As BC makes their final preparations for their match up against Clemson, we got the opportunity to talk to Ryan Kantor of Shakin The Southland.
BCI: Last week's win against Louisville cemented Clemson's place atop the ACC. Are there any other games remaining that have you worried? And what team in the Coastal would you like to see the Tigers play if they make the championship game?
Ryan Kantor: In the first couple games of the season, we really wanted to see Clemson look sharp and confirm some of our pre-season expectations. Although they were 4-0, they didn't look like a National Championship caliber team and that had us worried. While they certainly had some a bit sloppy against Louisville, they had the heart and guts to pull out a tremendous win. Now the ACC Atlantic is all but ours and the focus is survive and advance. Just win baby!
With that mindset, every game is a concern and every win is reason to celebrate. But to your question, the game at FSU, despite their two losses, is still a real worry. They have a ton of talent and should have a healthy Derwin James back in time for our visit to Doak Campbell. They're a serious threat to an undefeated season. Pitt is another team that Clemson can't look past as their offense can keep them in a lot of games.
As for my preferred opponent in a possible ACC Championship Game, I'd have to go with Virginia Tech. It would be good for the ACC for them to return to their winning ways, and I think their offense would have some trouble scoring on Clemson. I personally like them more than UNC and with impending sanctions possibly coming for the Tar Heels, it would just be nice to see a deserving program like VT get there. Miami seems like the other real possibility, but with the game moved to Orlando, I'd prefer not to face Miami in Florida (though the last time didn't go so poorly for us). And frankly, I don't want Swofford to have the satisfaction of getting an in-state school into the championship after he moved it from the location which would be much more convenient for Clemson fans.
BCI: Deshaun Watson is going to most likely be the top QB taken in the NFL draft and has killed BC in the past. But he has made mistakes so far this year. What have defenses done to force him into errors?
Ryan Kantor: I think the main thing you've seen is opponents forcing Clemson to rely on the passing game. Against Louisville Clemson seemed to run the ball primarily on first down and then rely on the pass to convert. Having a little trouble mixing in the run game (be it with Gallman or Watson) has made it a bit tougher. Beyond that, some of his errors have been unforced (e.g., miscommunication with a WR, errant deep ball throws).
BCI: Christian Wilkins is a name many BC fans remember, as we all hoped he would stay local with the Eagles. Talk a little about this up and comer, and why he causes so many issues for opposing offensive lines?
Ryan Kantor: Christian Wilkins may well be my favorite Tiger. He's the consummate team player. With the injury to DE Austin Bryant (he is traveling to BC, but may not see any snaps), Wilkins shifted from DT to SDE and has excelled. He has a speed-power combo that makes him hard to stop at either position, and is intelligent enough to make the right reads at DE against option-heavy offenses (AU, GT, UL) despite not being a natural DE. That's mighty impressive. I don't know that we would have beaten those teams without Wilkins stepping up at a new position.
BCI: Mike Williams and Artavis Scott are arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the country. What makes the pair so dangerous?
Ryan Kantor: Clemson has many different wide receivers who complement the overall corps in different ways. Mike Williams offers the Tigers a taller deep threat who can dominate on back shoulder throws. Scott is shifty, strong, and extremely agile. He hasn't typically returned kicks, but Dabo put him back to return the kick against Louisville when Clemson fell down by 8 and he returned it into plus territory. They are very different receivers and that's what makes them so great in tandem.
On top of them, you also have Ray-Ray McCloud who can be dangerous on sweeps/end-arounds (as can Scott) and Deon Cain who broke out and led the Tiger receivers against Louisville. There is a lot of depth here, even with slot receiver Hunter Renfrow still out with injury.
BCI: Prediction time, what are you thinking?
Ryan Kantor: We may see the Tigers come out a little sluggish on a short week following an emotional win, but I think this is the game where Watson finally gets his deep ball going and the Tigers win comfortably, though not in ridiculous fashion.