The No. 8 Clemson Tigers are in full control of their destiny in the ACC.
After taking care of business against Boston College 36-14 in Death Valley and improving to 6-0, the Tigers, despite the win, are left in further doubt as they are uncertain of the status of starter Tajh Boyd, who had to leave the game late in the third quarter due to a hip injury. His status is still uncertain, and he has been listed as questionable when the Tigers travel to Maryland in Week 7.
But despite the injury, the Tigers managed to step it up on special teams, as Chandler Cantanzaro nailed five field goals and Tajh threw and ran for touchdowns in Clemson's win against a rival that has caused them so much headache since joining the ACC back in 2005. The Tigers performance against the Eagles was good, but they must still improve in some areas to defeat an opponent that has given them even bigger headaches: the Maryland Terrapins.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd continues to thrive in Chad Morris' offense, going 16-of-26 for 282 yards and a touchdown, while also adding a rushing touchdown. Boyd was on pace to put up bigger numbers but was forced to leave early due to a hip strain injury. True freshman Cole Stoudt showed good poise in place of Tajh, and while he only went 6-of-10 for 37 yards, he still ran the same offense as if Tajh had stayed on the field, and managed the game well enough to finish the game out at 36-14.
If Boyd is unable to go against Maryland, Stoudt will get the call against Maryland, and Morris has already stated that the offense will continue to operate the same as if Tajh is under center.
The Clemson running backs posted a solid game against an usually solid Boston College front seven, totaling 181 total rushing yards. Andre Ellington paved the way with 81 rushing yards and a touchdown, while freshman Mike Bellamy had 24 rushing yards late in the game to spark the team late in the fourth quarter. DJ Howard also had several key carries in the game to convert on key third and fourth downs.
Clemson continues to have a commitment to the running game and will continue to have an emphasis on the running game, especially if Tajh Boyd is unable to go against Maryland with his hip strain injury. Ellington, Bellamy and Howard have to stay in top form to keep the offense honest and productive.
The Clemson receivers have been perhaps the biggest surprises, with the main rotation consisting of mostly freshmen and a NFL talented tight end.
The receivers have continued to be productive for the first-year offense, with freshman Sammy Watkins leading the way with 152 receiving yards, along with tight end Dwayne Allen, who tacked on 49 extra receiving yards. Jaron Brown had only two receptions for 32 yards, but one of those receptions turned out to be Clemson's only passing touchdown. The receiving corps would have had a higher grade had freshman Charone Peake not dropped a wide open touchdown early in the game.
This Clemson offense finally has the weapons that can take them further than it could have in 2010, and this young receiving corps is only getting better every single week.
The offensive line protected the quarterback well enough for the quarterback to make plays, with one of the Eagles' two sacks only coming late in the game against backup quarterback Cole Stoudt. Overall, the offensive line did get better push in the running game, opening up holes for a 181-yard rushing performance to go along with rushing touchdowns by Tajh Boyd and Andre Ellington. With Brandon Thomas starting at guard, the offensive line has seen better production along the line in both run support and pass protection. That pass protection will come in handy as the Tigers travel into College Park, Maryland with a potentially starting true freshmen as the starter due to Boyd's hip injury.
The defensive line caused all kinds of problems for the Boston College offensive line, giving up three sacks and pressuring the quarterback all day long. Mallicah Goodman, Andre Branch and Kourtnei Brown each had one sack, with Goodman adding a forced fumble into the equation. The defensive line was constantly getting into the backfield, staying aware of screens and draws, while also staying stout enough against the run that one backup running back did not beat them. The defensive line has hit its stride the past couple of weeks and has plenty of spark as the Tigers travel to College Park.
The Clemson linebackers have been on an upward trend since Virginia Tech and continued to be active against Boston College even without the presence of running back Montel Harris on the field. Johnathan Willard led the team in tackles, and Corico Hawkins stepped up with the injury to freshmen Stephone Anthony and was more aggressive in the middle. There were not as many missed tackles, but they allowed one rushing touchdown in which they missed several tackles and allowed the running back to get to the second level. Because of the continued improved play of Johnathan Willard, along with Hawkins's solid performance, the linebackers graded out fairly well because of it.
The Clemson secondary, for the most part, contained Boston College's passing game very well and did not allow too many deep ball throws from the quarterback, and while they allowed only one passing touchdown, a lot it was due to a lot of underneath routes and yards after the catch on the part of Boston College. Overall, tackling was solid in the secondary, as well as a key interception by safety Johnathan Meeks.
Special teams was perfect on the day, with kicker Chandler Cantanzaro going a perfect 5-for-5 on the day, and Dawson Zimmerman continues to be the MVP for the punting team units, constantly flipping field position and showing the difference a punter can make in a game. Long distance specialist Spencer Benton was sorely missed on kickoffs, however, as there were no touchbacks in the game, but Zimmerman still proved himself a reliable replacement on kickoffs and looks to be the mainstay replacement there.
Keeping the team under wraps when Boyd went down was probably the biggest challenge for the coaching staff, as the injury took the wind out of a lot of people's sails on both sides of the ball. Coaching credits could also go to offensive coordinator Chad Morris for the preparation of backup Cole Stoudt, who handled himself well in relief of Tajh Boyd, leading drives that led to a touchdown and a field goal, not to mention not turning the ball over. Coaching also goes out once again to Kevin Steele, holding the BC offense to 14 total points.
The intangibles continue to be a positive one for this Clemson team, especially if Tajh continues to progress at the rate he's going. If Tajh Boyd is unable to go against Maryland, Cole Stoudt will get the call. Stoudt, faced with a blitzing BC defense, showed that he can still run the offense the same as if Tajh Boyd was still in the game. The Tigers still have the weapons and ability to accomplish their goals, and Stoudt showed plenty of potential to run the offense in Boyd's absence.