WHAT WE ARE HEARING: PREVIEW & PREDICTION FOR NO.2 CLEMSON vs. BOSTON COLLEGE
- 2019-10-26 14:59:49
Welcome to the Homecoming edition of What We Are Hearing!
The 7-0 Defending Champs are coming off their 6th blowout this season, a 45-10 rout at Louisville, but everyone in the national media is still fixated on that one close game at UNC. In fact, the ridiculous AP Poll dropped the winners of 22 straight to No.4 this week. It’s the second straight week that poll has dropped the Tigers after a blowout win. The amnesiacs are enamored with flavors of the month LSU and Ohio State, forgetting all about the fact that the Defending Champs have the same offense that obliterated Alabama 44-16 in the National Championship 9 months ago and a defense that is playing even better than the one that was No.1 in the land last year! It may be unfair and annoying to those of us with brains, but Dabo and the Tigers couldn’t care less. In fact, it’s playing right into Dabo’s hands. He doesn’t have to worry about his team thinking it’s so good that it doesn’t need to get better, which would be a natural tendency when you’ve won 22 straight with 19 blowouts. The Tigers will go about their business, the unbeatens will drop one by one, just like Georgia and Wisconsin have, and the pollsters will wake up to the fact that it’s still Clemson on top of everyone else. It will be interesting to see if the CFP Selection Committee goes with the AP recency bias or gives the Defending Champs the respect they deserve and have earned when the first rankings are released in a couple weeks. If you want to say that LSU has played a tougher schedule than Clemson, that is fair, but you better drop Alabama too in that case because the Tide’s schedule has been even easier. Same with Ohio State, for that matter. In my opinion, the Defending Champ remains No.1 until someone proves they can beat them. That’s the way it is in boxing, and that’s the way it’s always been in the polls until this year. In fact, this was the first time in 10 years that No.2 beat an unranked team and jumped an unbeaten No.1. Sure, LSU has looked good and played a tougher schedule than Clemson, but that doesn’t mean they would beat the Defending Champs who have won 22 straight. Heck, we don’t even know if they could beat Alabama, who has beaten them for 9 straight years. We do know that Clemson has beaten Bama in 2 of the last 3 meetings, including the 44-16 rout 9 months ago. Until it’s proven otherwise on the field, Clemson is still No.1. Incidentally, the Coaches’ Poll has Clemson No.2—far less insane than the AP Poll but still off.
All of that aside, it’s Homecoming, and the Tigers aren’t focused on the polls. They are focused on beating Boston College in Death Valley under the lights to win their 9th straight O’Rourke-McFadden Trophy. Also, Clemson Legend Levon Kirkland will be enshrined in the Ring of Honor prior to kickoff! The Consensus All-American and Pro Bowler was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1990’s. I asked Levon what he thought of the defense Venables has had over the last few years and how they compared to the great Clemson defenses of the early 90’s. Levon said he’s really impressed with what Venables has done, but he’s not sure anyone could compare with the linebacker corps from his teams. He said that group he was a part of was comparable to the historic defensive line that just left. Click HERE for our interview with him on Tuesday! On to the matchup…
Clemson leads the all-time series 17-9-2 dating back to 1939 and has won the last 8 meetings….Clemson is 23-4 under Dabo Swinney when ranked lower in the AP Poll than in its previous contest, including 15 straight wins in such scenarios…. Clemson's 28.0 points per game margin of victory this season is nearly identical to the mark produced by last year's national championship squad, which defeated foes by an average of 28.6 points through the first seven games of the season en route to becoming major college football's first 15-0 team since 1897.Clemson and Alabama are tied for the most consecutive weeks in the AP Top 10 at 68 straight weeks. Georgia is 3rd at 37 weeks… Clemson has won 19 straight in Death Valley going back to the last-second loss to Pitt in 2016. Prior to that, the Tigers won 21 straight, so the Tigers have won 40 of their last 41 home games, losing only on a last-second field goal…. Clemson has won 35 of its last 38 games away from home and 23 of its last 24 true road games….Clemson has won its last 36 straight Saturday games, the longest streak in the nation….Offensive Line Coach Robbie Caldwell will coach his 500th game, the second-most among all active FBS coaches behind Northwestern Defensive Coordinator Mike Hankwitz….
The Eagles had a rough start to the season, losing badly at home to Kansas, but they are playing much better of late. They lost a back-and-forth 41-39 game at Louisville on a last-minute field goal a couple weeks ago and won last week 45-24 over NC State. QB Anthony Brown injured his leg in the 2nd quarter at Louisville and will miss the rest of the season. However, backup QB Dennis Grosel showed a lot of poise under pressure on the road. He was just 9-24 for 111 yards but threw 3 touchdowns with just one interception. He also rushed for 47 yards on 6 carries. The 6’1, 220-pound sophomore barely had to throw the ball at all in the next game against NC State. BC was able to rely on its powerful run game to hang 45 points on the Wolfpack.
And that segues us to A.J. Dillon (#2), one of the best running backs in the nation. Everything BC will try to do on offense goes through him. The 6’0, 250-pound junior is a punishing, bruising back, who will run right over would-be tacklers, with enough speed to take it the distance. Dabo and Venables have faced some incredible backs over the years, including Dalvin Cook, Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, James Conner, Andre Williams and Derrick Henry. This guy is right up there with that group. Dillon is second in the nation at 138.29 yards per game, averaging 5.44 yards per carry with 9 touchdowns. He also has 8 catches for 41 yards and another score. The Tigers’ front seven has exceeded all expectations this season, but this will probably be their biggest test to date. As if Dillon weren’t enough to handle, BC has a clone in 6’1, 240-pound sophomore David Bailey (#26). He is perhaps a step slower than Dillon but almost as powerful, and he’s actually averaging 6.3 yards per carry with 4 touchdowns. He has 7 catches for 85 yards and a touchdown this season.
Boston College utilizes the tight end as much as any team in the nation under Steve Addazio. 3 of their top 5 pass-catchers are tight ends. 6’5, 255-pound sophomore Hunter Long (#80) leads the team with 18 catches for 361 yards but has just one touchdown. Another tight end, 6’3, 250-pound senior Korab Idrizi (#85), is a big red zone threat. He has just 11 catches on the season but leads the team with 4 touchdown receptions. It will be fun to watch Isaiah Simmons match up with these talented tight ends for BC. They won’t be used to seeing a guy with the skill set of Simmons.
On the defensive side, you’ll recognize DE Richard Yeargin (#2), the former Tiger who decided to retire after injuring his neck in a serious car accident a couple years ago. After graduating from Clemson, he transferred to Boston College to give football another try and has been a nice addition for BC. He has half a sack this season. The Eagles don’t have the pass rush we’re used to seeing from them, however. They have just 7 sacks on the season, which is tied for 120th in the nation. The back seven has been a positive, recording 9 interceptions this season, which is top-10 in the nation, so Trevor Lawrence will have to avoid the bad decisions he made in the first half at Louisville last week. The Eagles have recovered 3 fumbles this season, and they have only turned it over 5 times, making them top-10 in turnover margin.
Place kicker Aaron Boumerhi is 6-9 this season with a long of 49 yards. He has not attempted a field goal of 50 yards or more.
Boston College is No.35 in scoring offense (34.6 points per game), No.11 in total offense (494.4 yards/game), No.6 in rushing offense (278.29 yards/game) and No.82 in passing offense (216.1 yards/game). The Eagles are No.74 in scoring defense (28.1 points/game), No.117 in total defense (460.4 yards/game), No.81 in rush defense (172.43 yards/game) and No.122 in pass defense (288 yards/game).
The big question on Saturday will be whether DE Xavier Thomas starts the game or plays at all after missing the Louisville game with a concussion he suffered in practice. Even without Thomas, the Tigers were able to stifle Louisville’s high-powered offense, holding the Cards to 263 total yards and just 3 points until late in the 4th quarter. Nyles Pinckney had the best game of his career, and Justin Foster was everywhere, forcing a fumble and causing an interception. The Tigers have now held opponents to under 300 total yards in all 7 games this season, which is the longest streak for a Clemson team since 1956! The only other team in the nation to match the active streak is Ohio State. Derion Kendrick suffered from turf toe last week, but Dabo said he should be ready to go on Saturday. Otherwise, the Tigers are in good shape from a health standpoint. Freshman corner Andrew Booth will sit out the first half due to his ejection last week, but he wasn’t likely to play in the first half on Saturday anyway other than special teams.
Speaking of special teams, BT Potter is back in Dabo’s good graces thanks to his 51-yard field goal for the Tigers’ first points at Louisville last week, tying his career long. Potter was demoted after missing an easy field goal against FSU and exhibiting a nonchalant attitude that drew Dabo’s ire. Potter told us that he had dinner with Dabo during the week, and he won his starting job back with his performance at Louisville and Sawicki’s bad miss from 44 yards. Dabo couldn’t have scripted that better to get Potter back on track and nip the place kicking issue in the bud!
I expect Venables and the Tigers to load up and stop the run. They have enough trust in the secondary to leave those guys on islands, especially with the Eagles’ wide receivers, who are nowhere near as talented as Louisville’s were last week. And Simmons will match up well with those tight ends in the passing game. This will be just the second career start for Dennis Grosel, who showed a lot of poise when he was thrown into the fire at Louisville, but Death Valley at night is another animal entirely. No one does a better job of confusing quarterbacks and giving them looks they haven’t seen than Brent Venables. He was able to fluster a great quarterback like Tua in the National Championship, and he should be able to have his way with Grosel—especially if Xavier Thomas plays.
The Eagles’ defense has been vulnerable to the big play all season, and this will be the most explosive offense they have seen. That spells disaster for BC, especially on the road at night in Death Valley. Look for Trevor Lawrence to make better, safer decisions in the passing game and continue to make things happen with his legs. I expect another big game from Travis Etienne to follow his 200-yard rushing performance last week, and the Tigers play close to 100 players again in their 20th blowout in their 23-game win streak. Levon Kirkland will be proud of the defense on this Homecoming night!
The Prowl toward a 5th consecutive ACC Title, a 5th consecutive College Football Playoff and a 4th National Title continues…..
CLEMSON 55 Boston College 13
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