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Know Thy Enemy: Talking Clemson Football With Shakin The Southland

An indepth look at Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and the undefeated Clemson Tigers

Brett Carlsen

In preparation for this weekend's matchup in Death Valley we sat down and chatted with SB Nation Clemson Blog Shakin The Southland.

BC Interruption: Clearly all the talk this year regarding Clemson's offense has been centered around Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. Can you talk a little about what makes them such a dynamic threat on offense?

Shakin The Southland: Clemson really tries to get the ball in Watkins hands any way they can. They'll throw him WR screens, hitches, deep outs, run him on jets sweeps, and they were even running him between the tackles some last year. But there is one play from last week's game against Syracuse that really speaks volumes about both of their abilities.

Syracuse had cut Clemson's lead to 35-14 and had backed us up deep in our own territory. Clemson was really struggling to get anything going on offense in the 3rd quarter. Sammy Watkins had been on the sideline since early in the 2nd quarter with a leg injury. On 1st down Syracuse stuffed our RB for a 4 yard loss. The crowd was really getting into it, starting to believe that a comeback was possible. Sammy Watkins was inserted back into the lineup. On 2nd and 14 from our own 9 yard line, Boyd lofted a perfect pass down the left sideline, Sammy Watkins looked back for the ball and turned on an extra gear to catch up to the pass, and then pulled away from the defense before hobbling into the endzone the last 10 yards. That play sealed the victory and deflated any hopes of a Syracuse comeback. But it also played into the hands of both player's best attributes.

Boyd has unbelievable touch on his deep ball. His accuracy on those passes is outstanding he gets just enough air under the ball to let his WRs run under it. Watkins on the other hand, has an extra gear that separates elite players from good ones. On that play alone it looked like he went from 3rd gear to 5th, while the DB was stayed stuck in 3rd. When the situation is dire, you can count on Boyd to look Watkins way. He trusts Watkins to go up and make a play, which he usually does.

BCI: Boston College has the nation's leading rushers in Andre Williams. Clemson has struggled against the run this year, how do you see the Tigers attempting to stop the run and will they be successful in doing so?

STS: It's disappointing to see Clemson's statistics against the run because the front 4 has been outstanding this year. Grady Jarrett is turning into one of the most disruptive DT's in the league and is constantly in the opposing team's backfield. Vic Beasley leads the nation in sacks, but has also used his quickness to hold up well against the run. The linebackers are much improved over years past as well. Stephone Anthony is starting to live up to his 5* billing and Spencer Shuey is an instinctive player who does a nice job of open field tackling. The problem has really been at the safety position. When a RB is able to break through the line and and the LB's are tied up at the 2nd level, there has been nobody around to make the tackle. As a result, this defense gives up big chunk yards.

There isn't one thing you can point to at the safety position that needs to be fixed. Sometimes you can attribute it to poor angles. Other times it's poor tackling. And if it's not one of those two, then it's the fact that they are simply out of position. Here are a few of the big plays Clemson has allowed this year, all of which can be attributed to poor safety play.

Georgia – Gurley 75 yard TD
SC State – 63 yard TD pass and 51 yard TD pass
NC State – 2 long end arounds and a 21 yard TD run
Syracuse – 66 yard TD run and 28 yard TD run

I think on a down to down basis, Clemson will hold up well against the run like they have all year. But I fully expect Andre Williams to break a few big runs due to the safeties not filling their gaps or getting dump trucked by Williams power.

BCI: "Clemsoning" or "Pulling A Clemson" has become an overused joke on the internet against your school. Other than FSU, what teams do you see being a possible trap game for the Tigers this year, and do you see them avoiding a let down game like they have had so many times in the past?

STS: Aside from FSU, I think the ACC game that concerns me the most is @Maryland. It's the week after we play FSU, so it has potential to be a let down game whether we win or lose against FSU. Plus, we have struggled against Maryland in the past. They have the type of dynamic playmakers that can put points on the board in a hurry. Their crowd should be really into the game facing a top 10 opponent. If Clemson comes out focused and fired up like they did @Syracuse, then they should handle business. But Maryland has just enough talent to take advantage if they are either a) still coming off their high from an FSU win or b) they are still too low after an FSU loss.

Obviously South Carolina is going to be another tough game. While I don't believe they have a better them than us this year, I also didn't believe they did in each of the past 4 years, and they were able to claim victory in each of those games. With the game being in Columbia it's sure to be another battle again this year. Hopefully this is the year we end their win streak.

BCI: Usually Boston College students RV to Notre Dame, but this year the students are heading to Clemson for the game. Can you let those traveling know what the tailgating situation is like, and are there any good local drinking establishments they need to hit?

STS: If you’re only up for the game you want to spend most of the day experiencing the 2-time defending champion of Southern Living’s "Best Tailgate in the South" competition. If it's your first trip to Clemson then I think you'll really enjoy the scene. You'll find the home fans to generally be very cordial and welcoming to visitors. The tailgate scene is pretty unreal, especially for 3:30 games. If you don't have a reserved spot close to the stadium, I suggest you park further away and mingle through the tailgates around the stadium. I usually set up shop in Lots 4, 5, or 6.

As far as food and bars go, I'll restate what one of our members posted yesterday (h/t PenthouseTiger)

Palmetto’s Smokehouse and Oyster bar (across the street from Bowman field and the soccer field) has some really good seafood
Sardi’s Den across the street from the Bilo has some of the best ribs around
Esso has great food but you’ll wait forever on a Friday or a gameday
The bars on/near College Ave mostly have good food, particularly Backstreets, Nick’s, and Loose Change

Just to add to that, if you aren't actually going to the game, I'd suggest that when leaving your tailgate you head to The Esso to watch. It has the best gameday environment you'll find.

BCI: Finally, prediction time. Clemson is a 26 point favorite at home. Do you see BC beating the spread and who wins the O'Rourke-McFadden Trophy this year?

STS: I think the 26 point spread seems about right to me. I think Addazio was a great hire for BC. He fits the blue collar mentality that they carried for so many of their successful seasons under O'Brien. I just don't think BC has the horses to keep up with Clemson at this point. This Clemson team is close to, if not as good on offense as they were last year. The difference is that the defense is vastly improved. They are very good at getting off the field on 3rd downs and have forced a lot of 3-and-outs. This allows more opportunities for Boyd and company to put points on the board. However, as I stated earlier the defense is susceptible to big plays and I expect BC to capitalize on a few of them.

Boyd and most of the other starters have only played the entire game against Georgia and NC State so far this season. If Clemson jumps out to a big lead and carries it into the 2nd half, I think you'll see Coach Swinney rest a lot of his starters in preparation for FSU. That's why a large spread of 26 points really scares me.

Clemson - 49
Boston College - 24

Thanks for your time, and make sure to check out Shakin the Southland for all of your Clemson Tigers news and opinions.