As Boston College honors Welles Crowther with its annual Red Bandana Game, the team prepares for its toughest test yet against #5 Clemson. Our friend Ryan Kantor at Shakin The Southland gave us his thoughts on the matchup.
1. Coming off of back-to-back wins against ranked opponents, there is definitely some momentum behind this Tigers team. Does it feel like CFP or bust for them? How do you feel about the team?
RK: I entered this season hoping to beat our chief rivals (NCSU, FSU, and U of SC) and reclaim our place atop the ACC. I think that has to remain the goal, however with a 5-0 start and the way that Louisville, Miami, Notre Dame, and U of SC have struggled, losing more than one remaining game would seem like a bust. A 12-1 Clemson probably makes the playoff so I suppose de facto you could say that it is CFP or bust, but fans’ minds are more focused on the ACC right now.
2. The Clemson offense has been much improved since last season, and of course DJ Uiagalelei’s turnaround has been a huge part of this. Has he proven that his struggles from last year are behind him? Who’s another weapon on this team to watch out for?
RK: Yes, at this point he is second in the ACC in passing yards and has a 19-1 TD-to-INT ratio. He’s also been an extremely effective runner thanks to some weight loss which the TV announcers love to discuss at length. He’s in the best shape of his life and all the other sports clichés you want to use on a great bounce-back player.
Will Shipley at running back is a stud. His numbers aren’t crazy, but Clemson’s O-line is better at pass protection than run blocking so his yardage is well-earned. He is a great talent. The welcomed change for the offense has been the involvement of the tight ends. Davis Allen and Jake Briningstool have been excellent and are getting featured much more heavily in the offense than any tight ends over the past five years.
3. Zay Flowers is clearly the driving force behind this Boston College offense. Who do you see drawing the matchup with him? How will Clemson look to contain him?
RK: If you watched the Clemson at Wake Forest game, you saw top-notch wide receivers burn Clemson’s defensive backs. The cornerbacks looked dramatically better against NC State, which is a testament to their attitude and coachability. Sheridan Jones is the top cornerback and he missed the last two games. Provided he is back, I imagine he will start at cornerback and cover Zay Flowers. If not, I expect safety Andrew Mukuba to shift to cornerback and try to slow Zay Flowers.
Against Wake Forest, DC Wes Goodwin opted for a lot of man-to-man defense, which obviously went poorly. Against NC State, they used more Cover 2 and put less pressure on their cornerbacks. Goodwin likely won’t turn back to heavy use of man-to-man, but it is a (unwanted) possibility if Sheridan Jones returns.
4. BC’s offensive line has been abysmal to start the season. How does Clemson’s front 7 line up?
RK: Clemson’s D-line has had a little bit of a disappointing start to the season. They’ve dealt with a ton of injuries, but might finally be fully healthy for BC. Even without DT Bryan Bresee and DE Xavier Thomas, they looked much better against NC State. The linebackers behind them are excellent and have been the strength of the defense. LB Trenton Simpson is a projected first round draft pick and sophomore Barrett Carter may be just as good.
5. How does Clemson win this game? Does BC even have a shot?
RK: Clemson just needs their defense to get off the field and the offense to avoid silly turnovers. If Boston College can convert a lot of third-downs and have long drives creating a low-possession game, then the outcome moves closer to 50-50. Throw in a fluky turnover and an explosive play or two and things can get dicey quickly. BC needs to control the time of possession while also finding Zay Flowers for a few big plays. This is a big letdown spot after a huge win over NC State. A focused Clemson team should go take care of business. We’ll see if they’re focused.
Thanks to Shakin the Southland for their time. Check our their page here - our Q&A with them will be up on their site soon!