It is no doubt that this has been a rough 4-game stretch for the Clemson Tigers. On the offensive side of the ball, DJ Uiagaleli has been tasked with driving the ship and so far it is getting closer and closer to the iceberg. To date, the Clemson Tigers have dropped all the way down to #25 in the country and kissed their College Football Playoff hopes goodbye. However, what is more quizzical to even the most naïve viewer is how Clemson is still ranked despite being 2-2 on the season and dropping their last contest to an unranked NC State? A very valid question.
Truthfully, there is no clear cut answer. I am certainly not on any committee that handles the rankings week in and week out but I am on my own personal committee in trying to figure out what the professionals see in Clemson still being a Top 25 team. The only rationalization I can think of is that Clemson’s defense so far has held their own pretty well this season. While we are all distracted by the train-wreck that is the Tigers’ offense, their defense has remained one of the main cornerstones in this team having even two wins this season. Let us not forgot that this Clemson defense entered the season stacked to the brim with talent. 9 of 11 starters returned to the defensive unit which is the most ever under the Dabo Swinney era. Many of these guys have had real game experience going into this year and looking at the numbers, they have not exactly nose-dived off of a cliff (yet).
Currently, Clemson’s defense ranks 25th in the nation for Total Defense. Breaking the numbers down a little bit further, they have given up 293.8 YPG and an average of 4.05 YDS/Play which is the fifth best in the country. Their defense has also proven successful in muffling opponents through the air as they only give up 177 YPG of passing yards to opposing quarterbacks. The run game tells a little bit of a different tale as they have conceded on average 116 YPG on the ground, so this might be an opportune moment for Garwo to really show out again on the national stage.
One other thing going the Eagles’ way is that Clemson’s injury woes from last season have continued through this year as well. While the Tiger’s may have lost on the scoreboard against NC State, they simultaneously lost on the depth chart as multiple players were injured in the matchup. Most importantly is their sophomore defensive tackle, Bryan Bresee, who tore his ACL and will be out for the rest of the season. Bresee, a five-star recruit, is easily one of Clemson’s leading pass rushers and has proven to be a menace in the trenches. This takes out of the equation both starting DTs for Clemson, as Tyler Davis is also out for 7-8 weeks with a torn bicep. Once again, a great opportunity for our O-Line to win the battle up front and open some gaps for our tailbacks to feast on.
Lastly, James Skalski, easily one of the Tiger’s best defensive players, was also banged up last Saturday injuring his shoulder. Dabo confirmed that Skalski should be fine going into the weekend which is a huge sigh of relief for Clemson fans as this man is literally the stud of this defense. To put it in perspective, he leads the team in tackles with 30. Definitely a guy you want to keep healthy.
All-in-all, Clemson’s offense has its struggles, their defense has the injury bug and BC is coming off a momentum shifting win over Missouri. This could spell upset potential for the Tigers as everything so far shows to be leaning BC’s way. Nevertheless, it is still Clemson, it is still Death Valley and this is still a very talented foot club. The Tigers will be looking to make up for last week’s loss just as hard as BC will be looking to win again and keep the momentum going into conference play. It will not be an easy victory, but the pieces are certainly there for Hafley to put together a beautiful game plan.