Boston College Eagles vs. Clemson Tigers: Complete Game Preview
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CLEMSON, S.C. -
Last week’s results:
No. 3 Clemson (5-0, 3-0 ACC) beat Syracuse 49-14.
Boston College (3-2, 1-1 ACC) beat Army 48-27.
Will Clemson look past Boston College?
You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. One of the biggest games of the 2013 college football season is just over a week away. No. 6 Florida State is off this week, and with a win over Boston College Eagles, the No. 3 Clemson Tigers will set up one of the biggest showdowns in recent ACC history—a potential top-five matchup in prime time in Memorial Stadium. First, however, Clemson must beat Boston College. The Tigers are 24.5-point favorites, but the Eagles have already surpassed their 2012 win total (3-2). A year ago, that BC team gave Clemson a serious challenge, leading 21-17 late in the first half before falling 45-31.
"You turn this tape on, they get your attention," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "This is a good football team we’re getting ready to play. This is a team that’s going to challenge us."
Swinney believes his team will hear that message this week.
"If we’re not fully focused on this team we get beat,” he said. “That simple. Our guys have done a good job, we have great leadership. We only have 10 scholarship seniors. Nine of them are fifth-year seniors.. Our guys understand this is the biggest game of the year. You don’t play well, lose this game, Florida State ain’t the story on Monday. It’s how bad you played against Boston College."
Can Clemson stop Boston College’s run game?
Clemson’s defense has improved in Brent Venables’ second season as defensive coordinator. The Tigers are 35th nationally in total defense, yielding 356.6 yards per game, and 16th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 16.6 points per game.
A year ago, the Tigers were 63rd nationally in total defense, allowing 396.6 yards per game, and 48th nationally in total defense, allowing 24.9 points per game. However, run defense has been a sore spot: Clemson allows 171.2 rushing yards per game, 79th nationally. That could be a problem since Boston College boasts senior tailback Andre Williams. Williams is the FBS’s leading rusher, averaging 153.6 yards per game.
"He is the heart and soul of what they do. He’s a very good player," Swinney said of Williams. "As good a guy as we’re going to play."
With a potent passing game showcasing senior receiver Alex Amidon (who had eight receptions for 193 yards and two touchdowns against Clemson last season), slowing Williams will be crucial.
Can Tajh Boyd keep his momentum?
Clemson’s senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate has looked like a different player over the last two weeks. Boyd threw for 683 yards and six touchdowns against no interceptions in the first three weeks, but he kicked his production up a notch against Wake Forest and Syracuse.
He threw for 766 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions in those two games, including a Clemson single-game record 455 yards against Syracuse. His top quarterback rating in the first three weeks was 168.6. Against Wake Forest it was 220.9 and against Syracuse it was 261.9.
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Place: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.
TV: ABC/ESPN2 split-national broadcast
Radio: Clemson and Boston College radio networks (regional)
Spread: Clemson -24.5 via VegasInsider.com
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained by the author.
Connect with Greg on Twitter at @gc_wallace.
Clemson's Keys to Victory
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In each of the last two weeks, Clemson got off to a lightning-quick start. Against Wake Forest, Tajh Boyd found Sammy Watkins for a 64-yard touchdown on the third play from scrimmage. At Syracuse, he hit a wide-open Adam Humphries for a 60-yard touchdown on the third play from scrimmage. Clemson outscored its ACC Atlantic Division foes by a combined 42-7 in the first quarter. A similar quick start could take the starch out of upset-minded Boston College.
Establish the run game
At some point this season, Clemson’s running attack is going to have to carry a bigger offensive load. The Tigers average 175 rushing yards per game, 66th-best in FBS. Their game-by-game rushing totals have decreased each week, from 197 yards against Georgia to 156 against Syracuse. Lead rusher Rod McDowell averages 58.8 yards per game and does not have a rushing touchdown; Boyd is the No. 2 rusher at 30.8 yards per game.
A consistent starting five on the offensive line could help, of course. Junior Kalon Davis is expected to start for the third consecutive game at left guard over fellow junior David Beasley, and sophomore Shaq Anthony is expected to start at right tackle for the third consecutive week over junior Gifford Timothy. If those two can claim spots, the run game could improve significantly.
Limit the chunk plays
Clemson’s defense has improved but giving up big “chunk” plays remains an issue. The Tigers have allowed five plays of at least 51 yards in their five games. Syracuse ripped off a 66-yard touchdown run by Jerome Smith as well as gains of 28, 38 and 56 yards. If Clemson can stop the big plays, an already-improved unit will get even better.
Boston College's Keys to Victory
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Clemson has been a remarkably efficient and careful team. Entering last week’s game at Syracuse, the Tigers had only two turnovers in four games. Senior quarterback Tajh Boyd threw his first two interceptions of 2013, but Clemson still has only four turnovers in five games. If the Eagles have any hopes of pulling out the huge road upset, they’ll have to force Clemson into mistakes and capitalize on them when they occur.
Keep feeding Alex Amidon
The Eagles senior wide receiver had a dominant game against Clemson last fall in Chestnut Hill (eight catches, 193 yards, two touchdowns), and he is one of the ACC’s top receivers, a first-team All-ACC selection in 2012. This fall, he has 32 receptions for 426 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 85.2 receiving yards per game. Clemson’s secondary is much healthier than it was the last time it saw Amidon, but if he can get open and make big plays, it’ll open the field up for national rushing leader Andre Williams.
Bring the heat
Boston College has 16 sacks through five games, fifth in the ACC. That’s much-improved from 2012; the Eagles had just six sacks in 12 games. Senior defensive end Kasim Edebali has 4.5 sacks by himself. Clemson’s offensive line is still searching for continuity and is vulnerable to excellent pass rush. If BC can pressure Tajh Boyd into mistakes, its odds of winning will rise significantly.
Clemson Players to Watch
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Senior QB Tajh Boyd
Following a slow start (by his standards), Boyd has found his groove, passing for 766 yards and eight touchdowns against two interceptions in the past two weeks. On the season, he has 1,449 passing yards and 14 touchdowns against two interceptions, adding 154 yards and four rushing touchdowns. He is a legit Heisman candidate and a dual threat. This week, he’ll be a handful for Boston College’s defense.
Junior DT Grady Jarrett
Jarrett has developed into a very talented run stopper and a mainstay for Clemson’s defense. This week, Dabo Swinney called him "the heart and soul" of the Tigers defense. He has 32 tackles, 4.5 for loss, and one sack. He said this week that he wanted to improve his sack totals and turn pressures into sacks. Boston College’s veteran line will be a challenge, but Jarrett is ready.
Junior WR Adam Humphries
Humphries had 120 yards and no touchdowns in the Tigers first four games but enjoyed a breakout first quarter at Syracuse, catching three passes for 118 yards and two scores. He is deceptively fast and benefits from the presence of All-American receiver Sammy Watkins, who forces defenses to pay attention. Here’s guessing Boston College watched Syracuse film and will plan accordingly.
Boston College Players to Watch
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Senior RB Andre Williams
Williams has been one of college football’s most productive tailbacks. He averages 153 yards per game rushing, which leads all FBS rushers. He ranks first among ACC tailbacks in rushing attempts (133) and rushing yards (768), and strafed Army for 263 yards and five rushing touchdowns. Boston College must establish him on the ground Saturday.
Senior QB Chase Rettig
Rettig shouldn’t be intimidated by Memorial Stadium’s often-hostile environment. Saturday will mark his 39th career start and 38th consecutive. He has started every Boston College game since Oct. 26, 2010. Last fall, he became the fourth BC quarterback ever to surpass 3,000 passing yards in a season, throwing for 3,065 yards with 17 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. He’ll be composed and ready, which is exactly what BC needs.
Senior LB Kevin Pierre-Louis
Pierre-Louis has been one of the ACC’s most prolific defenders. He has 50 tackles in five games; his average of 10 tackles per game ranks second in the ACC and 18th nationally. His 28 solo tackles are best in the ACC. Against Army, he had a career-high 18 tackles. Coupled with fellow linebacker Steele Divitto, Pierre-Louis be a handful for Clemson’s offensive line
What They're Saying
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“This is a big challenge for us. They are a very solid football team that will come down here with great confidence. We are going to have to match their physicality because this is a tough, hard-nosed group. We are going to have to play well.“ – Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, on preparing for Boston College.
“It’s just going out there and executing, more so than anything. The groove comes naturally when you’re comfortable. My week of preparation is so important. It’s all about performing. I’m very confident in my receivers, and that’s something we’ve worked on over the course of the season. We have plenty of talented options. I feel comfortable throwing to all the guys.” – Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, on his recent improved performance.
“Obviously we feel like we’re improving as well and we are probably going to go after them with a style that really no one else has gone after them with yet so that will be good. We have to learn how to take it on the road and keep the intensity. The old saying is you’re on the road so pack your defense, pack your run game and pack your toughness. We have to put all that together and play our best game.” - Boston College coach Steve Addazio, on preparing for the trip to Clemson.
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Clemson has developed into one of the nation’s most consistent teams. The Tigers have 13 consecutive wins of at least 10 points over unranked opponents, the second-longest streak in America. Boston College put a serious scare into Clemson a year ago before falling 45-31. Two weeks ago, the Eagles led Florida State 21-7 in the first half before falling 48-34, so BC clearly has Clemson’s attention. If the Tigers continue their trend of defensive improvement (four consecutive foes held to 14 points or less) and shut down prolific tailback Andre Williams, looking ahead to a showdown with Florida State won’t be a storyline. Clemson 45, Boston College 20.