Arguably Clemson’s toughest stretch of games - road tilts at Georgia and at Florida State – are in the past. Unfortunately, neither game ended quite like the Tigers may have wanted but there’s one thing for sure – Dabo Swinney’s Tigers are battle tested.
After a rough stretch to begin the season the Clemson Tigers finally get to play in the friendly confines of Death Valley.
Can the Tigers start off the three-game home stand with a bang?
WHAT: North Carolina at Clemson
WHERE: Memorial Stadium
WHEN: Saturday, September 27th (7:00 p.m.)
WHY NORTH CAROLINA MIGHT WIN:
*TEMPO, TEMPO, TEMPO: Clemson’s offense is fast but North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora runs his offense at a different speed. The Tar Heels are running an average of 79 plays per game – even when allowing the other team (ECU) to score 70 points. North Carolina is averaging over 42 points per game and over 5 yards per play. The key for Clemson’s defense will be handling the tempo that North Carolina likes to play. Can Fedora and the Tar Heels exploit Clemson’s aggressiveness and pressure on defense with quick passes and the run game?
*CLEAN SLATE: The Tar Heels are sitting at 2-1 in 2014 but they haven’t exactly played a difficult schedule with games against Liberty, San Diego State and East Carolina. It took a last gasp touchdown to beat San Diego State and East Carolina imposed their will in a 70-41 victory over North Carolina a week ago. The good news for the Tar Heels is that none of those games matter. The ACC Coastal division is there for the taking and it all starts Saturday at Clemson. Will new life be just what the doctor ordered for North Carolina?
*Special Teams: Special teams or lack thereof have become a common theme for Clemson opponents. It seems like every team has that special element that Clemson lacks on special teams. The Tar Heels have sophomore Ryan Switzer who returned five punts for touchdowns in 2013. North Carolina place kicker Nick Weiler is perfect in 2014 on field goals – hitting all three of his attempts.
WHY CLEMSON MIGHT WIN:
*BACK IN THE VALLEY: Clemson has started the 2014 season with just one game at home – against South Carolina State three weeks ago. After two losses to Top 10 opponents, the Tigers are ready to get back to the friendly confines of Death Valley. It’s a night game against an old ACC foe. Add in the fact that freshman sensation Deshaun Watson will be making the first start of his collegiate career and the Tigers have one of the best defenses in the country and the atmosphere should be electric. The weather should be perfect so there shouldn’t be any excuses from the fans as to why they didn’t show up.
*FOCUS: If you talk to just about any football player they will tell you that once the game kicks off it’s all about blocking, tackling and physical fundamentals and that all of the emotion goes away. However, after the heartbreaking loss to Florida State last week, the Clemson football players can’t wait to get back out on the field and flush the defeat. They are also ready to show that they are an elite team and can run the table to finish the season with double digit wins. Their journey starts Saturday.
*DEFENSE: The Clemson defense played about as well as anyone could have possibly imagined last week against Florida State and they were robbed of a victory because of Clemson’s lack of offense in the redzone and special teams miscues. All indications are that the defense is focused and willing to do whatever it takes to be successful this season. North Carolina will have a tall task in front of them if they are to score enough points to leave Clemson with a win. The Tiger defense is ranked 12th in total defense, 16th in pass defense and 33rd in rush defense.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN: As good as North Carolina’s offense can be – especially with Marquise Williams at quarterback, receivers Bug Howard, Ryan Switzer and Quinshad Davis and tailback T.J. Logan – the defense can be just as bad. Deshaun Watson will be able to move the ball on the Tar Heel defense and Clemson’s running game should be able to finally get going. Defensively, the Tigers will need to balance pressure and aggressiveness and to keep plays in front of them. With North Carolina’s tempo, Brent Venables will need the two and maybe three deep rotation on defense at his disposal.
FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 42, NORTH CAROLINA 17
Post written by Clemson Girl Sports Bloggess Nikki Steele