The Final Breakdown

Dabo Swinney picked up the first signature win of his coaching career last season when Clemson beat No. 8 Miami 40-37.

WHAT: Clemson vs. No. 16 Miami
WHERE: Memorial Stadium (81,500) - Clemson, S.C.
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 2 (12:01 p.m. EST)
SPREAD: Miami by 3.5
TV: ESPN2/ESPN 3D

Fast forward one year later and Clemson (2-1) now hosts No. 16 Miami (2-1) in Death Valley on Saturday for both teams' ACC opener. The last time they met in Tigertown (2005), Miami won in three overtimes. In fact, the last three times the two teams have met, the games required overtime.

The only other time in Division I history the same schools have played three consecutive overtime games in a series took place between 2004-06 between Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan.

Swinney and Miami head coach Randy Shannon are the two youngest coaches in the ACC. Swinney turns 41 on Nov. 20 and Shannon is 44.

Saturday's game will be the only 3D game in college football this weekend. It will be the second Clemson game shown in 3D this season and it will be the Tigers' first home game shown in 3D. The first Clemson home game in HD was the 2005 triple overtime thriller.

CLEMSON PASSING GAME VS. MIAMI SECONDARY, PASS RUSH
We here at CUTigers see this as the most intriguing matchup of Saturday' game. Miami brings in the nation's second best in sacks per game (4.67) and Clemson's offensive line has allowed less than a sack per game (.67), which is 17th.


The Tigers must limit the amount of times Kyle Parker is hit, not to mention the number of times he's sacked. (Getty Images)
Oliver Vernon leads the Hurricanes with 3½ sacks and fellow defensive ends Adewale OjomoAndrew Smith both have a pair.

They'll be in hot pursuit of Kyle Parker, who was knocked around by Auburn nearly two weeks ago at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Parker is recovering from a painful hit shot to the back of his ribs in the third quarter of Clemson's game on The Plains.

The Tigers must limit the amount of times Parker is hit, not to mention the number of times he's sacked. Keeping Parker throwing from inside the pocket is important, too. Both could be tough sledding for the Clemson offensive line because Miami's defensive line is as good as any they'll see all season.

Miami's linebackers should offer better pass coverage of Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen and running back Jamie Harper than the group from Auburn could muster. Allen has 8 receptions for 156 yards and a touchdown while Harper has 5 for 59 yards and a team-high 3 touchdowns this season.

The defensive backs are big and experienced. Right cornerback Brandon Harris is the only starter in the Miami secondary that's not listed above 6-feet.

Collectively, the group is better than what Clemson saw down at Auburn nearly two weeks ago.

ADVANTAGE:

MIAMI PASSING GAME VS. CLEMSON SECONDARY, PASS RUSH
Big plays are the bread and butter of the Miami passing game with Jacory Harris running the show.

Leonard Hankerson leads the team with 16 catches for 241 yards and 3 touchdowns. LaRon Byrd has 12 receptions for 118 yards and Travis Benjamin has 10 for 158 and a score.


When Harris is pressured and forced to make throws before he wants to, it typically leads to interceptions, which he's thrown 6 of this year. (Getty Images)
The Clemson secondary hasn't quite lived up to the preseason expectations. Ranked 64th in the country in pass defense, Clemson finished 10th overall in 2009. The current figure is pretty disappointing for a group that returned the likes of DeAndre McDaniel, Marcus Gilchrist and Rashard Hall.

But they'll be aided out by a steady pass rush that's led by Da'Quan Bowers and Andre Branch. The defensive ends each have 3 sacks and rank among the top-10 in the ACC.

That's bad news for Miami. Through three games this season, the Hurricanes have allowed nearly 1¾ sacks a game and freshman Seantrel Henderson could see significant playing time at right tackle.

He played some at Pittsburgh last week, but the environment at Heinz Field won't be anywhere close to what he sees this Saturday.

Clemson's defensive backs will have their hands full with the Miami wide receivers, but the same can be said for the Hurricane offensive line when facing the Tigers' pass rush. When Harris is pressured and forced to make throws before he wants to, it typically leads to interceptions, which he's thrown 6 of this year.

ADVANTAGE:

CLEMSON SPECIAL TEAMS VS. MIAMI SPECIAL TEAMS
Miami has the best kicker and punter in the ACC—senior Matt Bosher. The All-ACC selection leads the Hurricanes in scoring with 22 points. He's 13 of 13 on extra-points and 3 of 5 (misses from 46, 39 at Ohio State).


Marcus Gilchrist has been almost as impressive as Miami's Travis Benjamin, averaging 18.33 yards per punt return, which is 9th in the country. (Roy Philpott)
Since Bosher has punted less than 3.6 times per game, he doesn't qualify among the nation's top punters, but he is averaging 45.6 yards per punt. Three have gone for over 50 yards.

The Hurricane return men are among the nation's elite. Benjamin is 4th in the nation with a 24.5 yard punt return average. He's also taken one for touchdown. Lamar Miller is 2nd in kick returns with a 37.75 average. He too has a return for touchdown.

Gilchrist has been almost as impressive as Benjamin, averaging 18.33 yards per punt return, which is 9th in the country.

Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro will have had almost two weeks to ponder the kick he missed in overtime against Auburn. Although the Tiger coaches claim he has ice water coursing through his veins, there's still the unknown that comes with a freshman kicker.

ADVANTAGE:

CLEMSON RUSHING ATTACK VS. MIAMI FRONT
Earlier this week Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said, at this point in their respective careers, Andre Ellington is a better running back than C.J. Spiller was. Heady words form one of the biggest Spiller proponents you'll find anywhere.

Ellington's been very good through three games in his redshirt sophomore season. He's broken the 100-yard mark twice and leads the Tigers with 273 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns while averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Ellington is second in the ACC with over 90 yards rushing a game and tied for third with Harper and Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams in scoring with 8 points per game.

Along with Harper, who's rushed for 154 yards, Clemson has the nation's 24th ranked rushing offense, averaging 215 yards per contest.


Andre Ellington has broken the 100-yard mark twice and leads the Tigers with 273 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns while averaging 7.4 yards per carry. (Getty Images)
Saturday's game will be the biggest test of the season for the Clemson running game. In fact, it could be the toughest test the Tigers will have all season.

Miami held one of the nation's top running backs to less than 50 yards on the road last Thursday night. Dion Lewis, who was named Big East Offensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year in 2009, ran for 1,799 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Against Miami, he rushed 12 times for only 41 yards and no scores.

But Pittsburgh did have a running back that reached the century-mark. Ray Graham rushed for exactly 100 yards on 14 carries—much of it coming when the game was already in-hand.

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor eclipsed 100 yards, too. Buckeye running back Daniel Herronpicked up 66 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

The Miami front seven is veteran-laden bunch, which includes junior outside linebacker Sean Spence and is first in the nation with over 11 tackles for loss a game. Spence is 6th nationally in tackles for loss a game (2.17). His 6½ tackles for loss is tops among all Hurricane defenders.

Spence and middle linebacker Colin McCarthy have 24 and 21 tackles, respectively.

Vernon is 19th in the country with 1.67 tackles for loss a game.

Although Clemson is without starting left guard David Smith, Mason Cloy will step right in and provide little to no drop off. The offensive line is rested after a bye week, but so is Miami's front after a long week.

Friendly surroundings and the hard-running combination of Ellington and Harper give the edge to the Tigers.

ADVANTAGE:

MIAMI RUSHING ATTACK VS. CLEMSON FRONT
Both teams have been less than spectacular on both fronts this season. Miami is 85th in the country with 125 yards on the ground per game while Clemson is 96th with an average of almost 185 yards allowed.


Damien Berry (pictured above) and Miller have rushed for the bulk of Miami's 375 yards with 226 and 104, respectively. (Getty Images)
Damien Berry and Miller have rushed for the bulk of Miami's 375 yards with 226 and 104, respectively. Miller has scored twice and Berry once.

Like Miami, Clemson is among the nation's best in tackles for loss. The Tigers average 8.67, which is 4th best in the nation. Bowers leads the team with 6 and Branch is second with 4.

Although Miami is balanced on offense this season (99 rushes to 97 passes), the bulk of the Hurricane's offense comes through the air.

In the two wins this season, Miami has rushed more than thrown. In the loss to Ohio State, Miami threw 39 times and rushed just 28.

ADVANTAGE:

Prediction: Clemson 27 Miami 23

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