Assessing the Damage: Clemson-The Citadel Prediction

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Assessing the Damage: Clemson-The Citadel Prediction

I think Mr. Bowden's perturbed demeanor pretty well sums up the attitude of the Clemson faithful right about now. Well, maybe less extreme.

Okay…so we're not as good as advertised. So we stubbed our toes in Hot-lanta again, and we got beaten like Halle Berry at the box office. So our offensive line has the durability of Swiss cheese and our defense needs a kick in the pants.

So James and C.J. hit quicksand against a tough, physical front, and Cullen Harper's not the second coming of Joe Montana. We screwed up.

But a wise man once said, "It ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward." Okay, yeah, it was Rocky Balboa who said that, and he's a fictional boxer, not one to give advice to real-life college football players.

Even so, he knew a thing or two about getting knocked down with the odds in his corner.

In Rocky III, he was riding high with the world heavyweight belt and all the fame and glory on his shoulders. Turned out, the fame eroded his killer instinct that got him to the top in the first place.

As a result, a nobody named Clubber Lang stepped in and K.O'd Rocky in only two rounds. This forced the champ to go back to the basics and train his way back to the hungry fighter he started out as to win back his belt.

Like I said, college football isn't boxing. But right now, Clemson looks a lot like Rocky at the end of his first bout with Clubber. Dazed. Lost. Humiliated. Ashamed. Rattled. You get my drift. The biggest blow that Alabama delivered to the team was to its pride.

Now, only one game into the season, the Fighting Tigers are a squad seeking to find itself, to prove all over again why they cracked the Top 10 in the first place. To show that they still possess, pardon the pun, the "eye of the tiger."

 

OFFENSE

The Citadel Bulldogs posted an impressive 54-7 win over Webber International last Saturday. Oh, sorry, who? Webber International. Yeah, never heard of them either.

Bart Blanchard figures to be the starting QB, who went 12-of-14 for 137 yards and two TDs last week. Anchoring the running back spot should be Asheton Jordan based on a 70-yard, 2-TD effort last week.

Luke Caldwell and Tyler Sternes are two of the new faces to look out for who figure to carry the bulk of the receiving load with veteran All-American Andre Roberts.

I don't see enough of a threat from the Dogs to give us a whole lot of trouble. Losing your top passer, top rusher, and practically the entire receiving corps from last year tends to weaken the offense.

The key for the Tiger 'D' is to lock in on Roberts using Michael Hamlin or Chris Chancellor in coverage. This will be a chance for the defensive line to get some pride back by breaking the puppies' offensive line and thus forcing Blanchard into careless mistakes.

Sneak Da'Quan Bowers or Kevin Alexander on the outside while Dorell Scott and Jarvis Jenkins penetrate the interior. Clemson's depth will eventually win the battle.

 

DEFENSE

Having faced a lot of opponents who utilize a spread formation, The Citadel will use a 3-4 scheme similar to Alabama's. Before this sets off any alarm bells for Tiger fans, remember: two completely different teams.

One thing The Citadel does not have is Terrance Cody. If he's the worst we face on the line all year, then I think we'll be all right.

Reggie Rice and Dwight House should be the Dogs' primary tacklers. Each logged four solo tackles against Webber. Kevin McCaskill got three tackles, including one for loss, DeWitt Jones got a sack for six yards, and Carver Wright recovered a fumble.

It's hard to tell quite how to attack The Citadel for two reasons. One, we've only seen them play against Webber. Not the ideal choice of teams to gauge your strengths and flaws.

Two, we all thought Bama would use blitz packages to confuse our new guys on the O-line, but they didn't. They played smash-mouth football and knocked the line backwards. I don't see a repeat of that this week.

Clemson has made a few personnel changes. David Smith is the new starter at left guard, replacing Jamarcus Grant. Mason Cloy takes the starting role at right guard while Barry Humphries recovers from knee surgery. Bobby Hutchinson has come out of semi-retirement and will now backup Thomas Austin for added depth.

If Jamie Harper's ankle is 100 percent, he'll play later. In the meantime, it's past time for Thunder and Lightning to roll out some fireworks for The Citadel. Let's see some better showings from Davis and Spiller.

Cullen Harper is still pretty dinged up from getting knocked around on Saturday. So if he's still sore, look for Willy Korn to take the reigns for the first time in his short career.

Heck, even if Cullen starts, if all goes according to plan, I'd put odds on Korn playing. I wouldn't dare let an injury strike my star QB with the Wolfpack on the horizon next week.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Sam Keeler is the Dogs' field goal kicker. He was perfect on two tries last week, but he did miss one extra point. Kickoff and punt coverage was never an issue since The Citadel kept Webber contained and did not often have to punt.

Mark Bucholtz looked solid last week. His kickoffs were particularly well-placed. C.J. Spiller finally showed the kind of natural breakaway speed he possesses on kickoffs without having to dance around. But with Jacoby Ford possibly being out, Aaron Kelly may have to step in.

 

PREDICTION

No offense, Larry Williams, but I won't buy into The Citadel being just another cupcake result of the 12-game schedule. The Bulldogs put a big scare into Wisconsin last year before fatigue got the best of them.

Also, we mustn't forget how slowly the Tigers started against Louisiana-Monroe last year. You know, the team that beat Alabama.

Sadly, I expect a bit of a struggle early on. Clemson hasn't convinced me that they can get up for foes they are expected to beat. So I'd bet on The Citadel inciting some groans from the 75K at Death Valley by either scoring early or sacking Harper once or twice.

Once the storm passes, however, the Fighting Tigers will unleash their pent-up anger and send the Bulldogs home with their tails between their legs.

FINAL SCORE: Clemson 40, The Citadel 14

That's all for now. Be safe, and enjoy the game. GO TIGERS!!!

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