This post concludes our series on next season's opponents. This week, we're talking about the rivalry game at Clemson. This is, needless to say, one of the biggest games of the season. Therefore, as with Georgia, perhaps it's worthwhile to compare by position to get a sense of how these two teams stack up.
As much as I like to rag on Tajh Boyd, I do think that you have to recognize that he had his good moments last year. I don't think he's mentally capable of performing in a complex passing offense, but he isn't asked to do that by Chad Morris, and he can make the simple reads and throws he is asked to make. He makes mistakes when pressured, but that's true of most QBs. Connor Shaw is capable of running a more complex offense, is more mobile, and less mistake-prone, but he's also been less of a big-play threat in the vertical passing game, at least thus far. I tend to believe that Shaw will have the better year, but based on what we've seen thus far, both of these are good-but-not-great QBs. What makes a slight difference for me is that I think Shaw's skill set is better-fitted for what we're trying to do offensively, and what our other strengths and weaknesses are. Boyd is going to struggle behind Clemson's offensive line this year.
If this was Marcus Lattimore vs. Andre Ellington, I'd give us a slight advantage. Ellington is a very good back, but Lattimore is elite. What gives us an even stronger advantage, though, is our runningback depth. What gives us a great advantage is that Kenny Miles, from everything I can tell, has dedicated his life to destroying Clemson.
WRs and TEs--Advantage Clemson
Particularly with the emergence of Jerrell Adams, I'm beginning to think that our receiving corps is going to be better than we thought this year, and I trust Steve Spurrier and his staff to come up with a scheme (hopefully plenty of two-TE sets) that takes advantage of the talent we have available. However, I really like Clemson's receivers, particularly Sammy Watkins, who is one of the nation's best talents at the position. Advantage to Clemson.
Clemson's line is likely to struggle mightily this year. Ours should be better than average, which will probably make it much better than Clemson's. There have been some reports that Clemson's first-team line is coming around a bit, but there is absolutely no depth, and you have to imagine that at least one or two guys will be banged up by the final game of the season.
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No contest here, although I do like Malliciah Goodman.
Carolina has a lot of depth and experience here, and that should help relieve concerns in our secondary, to some degree. (I'm kind of wondering if we're going to see some hybrid nickel sets with two spurs.) Clemson, on the other hand, isn't as experienced, but has some potentially very explosive players. Stephone Anthony may be one of the Southeast's breakout defensive players. Push.
With the injury to Akeem Auguste, USC has serious concerns in the secondary. However, Clemson has some similar concerns, and has been moving around personnel in order to find the right grouping. Big question mark for both teams. Push.
Special Teams--Advantage Clemson
Watkins is one of the nation's most electrifying return men. That alone gives Clemson an advantage here.
Dabo has done some decent things for Clemson, but I'll take Spurrier here.
Clemson fans may quibble with a few of these comparisons, particularly the QB pick. However, after watching Carolina pound the Tigers over the last three years, it's time to recognize that it's not 2003 any more. USC outplayed Clemson in virtually every way imaginable last year. Clemson has a lot to prove if it wants to be viewed as being in the same arena as us. Until it does so, I'm calling this a solid victory of a touchdown or more. It's in Death Valley, which is in Clemson's favor, but we've got the advantage in all other aspects.