In a conference with very few competitive teams, the Clemson Tigers have made a name for themselves in 2012. And they will face another nice tune-up this weekend in the form of the Maryland Terrapins.
The ACC has been one of the least intimidating major conferences in college football in 2012. Aside from No. 10 Florida State and No. 13 Clemson, there are just two teams that are more than a game over .500. The majority of the ACC is .500 or worse in conference play.
Yet, unfortunately for Clemson, it's in the same division as the only other good team. Which means that not only do the Tigers have no choice but to win their next two conference games—they have to hope that FSU loses one of theirs if they want a bid to the ACC championship. Clemson's only loss came at the hands of the Seminoles back on Sept. 22, so if it comes down to a tiebreaker (the teams currently have the exact same record, conference and overall), the bid goes to FSU.
But for now, the Tigers have to focus on what they can control, and that is beating 4-5 Maryland.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.
When: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Listen: WJZ-FM 105.7 in Maryland, WCCP 104.9 in Clemson
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Betting Line (via OddsShark): Clemson -27 1/2
Maryland Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- DL Justin Anderson (ankle) is questionable for Saturday's game
- DB Matt Robinson (groin) is questionable for Saturday
- QB Caleb Rowe (knee) is out for the season
- WR Devin Burns (foot) is out for the season
- WR Marcus Leak (toe) is out for the season
- QB Perry Hills (knee) is out for the season
- WR Kerry Boykins (hip) is out indefinitely
- PK Nick Ferrara (hip) is out for the season
- DL Andre Monroe (knee) is out for the season
- QB C.J. Brown (knee) is out for the season
Clemson Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- RB Andre Ellington (hamstring) is expected to play on Saturday
- TE Brandon Ford (abdominal) is expected to play on Saturday
- S Jerrodd Williams (leg) is out for the season
- CB Darius Robinson (ankle) is out for the season
- LB Justin Parker (groin) is out for the season
- QB Tony McNeal (knee) is out for the season
- CB Martin Jenkins (groin) is out for the season
For Clemson, a spot in the National Championship Game is pretty much out of the question at this point. The Tigers have only faced one still-ranked team this season, and their loss to that ranked team (Florida State) could have huge implications for them in terms of the BCS picture because it could represent the difference between a BCS bowl and a much lesser one.
To keep things simple, the Tigers need to win out and the Seminoles need to lose an ACC game in order for Clemson to get a bid to the ACC championship. Then, Clemson needs to win the ACC championship in order to get a bid to the Orange Bowl. Winning the ACC championship isn't even the challenge, at this point; it's winning out and then hoping FSU loses once.
Clearly, a victory on Saturday is crucial for Clemson because a loss could mean the official end of its BCS bowl hopes. But a win over a team that has lost three straight conference games to very bad teams shouldn't be too hard to come by.
What They're Saying
The Terrapins' ineptitude hasn't been lost on anyone in and around Maryland this fall—nor has the manner in which the players seem to be dropping like flies.
Maryland lost yet another player—a senior linebacker, no less, and the team's leading tackler—in a 33-13 loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday. And as has become a familiar refrain for the poor Terrapins this season, they lost Demetrius Hartsfield to an ACL tear, marking the fifth member of the Terrapins to fall victim to that exact injury this season, according to Kevin Cowherd of The Baltimore Sun.
Hartsfield joins the ranks of C.J. Brown, Perry Hills, Caleb Rowe and Andre Monroe, Cowherd writes, and it just isn't funny anymore:
The way players are dropping down in College Park, it's like the orthopedic version of typhoid fever is sweeping through this team. … This is the kind of horrible bad-luck run that, like Haley's comet, comes along once in a lifetime. Unfortunately, it came along in Randy Edsall's lifetime. And the Maryland coach is sure suffering the consequences. How many times must a grim-faced Edsall stand in front of the media and announce: "This is another tough loss for the program" as he will again this week with Hartsfield out? Isn't there a limit on how many devastating injuries the football gods inflict on a program?
Hopefully, at the very least, the Terps can escape unscathed against the Tigers this week.
The Tigers, meanwhile, may not be a top 10 team at the moment, but you wouldn't know it from their offensive output this season. Only once this season has this offense scored fewer than 37 points; only three times has it scored fewer than 41 points.
In fact, ever since a 49-37 loss to Florida State on Sept. 22, the Tigers have averaged 45.6 points per game in five consecutive wins. And Saturday's 56-20 win over Duke represented the biggest of them all.
According to the Associated Press via FoxSports.com, the 720 yards the Tigers compiled on Saturday was the most since their national championship campaign in 1981, and it marked a program-record fifth time this season that they have registered 500-plus yards.
That doesn't bode well for Maryland as it visits Death Valley this weekend.
Maryland Player to Watch
In three straight losses to NC State, Boston College and Georgia Tech, the Terps' offense hasn't been incredibly impressive, averaging just 16 points per game in those three contests—but it hasn't been all bad news.
The last time out, freshman wide receiver Stefon Diggs accounted for both of Maryland's touchdowns, finishing with five receptions for 55 yards. It marked the second consecutive game he registered a touchdown, and he now has six this season, as well as three games of 100 yards or more.
And it's not as though Diggs has only been effective against weak teams: His other two-touchdown game of the season came back on Sept. 22 at West Virginia. The fact that he's only a freshman is one silver lining for the Terps in an otherwise forgettable season.
Clemson Player to Watch
Nobody is arguing that Tajh Boyd is having a great season. In leading one of the NCAA's best passing offenses, he has compiled 2,680 yards and 25 touchdowns, and there's only been one instance this season in which he's registered less than 200 yards in a game.
In Clemson's last two games alone, Boyd has finished with 11 touchdowns, and he's thrown for at least one in every game this season. But one area in which he has to be careful is turnovers. He threw three picks in last week's huge win over Duke, which were obviously overshadowed by the fact that his offense was so efficient.
But you can't lead a BCS-caliber team and keep turning the ball over that frequently. Boyd has thrown at least one interception in six of nine games this season, and he's thrown at least one pick in five of his last six; Sunday is his opportunity to halt that trend.
Which team will end up in the ACC championship?
On Saturday, we'll be looking at two teams that have everything and nothing to lose respectively. That could go one of two ways. The Terps could come out angry on the road against a team that is far superior and end up shocking the world, or—in a scenario that is much more likely—they could find themselves discouraged by a never-ending string of devastating injuries and suffer a bad loss to an excellent offensive team.
The Tigers have no choice but to keep winning, and they are facing an opponent that has won just two conference games this season—and hasn't won since early October. Maryland is fading, and Clemson is surging. It's up to the Tigers to keep that going and maintain their BCS bowl dreams.
Prediction: Clemson wins
The possibility that Maryland overcomes a 27 1/2-point spread—at Death Valley, no less—is virtually nonexistent. The Terps are so beaten down at this point that they are doubtlessly going to have trouble staying positive, and the Tigers have all the momentum at the world after last week's historic offensive output. That doesn't bode well for Maryland.