Boston College - Clemson Preview
Both Boston College (2-1) and Clemson (2-1) will need to regroup following very tough losses last weekend. The Eagles, of course, lost the ACC opener to Florida State by a score of 28-17. Clemson lost 36-30 to the Miami Hurricanes in triple overtime. This is a huge game for both teams, but particularly for BC. A loss would probably end BC’s hopes of winning the Atlantic Division. BC will try to avoid losing to a Bowden for the second week in a row (Tommy, the son of Bobby, coaches Clemson). Here is a look at the matchups.
Quinton Porter was outstanding in his first two starts against BYU and Army but threw two key interceptions last Saturday that led to half of Florida State’s 28 points. After the second interception, Porter settled down and played fairly well (16 for 23 for 119 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) before leaving the game with an ankle injury. The Eagles went three and out on Matt Ryan’s first three series last week. He was very sharp, however, in the final drive, completing 5 of 7 for 78 yards (both incompletions were drops). The Clemson secondary is led by two seniors, free safety Jamaal Fudge and cornerback Tye Hill. Hill led the nation last year with 21 passes defended. The Tigers have sacked opposing quarterbacks 8 1/2 times this season. Defensive end Gaines Adams has 2 1/2 of those.
It is difficult to handicap this particular matchup because (a) we don’t know if Quinton Porter will play and (b) if he does play, will he be healthy enough to be effective? My guess is that we won’t see Porter and even if we do, he will not be healthy.
I really don’t know what to make of BC’s running game at this point. They pounded Florida State for 135 yards on their first 34 carries of the game (4.0 per carry), but gained only 11 yards on 14 carries thereafter. They failed to score on five running plays inside the two-yard-line at the end of the game against a defense that had been on the field for 38 minutes of game time. Clemson hasn’t been very effective against the run this season. Tiger opponents have averaged 166 yards per game (4.1 yards per carry). Junior linebacker Anthony Waters leads the Tigers in tackles with 30 and tackles for loss with 5 1/2. Another junior linebacker, Tramaine Billie, had 62 tackles last season.
I think BC can be effective against Clemson’s run defense. As usual, BC has a big size advantage (50 pounds per man). The Eagles have shown the ability to grind it out with the running game. What they haven’t shown is the kind of breakaway speed that was evident in recent years with William Green and Derrick Knight. It would do wonders for this offense if either Whitworth or Callender could break off a big run or two.
Advantage: Boston College
Charlie Whitehurst was the preseason All-ACC selection at quarterback despite completing only 51% of his passes with 7 TDs and 17 INTs last season. Whitehurst has clearly turned things around. In three games against some pretty good competition, he’s completed 65% of his passes for 651 yards with 4 TDs and only 1 INT. Three Clemson receivers have at least 10 catches and 100 yards this season – 6’0” junior Chansi Stuckey, 6’5” freshman Aaron Kelly and 6’1” senior Curtis Baham. Baham has caught three of Clemson’s four TD passes this season. The Clemson offensive line has surrendered only three sacks this season. The line, with only one senior but three returning starters, averages 6’4” and 310 pounds.
This will be a tough matchup for BC. The Eagles had a difficult time covering the Florida State receivers in the second half and Clemson has a better passing game than Florida State. Mathias Kiwanuka was his All American candidate self last week. He’ll need to perform at that level again this week for BC to stop the Clemson passing attack.
On a per carry basis, Clemson’s rushing attack has been decent this season. Senior backs James Davis and Reggie Merriweather have combined for 300 yards on 73 carries (4.1 yards per carry). Merriweather averaged five yards per carry and had 11 TDs last season. They will have their hands full with a BC defense that has allowed opponents to an average of 39 yards per game this season (1.7 per carry). The BC defense held Florida State’s much heralded duo of Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington to just 30 yards rushing last week.
I don’t expect Clemson to have much success running the ball against BC this week. Like last week, the game will be in the quarterback’s hands. Florida State converted first downs several times last week on third down and 10 or more. BC cannot allow that to happen against Clemson and expect to win.
Advantage: Boston College
Clemson kicker Jad Dean has been nearly automatic this season. He’s 9 for 10 in field goal attempts and 8 for 8 on extra point tries. He was 12 for 15 last season and drilled a 42-yarder with two seconds left to beat Texas A&M in the season opener this season. Punter Cole Chason averaged 41.5 yards per kick last season but is averaging just 34.1 yards per boot so far this season.
This game could come down to a field goal and Jad Dean is one of the best kickers in the league. Then there is BC's problem with blocked punts ...
I’m still having a hard time gauging how good this Eagles team will be this season. They were essentially two different teams last week against Florida State, one that dominated a top ten team for 40 minutes and one that played like Rutgers for 20 minutes. In the first three games, BC has outscored the opponents 34-3 in the second and third quarters, but only 47-35 in the first and fourth. Which team will show up this week and for how long?
I am hoping that BC can reestablish the running game that they had in the first half against FSU last week. The Clemson defense is giving up 161 rushing yards per game. If BC can match that and minimize mistakes (that’s the hard part), they should win the game. Matt Ryan (or Quinton Porter) should be successful if the running game can keep them out of 3rd and long situations.
Tommy Bowden will go with whichever offensive game plan is getting results. In the first game of the season against Texas A&M, he ran the ball 51 times and passed only 24 times. Against Miami last week, the Tigers passed 55 times and ran the ball only 22 times. Because BC's strength is stopping the run, I expect something closer to the Miami gameplan. I wouldn't be surprised to see Whitehurst throw 40 times this week.
Clemson has played three very tough competitive games that have each been decided in the final three minutes or in overtime. There is a good chance that trend will continue this week. If this game is close, Clemson has the edge because of the home crowd and the kicking game. I hope I'm wrong.
Prediction: Clemson 27 Boston College 24