WHAT WE ARE HEARING: PREVIEW & PREDICTION FOR NO.3 CLEMSON vs. WOFFORD
- 2019-11-02 12:45:30
Welcome to the Military Appreciation Day edition of What We Are Hearing!
The Tigers are coming off their third straight blowout, a 59-7 win over Boston College, for their nation-leading 23rd straight win. It was their 20th blowout win over that stretch and 7th of their 8 wins this season. Las Vegas had Clemson as a 35-point favorite. I predicted 55-13, and the Tigers were even more dominant than that. The defense remarkably held BC to just 97 yards rushing and 177 total yards a week after BC rushed for 429 yards against NC State, who the Tigers play next week. The Tigers have held all 8 of their opponents to under 300 total yards, which is the longest streak since 1956. The offense put up 674 yards, and the 497-yard disparity in yards gained is the most ever for the Tigers against an ACC opponent. Despite the Tigers’ repeated dominance and proven superiority since last season, the ridiculous AP Poll has dropped them to No.4. Those voters clearly have amnesia and are enamored with the flavors of the month—LSU and Ohio State—who haven’t proven they can beat the best of the best like Dabo and the Tigers have time and time again. It’s been almost 10 years since LSU was relevant, and the last time Ohio State breezed through its Big Ten schedule like this, the Tigers hammered the Buckeyes 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl Semifinal for Urban Meyer’s only career shutout. The first real rankings of the season will be released on Tuesday by the College Football Playoff Committee, and some yahoos are saying Clemson will debut at No.5, which is laughable. There are too many former coaches in that room who know how hard it is to do what Clemson has done—winning 23 straight games and 20 by blowout. It would not surprise me if the Tigers debut at No.1 just like they did in 2015 and 2017. But it would also not surprise me if they are ranked anywhere from 2 to 4. If they go strictly with strength of schedule, then the Tigers should be No.3, ahead of Alabama. Clemson is the only team in the nation with 7 Power Five wins, and 7 of the Tigers’ 8 wins have been blowouts. Personally, I don’t think everyone on the committee will totally discount what the Tigers have accomplished since last season, blowing out Notre Dame and Alabama in the playoff. The national media keeps trying to pretend that Clemson hasn’t been as good as last year, but that is a lie, plain and simple. The Tigers’ offensive numbers are almost identical to last year at this point in the season. And the big question about the Tigers coming into the season was on the defensive side, but they have been even better than last year’s No.1 unit so far! The Tigers are No.4 in total defense, No.6 in scoring defense and No.6 in sacks. Clemson is the only team in the nation ranked in the top 4 for both total defense and total offense. Really, the only negative difference between this year and last year is that Trevor Lawrence has thrown 4 more interceptions, but the national media has let that one statistic completely cloud their brains and blind them from reality. Do they really think Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers’ litany of offensive weapons will be that much worse than last year’s team that went 15-0 and was the best ever? Even after the Tigers have scored 149 points with backups over the last 3 games? That is pure folly. If anything, Clemson fans should feel as good or better about their team this year, and by the way: the Tigers get TE Braden Galloway back for the playoff!
The Tigers welcome Wofford to Death Valley for the annual Military Appreciation Game, and no one other than the service academies and Texas A&M has more military heritage than Clemson. The Tigers, of course, will be dressed in their traditional all-purple uniforms as a salute to the military, and there will be tributes before and during the game. Be sure to check out our live game thread HERE for coverage and footage from the game! The last meeting between these closely located schools was in 2015, and the Tigers won 49-10 but lost Mike Williams for the season after he hit his head on the goal post on a touchdown catch. That might have cost the Tigers a national title! You may recall a much closer game against Wofford in 2011. It was just the second game for Chad Morris and Tajh Boyd’s second game as a starter, and the Tigers were in a dog fight with the Terriers early, tied 21-21 at the half. The Tigers went to the locker room to a chorus of boos and squeaked out an 35-27 win. The next week, they went on their historic stretch of 3 wins over ranked teams, beating Auburn, FSU and Virginia Tech on the road en route to Dabo’s first ACC Title. The circumstances are somewhat different this week, with the Defending National Champs on a 23-game win streak and having outscored their opponents 149-31 over the last 3 games! On to the matchup….
Clemson leads the all-time series with Wofford 12-3, and the Tigers are 8-0 at home. Wofford was the third opponent the Tigers ever played in their first season of 1896….Clemson and Alabama are tied for the most consecutive weeks in the AP Top 10 at 69 straight weeks. Georgia is 3rd at 38 weeks… Clemson is looking to tie the school record with its 21st straight win 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 41 of their last 42 home games, losing only on a last-second field goal….Clemson has won its last 37 straight Saturday games, the longest streak in the nation….Clemson looks to score 45 points or more for the 4th straight game, a first in school history….
The Terriers lost their first two games of the season but have won 5 in a row since, including a 35-34 overtime win over Chattanooga last week, and they are atop the Southern Conference standings. Clemson will be the first FBS opponent they have faced this season. Since struggling offensively in those two season-opening losses to South Carolina State and Samford, the Terriers have averaged 46 points per game during their 5-game win streak.
The Terriers run a version of the triple-option, somewhat similar to what Paul Johnson made famous at Georgia Tech, but they won’t always have a dive man. It requires discipline from the defense, and everyone has to do his job in order to stop it. 5’11, 185-pound senior quarterback Joe Newman (#8) will be at the helm and is very athletic, as you’d expect from an option quarterback. He leads the team in rushing with 760 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 8.3 yards per carry. He’s only attempted 76 passes all season, completing 42 of them for 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Wofford has a slue of backs, and they average 6.6 yards per carry as a team. 5’9, 190-pound senior running back Blake Morgan (#11) has rushed for 423 yards and 5 touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. They have a speedy freshman in 5’9, 181-pound Jacquez Allen (#19), who averages 12.7 yards per carry. He has 381 yards and 2 touchdowns this season. 6’0, 225-pound fullback Nathan Walker (#21) is the bruiser of the group. He averages 5.2 yards per carry with 3 touchdowns. Wofford has 9 different players with a rush TD this season and just 3 with a TD reception, which is typical of an option team. 5’7, 160-pound sophomore RB D’Mauriae VanCleave (#3) actually leads the team with 15 catches for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns. 4 of the Clemson receivers have had games as good or better than that! 6’1, 185-pound sophomore T.J. Luther (#2) is their leading receiver with 7 catches for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Terriers are led by senior LB Jireh Wilson (#41), who has 4.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles-for-loss this season. He also has an interception to his credit. 6’3, 230-pound freshman DE Micheal Mason (#99) has 4 sacks and a forced fumble. As a unit, the Terriers average an impressive 4 sacks and 9 TFL’s per game. They also average one interception per game but have recovered just one fumble this season. They are allowing 21.86 points and 318.1 yards per game this season.
Wofford’s kicker, Luke Carter, is 6-8 on field goals this season with a long of 44.
Xavier Thomas has missed the last two games with a concussion, and yet the Tigers’ defense has been every bit as dominant without him, allowing just 17 points in the last two games. Dabo told me on Wednesday night that Thomas was back in full pads, but they will try to hold him out on Saturday unless they need him. Backup safety Denzel Johnson will miss the game with a bruised shoulder. Backup DT Xavier Kelly did not play last week due to an injured AC joint in his shoulder, but he should be able to play on Saturday.
The Tigers will jump out to a big early lead and get a lot of players into the game. It won’t be over 100 like the Charlotte game because some ear marked for red shirts have already played the maximum 4 games, and others Dabo might want to save for the South Carolina game or ACC Championship. It will be interesting to see if the defense can finally get the shutout that has eluded them all season. They held Texas A&M to 3 points until the final 10 seconds and held Syracuse to a couple field goals, but they have yet to pitch a shutout. It will also be interesting to see if they use Justyn Ross on any punts again. He returned two last week against BC and made a poor decision on catching one of them going backward toward the end zone. Travis Etienne needs just one rushing touchdown to tie James Davis for the Clemson career record for rush TD’s and two touchdowns of any kind to tie C.J. Spiller for most career TD’s, so keep an eye on that as well on Saturday!
Wofford’s undersized team will look like high-schoolers going up against the Tigers’ athletic freaks. The one ace up the Terriers’ sleeve to try to mitigate a talent, size and speed disparity is their triple-option offense, but the Tigers are well-versed in defending that from years of stifling Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech. I am interested to see how some of the younger players like Tyler Davis and K.J. Henry, who haven’t played against Paul Johnson, handle seeing this type of offense for the first time, but I expect them to do just fine. Make it 24 straight wins and 21 blowouts for the Defending Champs on Military Appreciation Day! The next time you see them in Death Valley, it will be Orange Britches time for a ranked Wake Forest team with a trip to Charlotte on the line.
The Prowl toward a 5th consecutive ACC Title, a 5th consecutive College Football Playoff appearance and 4th National Title continues….
CLEMSON 62 Wofford 6
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