August 17, 2017

Game Analysis: Clemson vs. Maryland

Will the real Maryland Terrapins please stand up?  Is it the team that open the season by beating Miami (albeit a depleted Miami team), the team that fell behind early before rallying to lose close against West Virginia and the team that held Georgia Tech to 21 points or the team that go steamrolled by…ahem…Temple…at home?  Who knows? 

What we do know is that Clemson has covered the spread in all 5 games against FBS teams and that includes a trip to Blacksburg at night.  At some point you have to begin believing.

We also know that Tajh Boyd, the engine that makes the Tiger offense go, was injured against Boston College.  It seems clear that Boyd will play, but the question is will we see the same Tajh Boyd that we’ve seen in games 1 through 5.  Will any lingering effects of the injury cause Boyd’s passes to be off by just a tick?  Will Boyd be willing and able to run as effectively as he has recently?  Will Chad Morris call the same plays and not try to “protect” Boyd?

If you are a regular visitor you know I have picked Clemson to cover the spread twice in five games this year –Troy(winner) and Virginia Tech (big winner).  The spread this week is an interesting 8 ½.   On the surface it would appear the Tigers are much better than that number, factoring in an offense that only Virginia Tech has slowed down.

However, the bumps and bruises that occur over the course of the season are beginning to mount for the Tigers.  We’ve discussed Boyd, but Dewayne Allen (toe) is also banged up, not to mention Andre Ellington and D.J. Howard.  There are concerns on the defensive side, too with speculation that Rashard Hall is not at 100% and Stephone Anthony coming off of a sprained ankle.

The key here is Boyd, as most of the other parts can be plugged for a week or two.  Don’t misunderstand me, I think Cole Stoudt would do an admirable job if he was forced to play and would remain optimistic about a victory, but Boyd has been the difference between an average Clemson team and a team that is 6-0.  A less than 100% Boyd is a cause for concern, at least on some level.

The Tigers are 19th in offensive yards per game, but 31st in scoring.  The hardest part to decipher looking at numbers is will this be the week that all the yards and explosive plays turn into 50 points or will the Tigers continue to be middling in the red zone?  Too many times the Tigers drives are feast or famine – big play for a touchdown or a punt. Maryland’s defense has fit this mold almost exactly – giving up lots of yards, but not as many points.

Sammy Watkins vs. Wofford (AP)

In the end, I see more of the same from both teams.  Clemson will rack up yards, but struggle in the red zone.  There will be plenty of explosive plays from the Clemson offense, but also lots of empty possessions. Maryland will score enough to stay in the game and perhaps score a garbage touchdown to make the game look closer than it really was.

It won’t be a popular pick and a few will think I’m nuts, but the Tigers are due for a semi-clunker, especially on the road.  The good news is in 2011 a semi-clunker on the road still means a win.

 Clemson 31 Maryland 26

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