After an impressive Week 1 win over Auburn, the Clemson Tigers come into their contest against the Ball State Cardinals hoping for a repeat performance.
Leading head coach Dabo Swinney's squad is running back Andre Ellington and quarterback Tajh Boyd, who both had strong performances last week.
Ball State enters coming off a 37-26 victory over Eastern Michigan and hopes to create a massive ripple in the Top 25 with a victory Saturday.
With that in mind, here's a look at everything you need to know about Saturday's Clemson-Ball State game.
When: Saturday, Sept. 8, at 12:30 p.m. ET
Where: Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.
Watch: ACC Network
Listen: WLBC FM 104.1 (Ball State), WCCP FM 104.9 (Clemson)
Betting Line: Clemson (-26) via Vegas Insider
Ball State Injuries (via USA Today)
RB Dwayne Donigan, Ankle, Questionable
QB Kelly Page, Ankle, Questionable
TE Sam Brunner, Foot, Out
OL Josh Smith, Knee, Out
Clemson Injuries (via USA Today)
K Ammon Lakip, Toe, Questionable
LB Justin Parker, Groin, Out for Season
QB Tony McNeal, Knee, Out for Season
CB Martin Jenkins, Groin, Out for Season
BCS/Top 25 Implications
With an impressive opening-week win over Auburn, Clemson looks to keep firing on all cylinders against what should be an overmatched Ball State team.
A win on Saturday would do little in the large scheme of things for the Tigers, as 26-point favorites are (obviously) expected to dominate at home.
However, a loss could submarine Swinney's squad's entire season. With the Tigers coming into the season expected to compete for an ACC championship, they can ill afford to take this Cardinals team lightly.
What They're Saying
Despite an impressive 37-26 win over MAC rival Eastern Michigan, Ball State head coach Pete Lembo was not happy with his team's performance down the stretch. Against a team like Clemson, Lembo will need to keep his Cardinals focused for the game's entirety to have any chance at an upset.
Here's what the Ball State coach said post-game, via BSUDailyNews.com's Andrew Mishler:
The field goal put us up four scores, and that’s where I felt like our guys took their foot off the gas pedal a little bit, and that was part of my message to them afterwards. Obviously, I’m very happy we won, but we’ve got to play 60 minutes. Hopefully that’s a good learning experience for them.
On the other side, Swinney was pleased overall with his boys' 26-19 victory over Auburn. Nevertheless, he did mention some key spots for needed improvement for this week's game.
Via OrangeAndWhite.com's Kerry Capps:
A ton of mistakes - penalties and drops, costly errors, 12 men on the field. We had to settle for a couple of field goals where we made some mistakes. So we've got plenty to improve on. And we'll have to do that if we're going to be the kind of team we're capable of being.
Ball State Player to Watch: RB Jahwan Edwards
After Edwards' amazing performance last week against Eastern Michigan, who else could have been the player to watch?
Rushing for a career-high 200 yards and three scores, the MAC West Division Offensive Player of the Week will look for a repeat against a strong Clemson defense.
The Tigers allowed just one touchdown last week in the Georgia Dome but showed a weakness against the run. Auburn running backs Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb combined for 188 yards on just 26 carries while the team sputtered in the passing attack.
If the Cardinals want any chance of keeping this contest close, they will need a similar performance from Edwards to keep Clemson's offense off the field.
Clemson Player to Watch: RB Andre Ellington
Shockingly, Edwards won't be the top-gaining running back headed into this contest.
Ellington, who went over the 1,000-yard plateau for the first time in his career last season, nearly went for a fourth of that last week as his 231 yards on the ground were a catalyst to the Tigers' victory.
And with 180 yards given up to Eastern Michigan, Ball State is no bastion of run-stuffing efficiency.
With wide receiver Sammy Watkins still suspended for this contest, Clemson will once again rely on the rushing attack. That means another huge performance should be in store for Ellington, or this contest will be closer than advertised.
Key Matchup: Clemson QB Tajh Boyd vs. the Ball State Secondary
For Ball State to have any shot at an upset, it's urgent that the team forces the Tigers to become one-dimensional on offense. And with the Cardinals rush defense leaving a ton to be desired in Week 1, that means slowing down Boyd is the top priority.
Despite not having his top target, let's just say that will be far easier said than done. Boyd was a first-team All-ACC member last season, throwing for 3,828 yards and 33 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions.
Nevertheless, Ball State held Alex Gillett of Eastern Michigan to just 15-of-34 passing and 186 yards (and three touchdowns) last week. If the Cardinals defense can actually limit Boyd, Ball State may at least cover the spread.
There is just way too much of a talent disparity for Clemson to blow this game. Ball State would need another other-worldly performance from Edwards while stopping Boyd and slowing down Ellington.
Getting one of those three things is hard enough, let alone all of them. Don't expect this to be much of a contest after halftime.
Score Prediction: Clemson 45, Ball State 14
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