson leads the all-time series with Miami 7-6, and the Tigers have won the last 4 meetings, outscoring the Canes 178-30…This is the first time Clemson and Miami have played each other in consecutive seasons since 2004-2005. Both games went to overtime, with the road team winning each….The last time Clemson played at Miami, Deshaun Watson and the Tigers beat the Canes 58-0 in 2015, one of their worst losses in program history. Al Golden was fired by Miami the next day…After tying legendary Hall of Famer Frank Howard with his 165th win, Dabo looks to set a new program record…Clemson has won 14 of its last 16 regular season games following a bye…Clemson is 35-6 in true road games since 2015…Clemson is 69-7 against ACC opponents and 90-10 in the regular season since 2015. Of the 10 losses, 8 have been decided by 10 or fewer points…Dabo is 105-6 against AP unranked teams since 2012…Clemson is 47-10 in night games, 21-4 on the road, since 2015…Clemson has outgained its last 7 straight opponents…Clemson has scored at least one rushing touchdown in a nation-best 73 of its last 75 games…If Clemson avoids any interceptions on Saturday, it will be the Tigers’ first five-game stretch without an INT since the final 5 games of the 2018 national championship season…Clemson has averaged 10.5 more first downs per game than its opponents, the third-best differential in program history. Georgia and Penn State are the only other teams ranked in the top 10 for first downs on both offense and defense…Justin Mascoll will be playing in his 60th game for Clemson, just the 6th player to do that…
Just a couple weeks ago, the Canes were cruising at 4-0 with a big win over Texas A&M and ranked No.17. They found themselves in a sloppy dog fight on a wet Miami night two weeks ago, but they were about to escape with a win until disaster struck. It was 3-0 at halftime and tied at 17 in the 4th quarter, but Miami took a 20-17 lead late. After forcing a punt and picking up 3 first downs, the Canes could have gone victory formation and taken a couple knees to run out the clock. Instead, Cristobal decided to trust his running back, Don Chaney, not to fumble in that situation, and it cost them big time. In his defense, it was Chaney who got them in that position with run after run on that final possession. They moved the ball all the way to the Tech 26, but on his 10th carry of the possession, Chaney fumbled with just 25 seconds left. With no timeouts left, Texas A&M transfer Haynes King completed a 30-yard pass and a 44-yard pass for the game-winning touchdown with one second left! Ironically, the Canes beat the Aggies handily on the same field just a couple weeks earlier, but it was the transfer from A&M that beat them with a miraculous rally. Cristobal took the heat all week for the time management debacle, and the Canes were beat badly by the Tarheels in Chapel Hill, dropping them out of the rankings. The Tigers and Canes are each now 4-2 with 2 ACC losses.
For the Canes, it all starts with quarterback Tyler Van Dyke. After bursting onto the scene as a freshman two years ago, he had a sophomore slump last season with a new offensive coordinator. Cristobal replaced the OC with Shannon Dawson, and the change has been an unfettered success so far. Van Dyke is back to his freshman season form, and the Canes’ offense has been rolling. TVD has completed 70.5 percent of his passes this season for 1,721 yards and 16 touchdowns with 6 interceptions. He is more of a pocket passer, which is a rare breed these days, but he is athletic enough pick up first downs with his legs and extend plays with the scramble drill. He only averages 1.8 yards per carry but has a long run of 37 yards this season, and he’s only been sacked 6 times in as many games. He has one rush TD this season as well. TVD was knocked around pretty badly at Chapel Hill last week, and he was seen wearing a full leg brace on Tuesday. Cristobal says he's good to go, but he did not seem happy about the question and did not elaborate. If TVD is injured or can't play, that would be huge, but we'll see!
Van Dyke’s favorite weapon is easily Xavier Restrepo (#7). The 5’10, 198-pound junior slot receiver has 47 catches for 574 yards and 4 touchdowns this season. He is 5th nationally in catches per game and 14th in reception yards per game. The Tigers’ secondary must know where #7 is at all times! He’s not the only weapon, though. 6’0, 176-pound junior WR Jacolby George (#3) has 29 catches for 462 yards and 5 TD’s. They also have a big receiver in 6’5, 215-pound junior Colbie Young (#4), who has 23 catches for 318 yards and 3 scores. 5’10, 196-pound junior Brashard Smith (#0) also has a couple scores, including one last week in Chapel Hill. Surprisingly, the Canes don’t have a dominant tight end like they’ve often had in the past. Their 3 tight ends have combined for just 5 catches and one score by Riley Williams (#88), a 6’6, 240-pound freshman from Oregon. His 2 catches have gone for 40 yards.
The Canes can do it on the ground, too. They have 5 running backs averaging over 5 yards per carry this season! 5’10, 190-pound junior Henry Parrish, Jr. (#21) leads the team in carries and averages 6.3 yards per rush with 4 TD’s. Donald Chaney, Jr. (#2) is a bruiser at 5’10 and 210 pounds. He averages 5.6 yards per carry with 2 scores. Look for him to get the ball in short yardage situations. 5’11, 186-pound freshman Ajay Allen (#28) averages 5.2 yards per carry with a pair of touchdowns. A big reason for the Canes’ offensive success this season has been the offensive line. It is one of the best in the country, and that’s why Van Dyke has been sacked just 6 times and why they have 5 backs averaging over 5 yards per carry. It will be strength on strength between the Tigers’ front four and the Canes’ O-Line!
Defensively, the Canes are led by preseason All-American safety Kam Kinchens (#5), who has a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery this season. The Canes have just 16 sacks for the season, and 6’3, 275-pound freshman DE Rueben Bain, Jr. (#44) leads the team with 2.5 sacks. In the middle of the defense, keep your eye on junior LB Francisco Mauigoa (#51). He leads the team in tackles and has a sack, interception and 2 forced fumbles this season.
The Canes have another Borregales at kicker. Younger brother Andres is perfect inside 50 yards and 9-10 on field goals for the season with a long of 50. He was 17-20 last season and made a 55-yarder as a freshman two years ago.
Miami is ranked No.13 in scoring offense (37.7 points per game), No.14 in passing offense (310.8 yards/game), No.27 in rushing offense (191 yards/game) and No.7 in total offense (501.8 yards/game). The Canes are No.24 in scoring defense (19 points/game), No.10 in rush defense (87.67 yards/game), No.61 in pass defense (220.7 yards/game) and No.19 in total defense (308.3 yards/game). For once, the Tigers are playing a team with a worse turnover margin they have! The Canes are -0.5 per game, which is ranked 104th, while the Tigers are in the plus at 0.17 per game, which is 51st.
The Tigers are the healthiest they’ve been all season. Starters Cole Turner and Walker Parks are out for the season, but everyone else should be ready to go on Saturday. In addition to Turner and Parks, the Tigers were without Antonio Williams, Nate Wiggins and Sheridan Jones against Wake. True freshman Tyler Brown has filled the void of Antonio Williams, and I can’t wait to see those guys on the field together! Antonio was a freshman All-American last year, and Tyler is well on his way to that this year. He had a rough game against Wake—especially on punt returns—but I expect him to bounce back this week.
The Tigers once again lost the turnover margin against Wake, but they were able to overcome it with great defense. Wake didn’t score on either of the Tigers’ fumbles, and the Deacs were just 1-5 in the red zone. Conversely, the Tigers scored 2 touchdowns and a field goal in their 3 red zone trips. The muffed punt by Tyler Brown was probably just a matter of time for the freshman, who has made a couple big returns but has also looked uneasy catching a few punts. He did come back and make a fair catch after the muff, and he had a big 3rd down conversion late in the game to redeem himself. The other fumble was much worse. It was another botched exchange between Cade and Shipley. Just like the one at Duke, Cade tried to pull the ball out of the mesh too late on the RPO and lost the handle. The one at Duke was on first and goal, so it cost the Tigers 3-7 points. The one against Wake was at the Tigers’ 9 yard line, so it could have cost them 3-7 points again, but the defense came up with a turnover on downs after the sudden change!
The kicking game continues to be a concern, although Weitz has made 2 of his last 3 attempts, and the one he missed was probably his most well-struck ball yet. It was a 51-yard attempt against Wake with strong winds, and it was barely wide left with plenty of distance. If there is such a thing as a good miss, that was it! Dabo said that he was confident in attempting one from that distance because Weitz has shown he can make them in practice. Robert Gunn started kicking again in practice last week. He suffered from a quad strain for the last two and a half weeks and was only doing kickoffs in games with no practice kicking at all. Hopefully, the time off did him some good, and he will create some competition at practice with Weitz.
Both Cristobal and Defensive Coordinator Lance Guidry admitted that the tempo of Drake Maye and the Tarheels’ offense bothered the Canes’ defense last week. I expect Dabo and Garrett Riley to try to exploit that with plenty of tempo of their own. The big question is which Miami team will show up on Saturday night? Will they be beleaguered and pointing fingers at each other with low morale, or will they be united by the adversity and breathing fire, desperate for a statement win and redemption with the home crowd behind them? If it’s the former, the Tigers will win easily. If it’s the latter, the Tigers will have to avoid the terrible mistakes that have plagued them in 4 of their 6 games. Cade Klubnik has thrown 151 passes without an interception over 4 games, so I’m expecting that streak to come to an end. That’s fine, though, as long as he doesn't throw a pick-six or an INT on first and goal. Those have been the types of back-breaking mistakes that he has made this season, and they can’t happen if the Tigers are going to win this game on the road at night. However, the Tigers actually have a better turnover margin this season than the Canes, so I think the Tigers will break even or win the turnover margin for a change, and when they do that, they beat just about anyone in the country. Make it 5 in a row for Dabo and the Tigers over the Canes!
The Prowl toward another ACC Championship continues….
CLEMSON 27 Miami 20
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