July 22, 2018

Head to Head: Inside the numbers of Clemson vs. Auburn

A look into the numbers, video and quotes from Clemson vs. Auburn.

Head to Head: Inside the Numbers of Clemson vs. Kent State

SUR Roundtable: 7 Questions for the 2017 Season

The football season is nigh and the SUR Crew (Marty Coleman (MC), Chris Cox (CC) and Matt Wilczewski (MW)) reunites to answer 7 questions about the 2017 Clemson Tigers.

A little different quarterback question for starters. Kelly Bryant is the starting quarterback, but Dabo has said Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson will play. While it remains to be seen how much the others play, is there a potential to slow Bryant’s development by trying to get all 3 snaps?

CC: There’s no doubt that trying to give Cooper and Johnson extended looks would slow Bryant’s development. He’s trying to follow up the greatest player in Clemson football history and the biggest thing he needs is confidence that he is indeed the guy for the job. My biggest concern coming into the season is how the coaches handle the QB rotation, because the rhythm and trust are two extremely volatile qualities when talking about the QB position. And as we get closer to kickoff versus Kent State I’m beginning to believe that Bryant has separated himself enough where the backups really aren’t going to get much playing time until the final quarter. With Auburn, Louisville, and VT looming early Clemson needs Bryant to be ready.

Kelly Bryant works on passing drills. (Photo by GWINN DAVIS)

MW: I imagine it’s all dependent on Bryant’s performance when thrust into the spotlight, which won’t come until week two against Auburn. Ideally, Cooper and Johnson primarily only see snaps during garbage time, with Bryant getting all the snaps he needs to fully develop and be comfortable in game situations. Chances are, Clemson pulls away from Kent State relatively early, allowing for Cooper and Johnson to see action, but my hope is that the backups aren’t needed the week after.

MC: The coaches are in a difficult position – not a single experienced quarterback – which makes it easy to understand wanting to get all 3 time on the field. The juggling act of trying to do so while winning important games in weeks 2 and 3 is the kind of decision they get paid for.  Here’s guessing they all 3 see action in week 1, but weeks 2 and 3 are Bryant’s alone. One the other hand, if something happens to Bryant, you’re staring at 0 snaps of experience. I think you take that chance (in games 2 and 3), at least through Louisville.  There’s typically a lot of talk in the preseason about getting everyone experience and then something like what happened at Syracuse 2 years ago happens and that ends that.

Of the alleged 4 headed running back monster who ends up as the leading rusher and why?

MC: True freshman Travis Etienne is the trendy pick, but I’m having a hard time believing that, likely because I haven’t seen him in action.  Trust is generally earned on the field during games once the season starts and 3 veterans of varying experience is a lot to climb over, especially with national implications in weeks 2 and 3.  I’ll go with the veteran C.J. Fuller, which is certainly something I didn’t think I would be saying 2 years ago.

CC: Can I cheat and say Kelly Bryant here? For the sake of answering the question I’m going to go with CJ Fuller simply because he’s the guy the coaches trust the most and ultimately I think that’s telling of who logs the most snaps. However, unlike my opinion on the QB position, I’m of the belief that Clemson’s RB rotation will be a revolving door until the coaches find the hot hand. Everyone is waiting on Feaster to break loose, and this surely seems like a make or break year for him given the expectations coming in. And then there’s the Fall camp hero Travis Etienne. From everything I’ve gathered he’s a guy who just knows what to do with the ball in his hands. Despite Tony Elliott’s emphasis on pass blocking and knowledge of the offense, there comes a time when you just have to go with the guy who can move the ball down the field. If Etienne is that guy then I don’t know how you keep him off the field.

Tavien Feaster (Photo by GWINN DAVIS)

MW: If you listen to the coaches speak on the running back situation, you’ll notice they continue to harp on trust, particularly with pass pro. As Marty mentioned, CJ Fuller is the “trust” guy, likely to start early and see the majority of snaps. But…with Watson gone and likely a more dynamic read option and elusive QB in Kelly Bryant, I think there is more of an opportunity to put the ball in the hands of the most threatening runner. Reports are sky high on Travis Etienne, but I don’t see him getting enough time early in the season to become the leading rusher. Therefore, I’ll say Tavien Feaster takes the next step. His added weight along with (hopefully) more confidence in his shoulder and pass protection should provide a solid opportunity to be “the guy.” He has the speed and is the home run threat, which could be lethal in the read option alongside Bryant.

Who is your breakout offensive player?

MW: I’ll roll with Cornell Powell, who I believe is in line for a big season. Scott is out at the 2 position, leaving Powell behind only McCloud. McCloud seeing time at DB tells me that the coaching staff trusts Powell and maybe even believes that Powell has the ability to contend for as many or more snaps than McCloud there. Powell came in as a freshman with good weight and build, giving him the size to be a strong blocking receiver as well as the ability to break tackles and push for extra yardage.

MC: If we’re including freshman I’ll go with Amari Rodgers. Regular readers know that I believe the offense went through Artavis Scott last season and with an inexperienced quarterback this position is going to see more than its share of opportunities.

CC: Often times it’s easy to focus on the skill guys when discussing breakout players, but I’m going to go a different route and tab John Simpson. He may be Clemson’s best NFL prospect on the offensive line and that’s saying something consider who plays left tackle. Simpson has some work to do in order to unseat Taylor Hearn at guard, but I think the staff is going to have a very tough time keeping Simpson on the sidelines.

Will the depth issues along the defensive line end up biting Clemson?

CC: I thought it would hurt them last year, but all they did was win a national title. In fact, the defensive line remained one of the nation’s best with Wilkins moving outside. Sure injuries happen and that could certainly shake things up, but I’m not going to sit here and forecast that to happen. If they were to lose one of their front 4 starters then things obviously change. Luckily for Clemson even if that does happen, the linebackers playing behind them are as deep a unit as Brent Venables has had during his time here. I also think the secondary has the talent to be be pretty damn good in their own right. So if depth takes an even bigger hit on the defensive line I still think Clemson has the pieces to be a good, not great, unit.

MW: Unfortunately, I think it does, at least with what we’ve seen so far. Pagano transferring stings, and perhaps Huggins and Pinckney step up, but I haven’t seen enough significant snaps from either(none from Pinckney) to be sure of that. Can they hold up late in the fourth quarter when Wilkins and/or Lawrence need a breather? And on the ends, Ferrell and Bryant are strong, but again, there are many unknowns with the loss of Yeargin. As I see the depth chart come out for Kent State, there’s no Xavier Kelly and the backups to Bryant are both true freshmen. Razor thin there, it will inevitably bite Clemson barring unforeseen emergence of a true freshman.

Clemson defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell (99) makes the play. (Photo by Gwinn Davis)

MC: It’s not a question of if, but when and can they survive until the depth is restored.  It happens every year and is to be expected when 300 pounders are in violent hand to hand combat starting 3 feet from each other. It’s the huge irony of the Pagano transfer, if it was indeed related to playing time.  Perhaps, he’ll still get more snaps at Oregon, but Clemson sure could use the depth right now. We’ve heard some good things about Jabril Robinson, but he’s undersized and you wonder how much of that is “Camp Speak” vs. reality.  

The defense appears rock solid, but what do we make of the corner position, where there seems to be experience, depth and young talent, yet we have Ray Ray McCloud part timing it at the position.  What’s your thoughts on the cornerback position?

MC: Admittedly, I’m not an X and O’s guru or technique analyst, but I thought the Tigers were fine at corner.  Not great, but good enough. Others that I respect have different opinions.  Not sure what to make of the Great McCloud Experiment of 2017, but there’s 6 corners listed on the depth chart (3 at each), along with some other DBs that are versatile and could probably work in if needed.  Color me mystified, unless there’s something going on that I’m not privy to.

CC: From the moment I heard Ray Ray was working out at corner I immediately thought this was a plan to get him on the side of the ball where he’d have the best chance to make an NFL roster. At least for this year it certainly just seems like a plan to have extra depth at corner, because I don’t see how he logs any meaningful snaps with the young talent on campus. While it’s not been discussed as a strength, I believe the corner position is in really good shape. Where the starting duo of Carter and Edmond lack in size, they provide experience and knowledge of the system. Then you have Fields, who’s shown flashes of his elite skill but just needs to figure it out upstairs. Mullen and Terrell are tall, former Top 100 talents. And lastly there’s Mr. Do It All in K’Von Wallace. Overall, that’s an extremely versatile group that would be awfully tough for a receiver to crack into.

MW: It’s hard to say whether the McCloud experiment is due to wide receiver depth or cornerback depth. Are Powell and Rodgers more than capable of filling in, where McCloud is better used on the other side of the ball? I think the coaches are taking a wait and see approach, seeing who steps up at cornerback. Carter, Edmond, Fields, and Mullen all have some experience, but I’m not sure any are on the level of “lockdown corner” that the Tigers fortunately had with Alexander or Tankersley. I’d be surprised if McCloud saw time at DB against Kent State, but it likely depends on how the coaches feel about the others.

Who is your breakout defensive player?

MW: Give me Tanner Muse, the physical strong safety who has been dominating in seemingly every Clemson media practice clip. Muse was trusted enough to see snaps in last year’s championship game, and should be primed to breakout. He absolutely looks the part physically, a menacing combination of size and speed that the coaches have consistently complimented throughout the offseason.

MC: I’m going to go with Tre Lamar in the middle.  During the spring game I noticed a tendency for his first step to be back on what ended up zone read plays, so he’ll have to correct some things, but this guy looks the part and has all the tools.  It doesn’t hurt that he plays for an uber aggressive defensive coordinator and in a position that puts him around the ball on the majority of plays.

CC: Muse and Lamar are certainly the two names that jump out, but I’m going to go with the one defensive linemen no one’s talking about in Austin Bryant. With three projected 1st round draft picks on the line, Bryant should be able to reap the benefits of the attention they will draw. Let’s not forget how well he played when filling in for an injured Shaq Lawson during Clemson’s first CFB Playoff run a couple years ago. I’ll give a honorable mention to Isaiah Simmons, who has been tabbed as the best athlete on the team.

Give us a season outlook.  Doesn’t have to include a specific record (feel free if you want), but more of how the season will go and maybe a floor and ceiling type analysis.

CC: The talent lost from last year’s national championship team has been well documented and truth be told I’m really not all that concerned. You’ve read it before, but I’ll reinforce the notion here that Clemson has reached the point where they simply reload. Look at the 2013 offense and 2014 defense that left. The Tigers didn’t skip a beat and I expect more of the same this year. Now before you get too excited, I do have my doubts as to how this team replaces the leadership and composure that made guys like Watson and Boulware so special. They had the “it” factor and rose to the occasion when Clemson needed it most. As far as predictions I’m going to call a 10-2 regular season with one loss at home to Auburn or FSU and one loss on the road at Louisville, VT, or NC State. A seventh straight 10-win season would surely guarantee a New Year’s 6 Bowl and would be considered a success.

MW: Clemson lost a lot of playmakers. It’s not easy to replace not only the talent of a Watson, Scott, Williams, Leggett, Guillermo, Boulware, Watkins, etc., but also their experience and leadership. There are far too many unknowns going into the 2017 season, and not knowing how the next man up will perform has me hesitant to be overly optimistic. Honestly, I could see anywhere between 8-4(QB carousel) and 12-0(Bryant is a stud, DL proves itself as best in nation) as a legitimate possibility, so my best prediction for now is right in the middle. 10-2. With all the late game winners last season, it’s truly a “revenge tour” for many of Clemson’s best opponents. I have a hard time believing the Tigers will be able to slide by without a couple losses this time around.

MC: With one regular season loss in the last 2 seasons and a big fat trophy in a big shiny new football facility the expectations are sky high. Maybe too high. My preseason win probabilities came out at 11-1, but that’s with each game being independent of each other and we know that isn’t how the real world works.  10-2 sounds about right. Deshaun Watson is the GOAT, not because of his skill running or passing, but because of his “Whatever it takes to win” mentality and performance in the biggest of biggest stages. The reigning National Champion could have lost multiple games last year without the mental fortitude of Watson, Ben Boulware, et al.  With those two and other leaders gone you have to wonder if a similar vibe will develop this year.  Down by 5 in the fourth quarter can Kelly Bryant will and skill the team to victory?  That’s the great question that we begin to find the answer to Saturday.

The Aftermath: Clemson-31 Ohio State-0

Deshaun Watson paced Clemson in their win over Ohio State with 3 total touchdowns (Photo via: redditCFB)

 

The SUR Crew of Marty Coleman, Matt Wilczewski, & Chris Cox weigh in on Clemson’s throttling of #3 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl & look ahead to the rematch with Alabama.

For starters, we’ve spent a lot of time reading and writing about Clemson over the course of the year, but even in your wildest dreams did you think this sort of result in favor of the Tigers was possible?

MW: Definitely not. Even with the Tigers up 17-0, I felt as though Ohio State would eventually hit a big play to spark their team and it would be another tight fourth quarter finish. Because, to be honest, this Clemson team has had issues putting teams away throughout the entire season, so it only felt like that would be the case once again.

MC: No, because traditionally the defense has given up some yards and points later in games, the most recent example being the ACC Championship Game. The amazing part is there were plenty of points left on the field for Clemson (and a few for Ohio State). It could well have been 45-6ish.

CC: Truth be told it never really crossed my mind that Clemson could win in blowout fashion. I envisioned a best possible scenario where Clemson could pull away and win by about two touchdowns, but no one saw the shutout coming. The more I think about it the more impressed I am. That’s a damn good football team that Clemson just manhandled. The Tigers dominated all 3 phases of the game and held up at times when past Tiger teams would have wilted away. Easily the most impressive win of Dabo Swinney’s career.

Let’s cut right to the chase here. Was that the most dominant defensive performance from a Clemson team…ever? Just for reference Ohio State hadn’t been shutout since 1993 and that was the first time an Urban Meyer led team has ever been held scoreless.

MW: That I’ve seen yes, but that’s acknowledging that I didn’t heavily follow Clemson football until I became interested in going to school there(‘07/’08). Venables had his guys ready, and more than anything else, they played disciplined football which prevented Ohio State from garnering any real momentum offensively.

MC: I’m older than you guys and saw a defense of a different era, which the Buckeye offense seemed to be playing in. For this era, yeah, I mean the Buckeyes had 3 first downs at the half and 9 for the game and 2 of those were by penalty. The Clemson defense gave up 1 huge play, but other than that? Zilch.

CC: Many of you guys know I didn’t have the privilege to watch the Clemson teams in the 80s and early 90s (born in ‘91), but that defensive performance last night would be tough to top. The Buckeyes averaged 42 PPG and 258 rushing YPG. Clemson kept them off the scoreboard and only allowed 88 yards rushing despite the game being well in hand virtually the entire 4th quarter. That’s domination. Reminder this defense has had 11 players taken in the NFL Draft the last 2 years as well. Brent Venables deserves every penny of that salary, if not more.

Tony Elliott seemed to be dialed in with his play calling and was unpredictable (in a good way) all night. What do you expect out of him against Alabama?

MW: Like Chris mentioned, Elliott realized that Clemson couldn’t line up and run straight into the teeth of the Ohio State defense. So he did little things, an abundance of off tackle runs, jet sweeps, and play action to keep the defense guessing. With Alabama, their strength will also be in trenches with their defense line, so I would expect a continuation of the horizontal run game and quick passing game to try and negate that line. Much of Clemson’s success on the outside came from fantastic blocking out of the tight ends and receivers, and that’ll need to happen again to be successful next week.

MC: This is the billion dollar question. I’d like to see more Artavis, but I always do. I think they need to find Leggett more often than they did in the Fiesta. The running by Scott and McCloud were a nice touch, a subtle difference from the touch pass. Not sure what to expect, but Elliott needs to be as unpredictable as he was against Ohio State.

CC: One thing that stood out to me from an offensive play calling perspective was the decision to run outside the tackles once Ohio State proved they could stop the inside run. We saw Clemson implement several swing passes, jet sweeps, and QB counter runs. This spread the Buckeye defense out and served as an extension to a traditional running game. 31 points was the most Ohio State had surrendered all season and it should have been more. Credit to Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott who seem to have this team clicking on all cylinders down the stretch.

Is there a better coordinator in college football than Brent Venables?

MW: Not that I would rather have right now. His passion, tenacity, work ethic, and ability to have his guys prepared week in and week out is simply amazing. He deserves every single penny that Clemson is paying him, and hopefully will receive even more after this season. He’s lost several key components to the NFL in recent years and still finds ways to be even better than before. Unbelievable.

MC: Nope. Wouldn’t trade him for any other DC. Often talked about amongst Clemson fans is that out of the Chad Morris/Brent Venables hires which was better. Short term, Morris. Long term Venables.

CC: Considering he’s fresh off of winning the Broyles Award for top assistant coach in the country I’d have to say no. While there are certainly some other guys who belong in the conversation you’d have a tough time putting someone on a tier above Venables. His passion for the game of football is contagious and you can see it resonate through his unit’s play.

I (Marty) was laughed at back in August for suggesting Mike Williams would make the difference in this years team potentially winning the Natty. Thoughts on how much better this team is with Williams and what he brings that was missing last year?

MW: Clemson didn’t have that big, rangy, go up and get it receiving threat in the playoffs last season. And it’s reasonable to believe that if Watson is tossing up one of the deep balls to Williams rather than say, Scott, in the title game last year that the result may have been different. He’s nearly impossible to cover 1 on 1, and thus requires the safety to provide help as well. When you’re forced to honor Williams as the threat that he is, you expose yourself in other areas across the field.

MC: The point was that they scored 40, offense was not the problem. True to an extent, but earlier in the game there was more than once the Tigers had the ball and the lead, but couldn’t extend the lead to two scores. That may have been different if Williams was on the field.

CC: Not sure who all was laughing, because with Mike Williams, and Deon Cain, in the fold last year it’s reasonable to believe Clemson could have added at least another TD to their 40 point output against Alabama. That’s irrelevant now, and what it means for this year is that the other WRs will likely enjoy more favorable matchups due to the attention Williams will get in the boundary. I’d anticipate Saban game planning specifically for #7, which could leave the middle of the field open for guys like Scott, Leggett, and Renfrow.

Initial take. Can Clemson beat Alabama and if so, why?

MW: Yes, they can. The leadership is there, the desire for redemption is there, and the talent is there. Will they? I certainly don’t know, because this Alabama team has the best defense in the nation along with one of the best coaching staffs. Saban will absolutely have his team prepared and will find even the smallest weaknesses in Clemson’s game to expose. The Tigers will have to find ways to move the ball, eliminate turnovers, and play sound, disciplined defense.

MC: Yes, because of leadership. Will they win? That’s a hell of an Alabama team, but Clemson is capable. An offense that can “run” the ball by throwing short passes, has an intermediate receiver (Renfrow) that is clutch, multiple deep threats, plus a defense that has seems to be on a mission.

CC: They gave Alabama a heck of a game a year ago, and if not for special teams blunders Clemson would have hoisted the trophy a year ago. Almost all the pieces are back from an offense that compiled 550 yards against the Tide. Although, I don’t think the pickings will come as easy this year considering this may be Saban’s best defense ever. One last thing, Clemson fans have to like the fact they have Deshaun Watson in a matchup versus a true freshman QB.

Players of the Game (Offense & Defense)

MW: Deshaun Watson, Clelin Ferrell

MC: Deshaun Watson, Clelin Ferrell

CC: Deshaun Watson, Clelin Ferrell (Andy Teasdall if ST got a vote)

Play of the Game:

MW: I’ll go with Clelin Ferrell’s TFL on JT Barrett in a short yardage situation early in the game. Ohio State had a golden opportunity to seize early momentum after the interception, but everything flipped following Ferrell’s play and the missed field goal.

MC: Clelin Ferrell dropping J.T. Barrett for a 6 yard loss on 3rd & 1 from the Clemson 24 on the series after the first Watson interception. That made it a 47 yard field attempt and set the tone for the rest of the night.

CC: Clelin Ferrell 3rd Quarter sack that pinned Ohio State at their own 8 yard line. This play resulted in Clemson receiving great field position and set up a score to put the game out of reach at 24-0.

The Aftermath: Clemson-42 Virginia Tech-35

Clemson junior QB Deshaun Watson led the Tigers to their 2nd straight ACC Title with 5 touchdowns (Photo via Robert Cannon/UPI)

Clemson junior QB Deshaun Watson led the Tigers to their 2nd straight ACC Title with 5 touchdowns (Photo via Robert Cannon/UPI)

 

The SUR Crew of Marty Coleman, Matt Wilczewski, and Chris Cox weigh in following Clemson’s hard fought win to earn their second straight ACC Championship…

On the heels of Clemson’s second straight ACC Championship, talk a little about what this program has accomplished in the last 5-6 years. Is it reasonable to expect it to continue?

MW: I think the most difficult part of building a program is the climb to reach that “elite” status. Once you’re there, as Clemson currently is, you have recruiting points such as conference titles, NFL draft picks, and general recognition that provides a significant boost to your recruiting efforts. Not to mention, the revenue brought in that stems from continued success turns into innovative facilities. But as the other have mentioned, take a moment as a Clemson fan to appreciate this era of football. The last time Clemson played VT, I was a student and absolutely ecstatic to be able to witness my school secure an ACC Championship Title in 2011. Saturday night? I was happy, sure, but I was simply relieved more than anything. There was now the expectation to win an ACC Championship, rather than just hope. With a few significant losses after 2016, it’s understandable to see some sort of drop-off, but the foundation has been built for this program to be successful and have continued championship aspirations in the future.

MC: Sometimes I think the state of the program and what they’ve accomplished in the last 6 years is underappreciated by Clemson fans, including me.  I remember when Texas was on their run and good friends of mine who are Texas alums thought it would never end.  Enjoy these times ladies and gents. As Dabo said, these are the good old days of Clemson football. I can see 9 or 10 win seasons continuing, but back to back playoff appearances and 26-2 over two seasons?  That’s a tough ask, especially with the sheer volume of talent leaving on offense after this season – Watson, Williams, Leggett, Gallman, Scott (and Guillermo).

CC: When you’re in the midst of greatness I think it’s easy for perspective to get lost. Up until 2011, I had never seen Clemson win an ACC Title in my lifetime. Now I’ve seen 3 in 6 years. Add in the 3 straight wins over SC, 2 straight over FSU, back-to-back CFB Playoff appearances, and it’s truly amazing what this program has accomplished. Oh, I should mention the icing on the cake could be right around the corner. As far as being able to continue this success I think it’s reasonable to expect a 8 or 9 win “dropoff” at some point, but the foundation has been laid for this program to remain nationally relevant for the foreseeable future. Also, recruiting is actually getting better and the new football operations facility is only going to help moving forward.

Obviously the talk over the course of the next week will center around Deshaun Watson’s Heisman hopes. It would appear he’s done enough over the back half of the schedule to at least make things interesting against Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. What are your thoughts?

MW: I think Jackson’s ungodly stats will still win out over Watson’s final shot. As others have mentioned, several voters have already voted and I’m sure many others made up their mind prior to the ACC Championship game. Watson has had his fair share of turnovers, and honestly his success and high expectations from the end of last season didn’t help him either. Watson will get another trip to NY, though, and continue to help to put Clemson the map.

MC: 9% of voters had mailed in their ballot before the ACC Championship Game was even played. Jackson is going to win the trophy.  One thing though, next year don’t tell me it’s about the best player on the best team.  

CC: Probably too little to late as most voters, through the national media, seem to have made their minds up a month or so ago. Watson will still make the trek to New York, but I anticipate a similar result as last year. While Jackson certainly has the numbers, I think Watson’s resume could and should be a trump card. I also believe the interceptions will be #4’s undoing.

Speaking of Watson, he played at an extremely high level versus the Hokies outside of a tipped pass that was intercepted. We also finally saw a sense of urgency from him on the ground which is something we’ve talked about a lot lately in this segment. What does running the football do for Watson and this Clemson offense in general?

MW: Opens everything up. You’re forced to honor Watson, Gallman, and the passing game. I mean, once Watson starts having success, how does when even defend the RPO? It’s certainly a pivotal part to this Clemson offense, and one that they’ll have to rely on moving into the playoffs.

MC: Watson seems to “own” the game a little more when he’s a part of the running game. Sounds ridiculous, I know – he’s the QB how can he not “own” the game.  There’s a glint in his eye, a pep in his step.  I think he likes the physical aspect of it.  We saw the effect on the zone read after a few runs from Gallman. Watson pulled it and gained big yards as the defense moved towards Gallman.  Simply put, it’s the difference between winning and losing (against the better teams).

CC: At times earlier in the year I thought Watson looked extremely passive in the run game. He was giving himself up early and didn’t seem to be too interested. That’s certainly changed over the last few games, and it could very well be by design. When he shows the ability to hurt you on the ground he makes this offense virtually unstoppable. Heck, VT all but eliminated Gallman outside of 3 or 4 carries. It didn’t matter though because Watson was there to pick up the slack. Another thing I noticed last night was how strong Watson has become as evidenced by a couple stiff arms to shed would be tacklers. Kid is something special.

Wayne Gallman may not have had the game he wanted, but the Tigers still found a way to pound on a respectable 182 yards on the ground. We talked about Watson above, but what about reserve RB CJ Fuller who seems to be really gaining some confidence. What have you seen change in his game and Is he the guy next Fall?

MW: He hits the hole quickly, and runs with solid power. I think his vision and patience, ability to create when the hole he’s looking for isn’t there. I anticipate him getting the nod as the starter going into next fall, but I’d imagine it’s very much a RB by committee effort as Feaster emerges as well.

MC: I’ve been impressed with C.J. Fuller ever since he became the clear second option. He appears confident and the moments don’t seem too big for him.  He’s limited in the big play capability, but he’s a solid number two.

CC: He’s just a guy that seems to run through the line with reckless abandon. If the OL gives him some space he’s going to hit it and hit it hard. At 220lbs he can get moving pretty well. Granted, he’s not one that seems able to create a hole when there’s not one, which is what makes Gallman so special. Looking ahead to next year I’m not sure how he’d respond in a starting role, but I think he’s proven himself to be a viable option in this offense moving forward.

With 7 receptions against the Hokies Artavis Scott moved into a tie for Clemson’s all-time career receptions record (240). The offense really seemed to be clicking when Scott was involved on the first 3 drives, but they seemed to go in a different direction in the 2nd quarter where things began to stall. Share your thoughts on what #3 means to this team.

MW: It’s another way of opening up the offense. The jet sweeps, quick screens, are all just branches of the run game. Not only that, but Scott tends to make something happen more often than not. He’s smart, has vision, strength, and is elusive. Rarely does a play to Artavis end up behind the line of scrimmage. Positive yards open up the playbook, and when you’re able to pick up 4-5 yards on a quick play to Scott, 2nd and 3rd down quickly become more manageable. Feed him and points will end up on the scoreboard.

MC: Ahh, my sore spot.  Bold statement: This offense runs through Artavis Scott.  As Matt pointed out last night, they don’t even have to be big plays. 3 yard gains suffice sometimes to spread out the defense and open up the run game.  3 receptions on the first drive, 2 on the second and both ended in touchdowns.  Sometimes I think the play callers decide to “distribute” the ball rather than keep doing what’s working until it’s stopped.  If Artavis is getting the ball, Clemson is in good shape.

CC: I’ve know this is one of Marty’s favorite talking points in regards to the 2016 Tigers and I’m starting to see where he’s coming from. We’ve come to learn that when Scott touches the ball good things happen. And truth be told it really doesn’t matter how you get it to him. Screens, jet sweep, slants, quick outs, returns, you name it. This is an example of a kid who won’t truly be appreciated until he’s gone. I look at him as the “glue guy” that’s held together some of Clemson’s most prolific offenses.

It was an up and down night for the defense. Talk about what you saw out this bunch in the 1st and 3rd quarters when they seemed to have Justin Fuente’s offense by the throat?

MW: Like Chris said, everything runs through the front 4. When they can disrupt and create a pass rush by themselves, it allows Venables to be creative. He can place extra defenders in coverage, knowing he can still get pressure on the QB, or he can create even more chaos by way of blitz.

MC: The defense came out playing with emotion and sacked Evans on the first play of the game.  That set the tone early, until Dorian O’Daniel’s ejection. I think the ejection changed the game and shifted momentum.  It seems like a defense that defends well when things go their way, but when they don’t it goes downhill quickly.  On the other hand, I prefer this brand of defense over the previous regimes and I’ll tell you why.  Sacks are drive killers and Clemson is 3rd in the nation in sacks per game.  Yes, you’re going to get burnt from time to time, but be aggressive when the situation dictates.  Matt and I chuckled preseason about this group reaching the 2015 sack total, but guess what? Could happen on New Year’s Eve.

CC: When things were going well Clemson’s front 4 were setting up camp in the Hokies backfield. Watkins, Lawrence, Wilkins, and Ferrell had their way in the trenches causing plays to be disrupted before they even got started. That’s where it all starts for the Tigers as it takes pressure off the secondary and gives guys like Boulware and Joseph open lanes to blitz.  

On the contrary, where did things go wrong for the Brent Venables’ defense? Did the absences of O’Daniel, Pagano, and Yeargin have a big impact?

MW: Pagano and Yargin from a depth perspective, certainly. The front 4 could’ve used a breather after a few of VT’s more sustained drives. O’Daniel was without a doubt the biggest, mainly due to his athleticism and ability to play in coverage. It was obvious that Fuente noted his absence and picked on Jalen Williams in pass coverage the remainder of the night.

MC: Absolutely on O’Daniel, most probably on Pagano and not sure on Yeargin. The game changed when O’Daniel went out.  He’s such an athletic, talented, unique defender that it’s impossible to replace him.  Pagano, far from the headlines, busts some heads in the middle time after time. There were several penalties and momentum changers, but defenses have to fight through that. Disappointed that they let it get closer, but absolutely confident they would get a stop when needed. Conflicted for sure.

CC: While O’Daniel’s ejection was quite costly in terms of momentum, I keep going back to the “Cover 11” on a long 3rd down that led to a quick touchdown. On that play, Boulware said the defense was anticipating a screen based on VT’s formation and didn’t really know what to do when it never came. From that point on Jerod Evans seemed to play like a man on a mission, and his offensive line seemed to come alive as well. I certainly think the absence of the aforementioned players was huge. O’Daniel is Clemson’s most athletic linebacker and both reserve defensive linemen would have helped spell a Tiger DL that seemed to tire in the game’s final quarter.

At this point would you like to see Clemson allocate a scholarship to bringing in a punter? A simple yes or no answer will be suffice.

MW: Yes.

MC: Yes.

CC: Yes.

Tigers and Buckeyes. What’s your early thoughts on this colossal matchup?

MW: It’s gonna be a good one. Both teams are extremely talented, I’ll go ahead and say that Ohio State will likely get the edge in SUR’s “Depth Stars” segment. They’ve recruited extremely well. As far as early predictions, none here, as I’ll need to watch a few Ohio State games to get a better feel for this team. However, Ohio State ranked 63rd in the nation in sacks allowed is a nice early stat to see.

MC: I like Clemson’s chances.  My numbers give a slight edge to Clemson, they’re playing in a familiar location with playoff experienced key players. I haven’t seen enough Ohio State to think through matchups at this point.

CC: At first glance I’m thinking points, points, and some more points. Both teams have elite skill position players and quarterbacks that can negate good defenses. I can’t speak much on the Buckeyes mindset, but I do know this is what the entire Clemson program has been waiting on for almost a year. I expect they’ll bring their A-game.

Players of the Game (Offense & Defense)

MW: Deshaun Watson & Cordrea Tankersley

MC: Deshaun Watson & Dexter Lawrence

CC: Deshaun Watson & Carlos Watkins

Play of the Game:

MW: Renfrow’s third down catch.

MC: Renfrow’s fingertip catch on 2nd and 19 from the Clemson 16 up 35-28. Without that it’s 3rd and 19 from your own 16.

CC: Run-pass-option touchdown pass from Watson to Renfrow to put the Tigers up 14 with 7:33 to play.

The Aftermath: Clemson 56 South Carolina 7

Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams (7) beats Georgia Tech cornerback D.J. White (28) and makes the catch for a touchdown and celebrates with center Ryan Norton (58) after hauling in a pass for a touchdown. The Clemson Tigers beat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 55-31 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson Thursday night, November 14. GWINN DAVIS PHOTOS gwinndavisphotos.com (website) (864) 915-0411 (cell) gwinndavis@gmail.com (e-mail) Gwinn Davis (FaceBook) National Press Photographers Association

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The SUR Crew of Matt Wilczewski, Marty Coleman, and Chris Cox recap Clemson’s crushing of South Carolina. Also, a brief lookahead to the upcoming ACC Championship Game.

General thoughts about what you witnessed in Death Valley on Saturday night?

MW: Utter domination, that honestly could have and should have been even worse than the 56-7 score indicated. This Clemson team obviously wanted to put together a statement game, and they did so with little resistance from the South Carolina side. Most of the Gamecock faithful were optimistic with 6 wins this year and 4 of the last 5, but Saturday night showed that there is still a massive gap between these two programs.

CC: To be honest I was pretty surprised at what took place and, as Matt alluded to, it could have been a lot worse. That was just a good old fashioned butt whoopin. There was little doubt as to the mark Deshaun Watson and Co. wanted to leave on this rivalry. Outside of the blocked field goal the Tigers dominated in all 3 phases. Although I’d say  “dominated” isn’t suffice for the way Clemson manhandled South Carolina in the trenches Saturday night. I think it’s safe to say I underestimated just how wide the gap between the two programs was. Saturday night proved the Gamecocks have a long road ahead if they want to catch their big brother.

MC: Wow. For a numbers driven guy like me, it was a total smashing. On offense: 40 first downs on 89 plays run. 18 explosive plays. Inside Carolina 40 on all 12 drives. On defense: Carolina had 7 yards at the end of the first quarter and less than 200 at the end of the third.  When straight laced, play it down the middle announcers like Dave Pasch uses terms like “Men against boys” you know it was a beat down of epic proportions.

There may be some overlap with the question above, but was this the most complete game you’ve seen Clemson play in the Dabo Swinney era?

MW: I think it’s up there, for sure, and I would have to think for a bit to consider other options. Maybe 40-6 over Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl would be competition, especially considering that was over a much better squad. It was the most complete game they’ve played in 2016, though, and that’s exactly what you want to end the regular season.

CC: Given the fact it’s a rivalry game I think you could argue that this is the game Clemson fans will talk about the most in the Dabo Swinney era. Obviously the rout of Oklahoma in Orlando a couple years ago is up there, but that game pales in comparison from an emotional standpoint. Miami from last year comes to mind too, but that game didn’t have near the statistical discrepancy. Here in the Palmetto State 56-7 will resonate for the next 363 days.

MC: I fully admit to recency bias, not to mention it was against a hated rival, but none immediately comes to mind. There’s been worse beatings score-wise, but I’m not sure I’ve seen a more demoralized team than Will Muschamp’s bunch last night, unless it was Miami circa 2015.

Recognizing that there were two true freshmen quarterbacks on the field for the Gamecocks, the defense held South Carolina to 218 total yards.  Yet, I keep hearing talking heads (latest example is Danny Kanell) say they are worried about the Clemson defense.  Should we be worried about the defense moving forward?

MW: In areas, perhaps, namely linebackers in coverage. And as Marty said, it’s hard to take much from dominating a subpar South Carolina offense. But the defense as a whole isn’t something that Clemson needs to worry about, as they’ve consistently exceeded expectations throughout the year. And even at their worst(Pitt game), they weren’t the ones to take blame for the loss.

CC: Yes and no. A team that can slow Clemson’s front four certainly poses a big threat given the inconsistency in coverage on the back end. On Saturday night Clemson’s defensive line made the South Carolina offensive line look like human turnstiles. When you can disrupt things up front on a consistent basis the whole game changes. So against teams like Pitt, FSU, and potentially Alabama yes there is reason for concern. Other than that, nope.

MC: The South Carolina offense is not very talented (same for Wake Forest). There are holes in the defense that we’ve discussed ad nauseum (linebackers in coverage, for example). Pittsburgh exploited them to the max and other teams have had some success.  That said, when the defense plays with an energy and passion like Saturday they’re tough to beat.  Unfortunately, Saturday was the last time they’ll play in Death Valley this season.  Yet, you look up and they’re the 8th best statistical defense in the nation.  An enigma for sure, but I don’t hear Danny Kanell questioning Washington’s defense.

The Clemson offensive line was supposedly called out for being “finesse” by a South Carolina player, do you think that made a difference in what transpired on the field or was it simply a matter of talent?

MW: Talent first and foremost. Clemson’s run game was going to “get theirs” on Saturday night regardless if that comment comes out or not. The Gamecocks’ run defense has been poor all year, so that was simply inevitable. But, sure, it could have helped stoke some fire in the offensive linemen’s bellies that gave them an extra edge throughout the contest.

CC: On the ride home listening to some of the postgame comments from players and coaches a common theme kept popping up. It was something along the lines of ignoring the emotion of the rivalry and focusing on the preparation. Just about every interview referenced to that thought process, and perhaps they actually bought into it during the game. I also thought Tony Elliott/Jeff Scott did a great job of mixing passing and running plays, which certainly helps keep opposing defenses on their heels. And just like the rest of the team, the offensive line was dialed in for 60 minutes.

MC:  There is a lot of finesse to Clemson’s offense, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.  SEC guys take a lot of pride in 17-10 games and that’s great, but at some point you wonder if it’s good defenses or bad offenses.  Maybe it made a difference to some degree, but I’m one of those guys that believe once the game and hitting starts, talent usually wins out. You talk before the game, you talk after the game.  In between you’re playing what you’ve been taught.  Did it make a difference on some plays? Probably.  Did it make a difference in the big picture? I have my doubts.

Wayne Gallman was a factor early and often and it’s no surprise that the offense is much better when Gallman is effective. Will the Tigers be able to sustain the run game against a Virginia Tech rush defense giving up 3.9 yards per rush?

MW: Yes, with the assumption that Clemson can exploit other areas to open up the run game, as well as utilize Watson’s legs. I don’t necessarily expect numbers like the past two weeks, but some sort of success on the ground is imperative in Orlando to get a win.

CC: First and foremost, this is a pass first team. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue that, but you’re right about the offense hitting that 5th gear when Gallman is effective. While the running game has been a point of criticism throughout the year they seem to have built some confidence over the last couple of contests. Confidence is contagious. I’m also a big believer in hitting your stride at the right time, which is what we’re seeing in the Clemson rush attack.

MC: Clemson needs to run the ball to be successful, preferably with a combo of Gallman and Watson.  Yes, it’s coach speak, but the Clemson “running” game also consists of passes behind the line of scrimmage, generally to Artavis Scott and Ray Ray McCloud.  Don’t believe me? Watson threw 11 (all completed) against South Carolina for 109 yards and a touchdown. The Tigers can survive this week without a traditional running game, but moving forward it becomes more imperative.

Early thoughts about Virginia Tech?

MW: Dangerous opponent. Have several playmakers offensively, including a QB that can use his legs and two big receivers that will provide a difficult test, along with your typical stingy Bud Foster defense. Dabo has his work cut out this week to take his team down a notch following the big win on Saturday and re-focus them to prepare for a much, much better opponent.

CC: Haven’t watched them much this year outside of the Tennessee game at Bristol where they laid the ball on the ground an astounding 5 times. I know they’ve got a talented QB who has a couple really talented targets in the passing game. Bud Foster always has a gritty defense. Their season has been a rollercoaster ride, but they’re playing in Orlando so they should be taken very seriously.

MC: I’m not quite sure what to expect as I haven’t watched a lot of the Hokies (as in close to 0) this year. They lost to Syracuse and Georgia Tech, two teams Clemson handled with ease. On the other hand they beat Pittsburgh on the road.  A top 40 offense and a top 20 defense, at least statistically speaking.  I’ll await Matt’s film review to get a better feel.

Players of the Game (Offense & Defense)

MW: Deshaun Watson & Ben Boulware

MC: Mike Williams & Carlos Watkins

CC: Mike Williams & Ben Boulware

Play of the Game:

MW: Mike Williams’ first touchdown. Set the tone early and like his others, was a grown man play against arguably South Carolina’s best defensive player.

CC: Mike Williams carrying Jamarcus King into the endzone free of charge. He had already set the table with his first TD grab over King, but the effort on this play seemed to capture the emotion of the night.

MC: Mike Williams piggy back ride on second touchdown of the game.  I believe the announcer said, “That is a GROWN man, right there.” Yep, and it just epitomized the total physical domination that occurred throughout the game.

Depth Stars: Clemson vs. Wake Forest

A look at how recruiting rankings reflect in the starting lineups (Source Photo: Steve Mitchell/USA Today)

A look at how recruiting rankings reflect in the starting lineups (Source Photo: Steve Mitchell/USA Today)

 

In this segment we’ll take a look at the former recruiting rankings for both teams’ starting lineups. With only the starters listed, this is by no means a comprehensive comparison of overall team talent. Instead, this allows you to simply take a peak into how recruiting rankings represent the key contributors on the field. In this series we’ll be basing the “star” ratings on the 247 Composite rankings, which factors in evaluations from various recruiting services.

 

 

**As always you can head over to the free SUR message boards to discuss this and much more with one of the tightest online Tiger communities on the web.**

The Aftermath: Pitt-43 Clemson-42

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, Jeff Scott and the players watch the final seconds from the sidelines. The Clemson Tigers played host to the Pittsburgh Panthers at Memorial Stadium, Saturday, November 12, 2016. Gwinn Davis / The Post and Courier

Clemson coaches Dabo Swinney, Brent Venables, and Jeff Scott (Photo via Gwinn Davis/gwinndavisphotos.com)

 

The SUR Crew of Marty Coleman, Chris Cox, and Matt Wilczewski recap Clemson’s first regular season loss in nearly two years…

After 10 games, give me your 2-minute analysis of this Clemson team

MC: I’m not sure what to make of this team at this point. Good? Lucky? Flawed? Unlucky? Probably a bit of all of the above, but I don’t think they’ve played up to their potential. Or maybe they have and I just don’t realize it. The next two weeks will show me what this team is made of.  Every team is different and this team struggles putting teams away.  Hats off to Pitt – they brought it.

CC: I think this is an extremely talented football team that can’t seem to get out of their own way. Gimme turnovers, a non-existent running game, and the defense’s inability to cover the RB/TE have been recurring themes to the season. The fact they’ve been able to make it this far before getting caught tells me the Tigers are either really, really lucky or they’re actually a pretty damn good team. I think the turnovers are fixable. Especially the red zone turnovers. I don’t know about the bigger picture things like running the football and the lack of pass defense. The good news for Clemson fans is they still have one hell of a quarterback in Deshaun Watson and one hell of a DC in Brent Venables.

MW: An abundance of talent paired with a lack of execution. And I’m not sure if that will get shored up at some point, especially now with a loss, or if this Clemson team IS what we’ve seen through the season thus far. Fortunately for these Tigers, they’re two games away from playing in the ACC Championship and likely still control their own destiny as far as their playoff chances go. This could EASILY be a 2, 3, 4 loss team at this point in the season considering all of the mistakes made throughout the year, so just 1 loss at this point and time is quite fortunate. Execution must get better and the turnovers must get shored up. If those two occur, this team is still one of the most talented and dangerous teams in the entire country.

 

We’ve praised Brent Venables a lot, and one game doesn’t change the big picture, but what did Pittsburgh do that was so difficult to stop?

MC:  First and foremost – props to Matt Canada and the entire Pitt offense. Great game plan, great execution.  The linebackers in coverage has been an issue all season, but I was surprised to see the shuffle pass work repeatedly with seemingly no response from Clemson until late in the game.  It was reminiscent of past Clemson defenses: Opponent finds a crack and exploits it all game with little or no adjustments, at least that were visible.  I was disappointed in a Venables defense for the first time in a long time.  

CC: Let me start by saying Matt Canada deserves some serious praise for the scheme he brought to Death Valley yesterday. The massive shifts, play action, shovel pass, and ability to get favorable matchups downfield were all executed to near perfection. We’ve seen teams have success against Venables defense, but I don’t know if we’ve ever seen a group have the kind of success in a half of football as Pitt did in the first 30 minutes. Joseph and Boulware were flat out exposed in pass coverage. Pitt challenged Clemson in 1-on-1 coverage as well that seemed to result in a positive result more times than not by way of penalty. Oh, and that James Conner guy is a load. At times I thought it looked like Clemson defenders wanted nothing to do with tackling him, but maybe that was just me. Clemson actually adjusted well in the 2nd half, but turnovers and penalties were equalizers.

MW: Canada put together a strong scheme to create mismatches and take advantage of the natural aggressiveness of a Venables defense. Everyone knows that the biggest weakness of Clemson’s defense is the linebackers in pass coverage, which Canada went after. Add that into motion and shuffle passes to beat the pass rush, a few fortunate penalties, and James Conner, and their offense did just enough to find a win.

 

Pretty hard to believe Clemson could drop a game in which Deshaun Watson set an ACC record for passing yards. Despite his big day there appeared to be lapses in judgement that resulted in his second 3-interception game of the year. Let’s discuss his play below.

MC:  I’m at a complete loss.  Part of me thinks he is so confident in himself and his receivers that he tries to fit passes where they should never be thrown.  Part of me thinks he’s not good at understanding coverages, but I’m certainly no expert in that realm.  The biggest surprise to me is the judgement and lack of understanding the game situation.  The game was there for Clemson to win and it was given away. You’re up by 8 on the opponents 3 yard line with less than 6 minutes to play.  How do you throw that pass?

CC: Deshaun Watson is the most talented quarterback to play at Clemson, but that’s not to say he’s perfect. I’ve spent some time thinking about the turnover bug that’s bit him repeatedly this Fall and my best guess is that he just get’s a little too comfortable. Like Marty said, I’m no expert in breaking down coverages and I would imagine it’s the most difficult part of the QB position to master. With that said, it appears to me that Watson is committed to one player and one route at times. That results in him forcing some unwarranted throws. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Underneath coverage seems to go unnoticed by #4 and is something he’ll have to straighten out if he intends to play at the next level. Let’s also remember that he was also asked to throw the ball 70 times yesterday and set several records in doing so. Kid’s special and he’s a winner. I think we’ll see that going down the stretch.

MW: Well, he’s bound to make some mistakes when asked to throw 70 times. However, I do believe that he trusts his pre-snap read and arm too much, and has difficulty pulling away from those two factors when the defense makes an unexpected change. Locking into receivers and forcing the issue isn’t the way to go, and teams have often started to drop defenders underneath in hopes that Watson will make a re-occuring error. He just needs to relax, dial it in a bit, and try to avoid forcing throws.

 

On a more positive note let’s talk about the dominance of Clemson WR Mike Williams. How does he stack up against past Tiger greats, and what are your thoughts on his draft status at this time?

MC: I tweeted that the only thing that could stop Mike Williams Saturday was the play calling.  It’s difficult for me to compare him to other Tiger greats because he’s a different, more physical receiver.  He does drop some “easy” passes, but  I expect Williams to be in the top 2 wide receivers taken in the draft.

CC: That was as dominant a WR performance as I can remember for a Clemson WR. 15 receptions 202 yards and a touchdown. What those numbers don’t show is the number of 50/50 balls that he went up and got. While he obviously doesn’t have the flash of guys like Watkins or Bryant she’s got to be up there with Hopkins in terms of guys who brutalize defenses with crisp routes and body control. We hear the term body control tossed around a lot, but few guys are able to consistently use it create favorable opportunities to catch the ball like Williams does. Don’t believe me? Watch him on a simple slant route and you can see what I’m talking about. Williams is truly a special player, and his performances this year may have pushed him into the Top 10 next April.

MW: He’s a top 10 draft pick. Speed, size, possession, big play ability. Really all you could ask for in a professional wide receiver. I also liken him to Hopkins in his body control and ability to go up and win 50-50 balls. As far as stacking up against former Tigers, it’s hard to say whether or not he’s at the top or not, but I do believe he has the potential to be the best NFL receiver of all of them.

 

With the upsets Saturday night what seemed like a season crushing loss could end up being a spark that propels Clemson toward the playoffs.  How do you think this team responds next Saturday?

MC:  I think they respond big against an outmanned Wake team that left a lot on the field vs. Louisville.  If the Tigers don’t respond it’s pretty simple: They don’t belong in the playoff.

CC: Wake gave the Cardinals all they wanted for 45 minutes before the wheels fell off. Now they have to turn around and face a Clemson team coming off their first regular season loss in 2 years. That same team is also playing for the ACC Atlantic and has no wiggle room for playoff consideration. The talent gap is enormous. So yeah, probably not an ideal situation for Wake. Throughout the years I’ve come to appreciate the way Dabo runs this program, and I truly believe they respond in a big way next Saturday night.

MW: We’ll find out if a loss was what this team needed to finally wake up. I like to think Dabo will have them ready and they’ll respond well. Anything less than putting this Demon Deacon team away well before the fourth quarter, and I’ll be quite concerned.

 

Moving forward what do the Tigers need to improve on to be a legitimate threat for the National Championship?

MC:  I’m not sure what you can do about the linebackers in coverage, it is what it is.  That said, if you stop turning the ball over, you’ll get enough stops to win most games.  Alabama is miles ahead of everyone else at this point, but in a one game scenario you never know what can happen, just ask Pittsburgh.

CC: Stop turning the ball over. That’s the key. Clemson has an elite passing game and an average running game. Clemson has a dominant pass rush and average pass coverage. That’s where they are and that’s likely who they are. Cutting out turnovers creates more opportunities for yourself and eliminates opportunities for your opponents. I truly believe it’s that simple.

MW: Execution and eliminating turnovers. Execution especially in the run game, which will better open up the passing game. Take away the turnovers from yesterday, especially those in the redzone, and the scoreboard wouldn’t even be close. These guys are good, really good, one of the best in the country. They just have to shore a few things up to take the next step.

 

Across the board, can you recall a conference officiating crew being more controversial than the ACC’s this year? A simple yes or no should be suffice.

MC: No.

CC: No.

MW: No.

 

In closing feel free to add any other takeaways or commentary from Saturday’s contest.

MC: We can talk about officials, but Clemson has gotten it’s share of calls and should have put this one away about 4 times.  We all knew the Tigers were living on the edge and most of us knew it was going to catch up with them at some point. Saturday was that day.

CC: We didn’t talk about it above, but Clemson’s inability to convert on 3rd or 4th and short was gutting. I’m honestly stunned that the staff elected to go with pitch plays behind either true freshman tackle on back to back plays. Nonetheless, the coaches expect those guys to execute. They didn’t. Also, hats off to the Panthers who didn’t blink inside of Death Valley on Saturday. We’ve seen a lot of teams buckle, but they did not.

MW: Props to Pittsburgh, they came to play and never let the big moment get to them. The run game must improve, and ideally the return of both Hyatt and Fruhmorgen will help greatly. I’ll echo Chris’ sentiments at the pitch plays, especially when using the jumbo package. Takes longer to develop and allows more time for the defense to react, along with putting pressure on true freshmen tackles. Maybe this game becomes a blessing in disguise, providing the opportunity for a reality check and re-focusing prior to the final stretch in the season. Clemson received quite the gifts with Michigan and Washington losing, likely having the opportunity to lose a game and still control their own playoff destiny.

 

Players of the Game (Offense & Defense)

MC: Mike Williams, Dorian O’Daniel

CC: Mike Williams, Dorian O’Daniel

MW: Mike Williams, Dorian O’Daniel

 

Play of the Game

MC: Failed 4th down attempt. 1 yard ends the game and the Tigers failed to get it.

CC: Watson’s goal line pick by Saleem Brightwell was the game-changer for Pitt

MW: Watson’s goal line pick and big return for Pittsburgh. Momentum swing.

The Aftermath: Clemson 24 N.C. State 17 (OT)

Clemson corner Marcus Edmond saved the day once again (Photo: Gwinn Davis/gwinndavisphotos.com)

Clemson corner Marcus Edmond saved the day once again (Photo: Gwinn Davis/gwinndavisphotos.com)

 

The SUR Crew weighs in on Clemson’s nail-biter versus NC State…

Clemson obviously shot themselves in the foot over and over again on Saturday with the turnovers. Outside of the carelessness with the ball, what are some of your concerns as the Tigers head into the bye week?

MC- I’d rather be lucky than 3-9, but at some point you’re going to roll craps.  I posted the stats a couple of weeks ago, but teams -2 in turnovers win about 20% of the time. Clemson has won 8 in a row -2.  On one hand you say, “They’re overcoming mistakes, that’s the sign of a really good team.” On the other hand you wonder if a really good team would continue along this path.

MW- Well, the turnovers, especially in the redzone, are certainly the most concerning. Without those, Clemson likely wins by double digits. Outside of that, though, I’ll say the difficulties with LB’s in pass coverage, the punt game, the RB stretch, and DW4’s deep ball touch. Props to State for doing their homework and finding ways to use Samuels and Hines in the flats and against Clemson’s LB’s. Teasdall’s short punt to jumpstart the near winning drive for NC State can’t happen, as it provided an extra 20 or so yards. Next, the RB stretch, which NC State ran successfully several times and opened backside holes for Dayes. LB’s had difficulty filling all gaps and will see similar against Dalvin Cook in two week. Lastly, DW4’s touch on the deep ball. Is it due to added weight? Footwork? Chemistry? Trajectory? Not sure, but he’s still having trouble connecting.

CC-The turnovers are no doubt the root of Clemson’s roller coaster performances. They’ve got to tighten up there or they’re going to fall and fall hard. Outside of that I have some real concerns about the defense’s ability to cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. NC State did what so many other teams have already done this year by getting receivers matched up on linebackers, or even defensive ends, to steadily move the chains. Clemson’s yet to find an answer, and perhaps it’s that Venables is willing to give that up to prevent other tactics.

Stat wise, Deshaun Watson had one of his better games of the season. What were your takeaways from yet another big performance against NC State?

MC- Unfortunately, the first one is the inexplicable pick six.  The game may never be in doubt if that doesn’t happen. That said, when the game is on the line Watson is money in the bank.  Maybe “mixed bag” is the best term – there were some drops, some bad throws and some good throws.

MW- He’s progressing and getting comfortable with the intermediate and short stuff, taking what the defense is providing to him. Deep balls could use some improvement, and connecting on those would open up the defense even more. But all in all, he’s making plays when they need to be made and his legs will be turned loose in a couple weeks as well.

CC-I thought Watson took what was given to him, which was the underneath stuff. State didn’t let the Tigers go over the top, and when Cain got loose Watson overshot him. I must say it was nice seeing Clemson take advantage of the short game because it allowed them the luxury of putting together some long drives of their own. And while Watson may be a little off on the long throws he’s proven to be money on the slants and out routes.

Regarding the hit on Wayne Gallman, did you think a flag should have been thrown for targeting?

MC- I’ve seen this debated on social media and whether it’s by rule or not, I don’t think so.  Gallman didn’t seem to be defenseless.  Does that matter per the rules? I don’t know, but it’s hard to believe the intent was there.  It appeared to be a guy making a football play.  Let’s put it this way – if the roles were reversed and that was a Clemson defender I wouldn’t think he should be called for targeting.

MW- Well, I tried to look up the exact definition of targeting and still can’t really provide a verdict. I’m not upset that it wasn’t called, and didn’t anticipate it being called when I initially saw the play. Should the defender have lowered his head? Probably not, but I’ll assume he was just trying to make a play. Gallman lowered his head as well, so I can’t convince myself that the defender went out of his way to create helmet to helmet contact.

CC-Targeting didn’t even cross my mind until I saw the some of the screenshots and slow-mo replays posted on social media. By rule I supposed it was forcible helmet to helmet contact, but I was okay with the flag being withheld. It was my opinion that the defender was simply trying to make a play and there was no malintent behind the hit. Was it a big hit? Yes. Was it a dirty hit? I don’t believe so. If the tables had been turned I’m sure many Clemson fans would say the same.

With Wayne Gallman sidelined how did you feel about Elliott and Scott’s approach to the running game? FYI, Clemson finished with 117 yards on 39 attempts.

MC- No problem with the approach, but the problem was execution.  Adam Choice doesn’t appear to be the same player, which is understandable. If you read Bill Connelly he has a theory that the first 5 yards are on the offensive line.  If that’s the case the Clemson line struggled mightily.  I take Tony Elliott at his word on the reasons for not playing Feaster and this was a brutal, physical contest that may not have played to Feaster’s strengths.

MW- I would’ve liked to see more than just Dye/Choice/Fuller ramming up the middle, behind an offensive line that wasn’t exactly getting much push. Easy to appreciate Gallman more after seeing what happened following his injury. Also seeing Feaster in some form or fashion would’ve been a nice change of pace, although I understand that placing him in may tip off the defense that he’s not staying in to block. But there’s nothing wrong with getting him into the flats or a simple read option on first and 10. I’ll tip my hat to NC State’s defensive line as well who were a very physical and talented bunch. Here’s to hoping that Gallman is able to return for the Florida State game.

CC-I admire Elliott and Scott for sticking with the run, but I was hoping to see a different approach or some new looks rather than generic inside rushes. I also wouldn’t have been opposed to seeing more jet sweeps to Scott/McCloud, who both are better playmakers than the backup running backs. Then there’s the Feaster debate. I get that the staff doesn’t trust him in pass pro, but goodness put the kid in there on an obvious rushing down and get him in space. Heck, you could even swing him out wide and utilize him in the passing game. Anyways, I’d say we all have a better idea of what exactly Wayne Gallman means to this team after watching the Tigers struggle with him on the sidelines.

NC State seemed to have a great gameplan in regards to moving the chains versus Brent Venables stingy defense. Let’s hear your assessment on the defense’s performance from Saturday.

MC- I’m not as disappointed as some outside of the 3rd down conversions and big plays.  N.C. State had less than 400 yards and that includes overtime. The Pack made 8 trips (not including OT) into Tiger territory and came away with 10 points (7 were from pick six). Sure, some of that was missed kicks, but still that would only be 19.

MW- The ‘Pack’s offensive line did a better job against the defensive line than anyone else this season, that was impressive. Drinkwitz also did his best to negate the line by providing Finley with quick reads, getting the ball out of his hand before there was much pressure. All in all, though, I thought they performed fairly well and I anticipate that we see a very hungry line in two weeks.

CC-While the numbers look good in the box score, I wasn’t all that impressed with Clemson’s ability to get pressure on Finley. I figured having Austin Bryant back in the fold would make a formidable pass rush next to unstoppable. That wasn’t the case, but credit NC State for getting the ball out quickly and to Finley for stepping up to make plays with his feet when needed. Tough to not credit a defense that only allowed one touchdown in 4 quarters plus an overtime session. It may not always be pretty, but Brent Venables’ unit simply gets it done.

Marcus Edmond is making a strong case to steal Watson’s mantra as “Superman” given his late game saving heroics in Clemson’s last two home games. Is he the surprise player of the year thus far? If not, who would you nominate.

MC- Edmond’s made two huge plays at the most crucial times, but I’m gonna go with Ryan Carter. Just solid and reads plays well.

MW- Trying to rack my brain for others, but as far as being a difference maker, I have to go with Marcus Edmond. A guy that spent most of the summer injured, lost a potential starting spot, and played limited snaps in previous games, comes up big to provide two game-ending plays.

CC-I’ll stick with Edmond, because up until the last few games I don’t believe anyone outside of the program thought he was going to be anything but a role player. Two game-saving plays later, and it’s safe to say Edmond will go down in Clemson lore if they continue the run they’re on.

Obviously that was one of the crazier endings we’ve seen in a game that involves Clemson. What are your final takeaways from the game as a whole? Is NC State better than originally thought?

MC- N.C. State is more physical than I thought, for sure. On the other hand, they were gifted a lot and gained very little in the big scheme of things. Without the pick six they scored 10 points and that’s including OT.  Having said that, there were some grown men on the Pack D and they brought it.

MW- NC State was better than I thought. More physical and well-coached, especially offensively. They had a great gameplan and nearly pulled off the unthinkable. However, complacency caught the Tigers on Saturday, knowing that they had an open date coming up. Refocus, rest up, and prepare for a battle in Tallahassee. After this weekend’s performance, the Tigers will likely be on upset watch the next two weeks, which more often than not gets this team’s attention.

CC-I’ll echo Marty’s comments in regards to how physical NC State was on Saturday. I thought both of their lines gave Clemson all they could handle, which caught me by surprise. I also think this serves as a wake up call for the Tigers. Coming into Saturday I thought this team had the chance to build on their momentum from the Louisville and BC wins, but it looked like they were right back to the team that couldn’t get out of it’s own way. Fortunately lady luck was on Clemson’s side. Championship teams need a break or two along the way. However, Clemson may have used up their allotment.

Players of the Game (Off & Def)

MC- Mike Williams, Marcus Edmond

MW- Jordan Leggett, Christian Wilkins

CC-Mike Williams, Christian Wilkins

Play of the Game

MC- Edmond interception to end it.

MW- Edmond’s interception.

CC-Edmond game winning interception

Weekly SUR Pick’em – Week 6

Weekly SUR Pick'em

The SUR crew of Matt Wilczewski, Marty Coleman and Chris Cox pick the week’s featured games against the spread and share a million star lead pipe lock. Feel free to get rich…at your own expense.

Records:
Marty: 25-21; Locks – 2-2-1 Matt: 27-19; Locks – 2-3 Chris: 24-22; Locks – 2-3

#3 Clemson (-17) at Boston College
MC: Boston College (Clemson wins 31-16)
MW: Boston College (Clemson wins 27-10)
CC: Clemson 38-10

Texas (+10) vs. #20 Oklahoma (in Dallas)
MC: Oklahoma
MW: Oklahoma
CC: Oklahoma

LSU at #18 Florida (+3)
MC: Florida
MW: LSU
CC: Florida

#25 Virginia Tech at #17 North Carolina (-2.5)
MC: Virginia Tech
MW: Virginia Tech
CC: UNC

#9 Tennessee at #8 Texas A&M (-7)
MC: Texas A&M
MW: Texas A&M
CC: Tennessee

#1 Alabama at #16 Arkansas (+14)
MC: Arkansas
MW: Arkansas
CC: Arkansas

Georgia at South Carolina (+7)
MC: South Carolina
MW: South Carolina
CC: South Carolina

#23 Florida State at #10 Miami (-3)
MC: FSU
MW: Miami
CC: FSU

Gambling Lock of the Week
MC:  FSU (+3) at Miami.  Using a lock of the week on a 3-2 team that has an empty bandwagon may seem like lunacy.  Another way to look at it is: There’s no home field advantage, FSU has the better players and is desperate. Also, it’s not like the Seminoles are losing to chumps like the ones Miami has beat, either.  If the Noles leave south Florida 3-3 and 0-3 in the ACC look out.

MW: 6 point teaser: VT +8.5/Texas A&M -1(-110) : Two straight winning weeks after putting straight spread and over/under wagers to the side. Going away from my recent moneyline parlays this time and trying out a 6 point teaser. Bumping the Hokies from 2.5 to 8.5 and taking them after UNC’s thrilling last second victory at FSU. Hope here is that UNC is a little overvalued and has a bit of a letdown following last weekend’s festivities. I’ll pair them with the Aggies, going from -7 to -1, and fading an undefeated Vols team coming off the hail mary victory in Athens. 

CC: OVER 57.5 in Tennessee vs. Texas A&M. If I were in your shoes I would actually bet the under. My locks have special powers that actually reverse the outcome to be the exact opposite of what I say. Given my pick I wouldn’t be surprised if these two high power offenses put up 16 points combined.