The preseason #4 finally makes their return to Chestnut Hill October 8th. A disappointing season, but still a 10-3 record, and you can bet the Tigers are looking to instill the same fear in the rest of the conference they once exuded. The streak of six conference championships is over but the team is still favored to reclaim the title.
Last Time Out
Jeff Hafley’s matchups with Dabo Swinney have actually yielded some level of moral success. BC has lost each of the previous two matchups by only 6 points, only to be foiled at the late stages of the game. In 2020, the team couldn’t hold on to a massive halftime lead, outscored 21-0 in the second half. Last season as you may recall, the Dennis Grosel led Eagles fell 19-13 in heartbreaking fashion after a botched snap in the red zone in the closing seconds. DJ Uiagalelei will also make his third appearance against the Eagles after cameo-ing in Trevor Lawrence’s final season.
BC’s history with Clemson is not the kindest, particularly recent memory, where the Tigers have won 11 straight. All time the Eagles are 9-20, with four wins since the turn of the millennium.
Most all of Clemson’s woes can be placed on their sometimes anemic offense. After two elite quarterbacks, DJ Uiagalelei struggled in the transition of power. A 9-10 touchdown to interception ratio just isn’t going to cut it. The offense fell to 100th in the country and worst in the ACC in terms of passing efficiency. Now, they’ll have a new coordinator calling the plays and freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik will be breathing down Uiagalelei’s neck.
The Clemson offensive line struggled mightily, with injuries leading to some undesirable shuffling. The news from Death Valley has not boded well on this front already either, as they are already down two centers. They have good experience at tackle, namely preseason All-ACC Jordan McFadden, but things inside aren’t as settled.
Injuries were an issue for the running back and receiver rooms as well in 2021. Will Shipley, Kobay Pace, and Phil Mafah all return though to form a dangerous triumvirate at running back. To go with Uiagalelei’s rushing ability, this will be what the offense likely relies on. At receiver, the only real familiar faces are downfield threat in Joseph Ngata and the team’s second leading receiver Beaux Collins. But if history is any indicator, the Tigers always have someone who could emerge on the outside. The expectation is that tight end Davis Allen will be the pass catcher extraordinaire to improve the aerial attack.
For all the eulogies written about Clemson, people sometimes forget how spectacularly the defense still performed. When the confetti came down and Georgia reigned supreme, you remember that the Clemson defense only surrendered three points to them (yes, the legend of Stetson Bennett had not yet begun). They finished the season as the eight ranked defense in the country.
Longtime coordinator Brent Venables finally departs to take over Oklahoma, so Swinney loses that stability he’s been blessed with for so long. Wes Goodwin still has much of that aforementioned elite talent to work with, and it all starts in the front seven. Bryan Breese and Tyler Davis are dominant on the inside, to go with the likes of Myles Murphy and Xavier Thomas coming on the ends. Longtime linebackers Baylon Spector and James Skalski do make way for some fresh faces. Trenton Simpson leads the way after 64 tackles, 12 TFLs, and a sack in 2021.
In the backfield, the big loss is that of second round corner Andrew Booth. The entire secondary, though, is going through an overhaul. Injuries were the only real issue the defense suffered. Breese had a torn ACL and his neighbor Davis suffered an injury as well. Nevertheless, this is still a championship caliber defense.
News and Notes
It may have been a ‘down year’ for Clemson, but they certainly still could have taken the conference title. After somewhat figuring it out in the second half of the season, Clemson demolished eventual division champion Wake Forest, and it still took a double overtime thriller for NC State to get over the hump. Capped off by a Cheez-It bowl victor over Iowa State, things may be going back their way.
Before shipping up, Clemson heads to Wake Forest before welcoming NC State to Death Valley. NC State should be a particularly physical matchup.
Win Total o/u: 10.5