As BC prepares for this weekend's matchup against Clemson, we got a chance to talk with Ryan Kantor of SBNation Clemson Blog Shakin The Southland. If you are looking for expert analysis and opinions on all things Clemson, make sure to head over to the site. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryan_kantor, and Shakin @STSouthland.
BC Interruption: Clemson has come out of the gates on fire including big wins over both Georgia Tech and Notre Dame. What about this team has impressed you the most so far this season?
Shakin The Southland: This team is a year ahead of schedule. 2016, not 2015, was supposed to be the year the talent and seniority would align, with a well-seasoned defense and Watson for his junior campaign, to make for a great team.
Fortunately, the defensive front-seven has surpassed expectations. We knew the secondary would be very good, but with the bevy of losses from the D-line and linebacking corps, a significant drop-off was to be expected.
Players like WLB Ben Boulware, true freshman DL Christian Wilkins, DE Shaq Lawson, and DE Kevin Dodd have filled in for current NFL-ers without missing a beat. For guys like Dodd, it's a great commentary on player development. For others, like youngster Christian Wilkins, it speaks volumes to work the coaching staff is doing on the recruiting trail (he's all the way from CT). It's very encouraging that Clemson is nearing the point where we quickly reload and a lot of credit goes to DC Brent Venables, who has done an outstanding job at Clemson.
One other unit to call out is the offensive line. We've bemoaned mediocre offensive line play for years, and with some key departures the outlook was bleak. Though recruiting along the line had picked up, the thought was that they wouldn't ready so soon.
True freshman Mitch Hyatt has been thrust into the starting role at LT by Battle's unexpected departure and has handled it well. Another true freshman Jake Fruhmorgen is getting snaps and contributing. RS Sophomore Tyrone Crowder has nailed down the job at RG, and some veterans like Eric Mac Lain and Joe Gore have stepped up. There are still plenty of depth concerns, but overall this unit has been a pleasant surprise.
BC Interruption: Deshaun Watson is one of the most electric quarterbacks in the country. BC has one of the best defenses in the country. How do you think he will attack the Eagles defense?
Shakin The Southland: BC held Duke and Wake Forest to exactly 33 rushing yards each. Clemson's new co-offensive coodinator duo has shown a lot more dedication to the run game while still maintaining the up-tempo spread attack that Chad Morris established at Clemson. I don't believe they will abandon the run, but I think they'll be willing to take to the air if that proves to be the softer spot of the defense to attack (which seems likely).
If running RB Wayne Gallman isn't effective (it has been in heavy doses all season), then watch out for some designed QB run plays (which I loathe for the sake of avoiding injury) and screen plays to Artavis Scott.
In the passing game you'll likely see intermediate passes to our new starter at the slot position, Hunter Renfrow, and emerging TE Jordan Leggett. True freshman Deon Cain has become one of the better deep threats.
Overall, I think this is a great expose for the Clemson offense against a top rushing defense. We'll learn a lot about the newfound success of the rushing attack, but if we run into trouble, we should be able to rely on the passing game, something we strangely haven't had to do all season.
BC Interruption: BC's offense is anemic, but they are 24th in the country rushing. Clemson has one of the best rushing defenses. Who are some of the weapons on defense that could stifle the BC rushing attack?
Shakin The Southland: If BC is able to present a balanced offensive attack, the defensive tackles Carlos Watkins, Christian Wilkins, and Scott Pagano will have to do yeoman's work to shut down the run. After the departure of Grady Jarrett to the Falcons and the last minute "leave of absence" from expected starter DJ Reader, their success has been a huge relief. They shut down Georgia Tech's dive play and played a major role in that game never being in question.
If BC relies heavily on the run, look for Clemson to sneak safety Jayron Kearse up to blow up the run as you can watch him do against Georgia Tech here:
BC Interruption: Dabo recently got really upset when the question of "Clemsoning" came up. What is it about this team that you think will prevent any let down losses?
Shakin The Southland: Clemson has won 33 straight games against unranked opponents, the second best such streak in the nation (only Alabama is better). According to David Hale of ESPN, since Clemson's last loss to an unranked opponent, USC has lost to six (including to you!), UCLA six, Wisconsin five, UGA four, LSU four, and Stanford four.
Bowden era teams did not have the same level of focus or mental toughness as Swinney era Clemson teams. It's a program philosophy that Dabo has been very intentional about. The Georgia Tech game had all the makings of a letdown game (coming off a huge win against a tricky and desperate opponent that would be easy to overlook due to their poor record in the rain and on the weekend of Fall break for students), but they dominated.
Dabo Swinney continuously says the upcoming game is the biggest game of the season. He's already said the BC game is the biggest of the year. Credit to him for instilling that culture and credit to the players for living it. Barring injury, I am confident Clemson will defeat the remaining unranked opponents on the schedule.
BC Interruption: BC fans are going to be traveling down to Clemson, which has become a tradition for many. Do you have any suggestions on sites, bars, etc they should find?
Shakin The Southland: Most importantly, I'll give you a word of warning about the grass parking lots. Two straight rainy Saturdays have turned the grass tailgating lots into mud pits. It isn't supposed to rain at all in the week preceding our game, but it still may be worth buying a parking pass in a paved lot like the Brooks Hall lot.
Traffic getting onto campus isn't too bad for night games (assuming you plan to get there at least a couple hours before kickoff). If you're a true Yankee looking to take in some real Southern culture, check out Paws Diner and be sure to ask for the corn nuggets (pro-tip: I don't believe they are listed on the menu).
As far as what to do around campus, I would suggest taking a stroll. I'd claim your parking spot and then walk through campus. It's really quite the picturesque southern Americana football school. Take a walk downtown and consider stopping at Tiger Town Tavern, the most college-y of college bars in Clemson. Make some friends by laughing at what South Carolina will do without Steve Spurrier and you'll surely get invited to some epic tailgates.
If you're there a day early, my favorite restaurant, oddly enough, is Blue Heron, a sushi and seafood joint. They generally don't make sushi on game days though so be warned.
BC Interruption: Finally, prediction time, what have you got?
Shakin The Southland: Unlike last season, I think Clemson controls the game and wins by 10+.