Another stern test awaits

This game shapes up as another stern test for unbeaten Clemson, which will put its 7-0 record and No. 8 national ranking on the line against a 5-2 North Carolina team coming off a six-point loss to Miami.

The Tar Heels are loaded with individual talent, as the Tigers can well attest after losing in Chapel Hill, N.C., by a 21-16 count last season.

But many Clemson players believed they should have won that game, particularly after the Tar Heels' winning drive was kept alive three times by a penalty against the Tigers on third or fourth down.

"We want a lot of payback," senior DT Rennie Moore said.

Clemson may also receive a boost in the karma department as the Tigers' 1981 national championship team will be on hand for a 30-year reunion.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Clemson's offense was prolific once again last weekend, posting 56 points in a win at Maryland. It was the most points by Clemson in an ACC road game. But the calling card of the offense against the Terrapins was balance -- the Tigers ran 42 pass plays and 38 running plays.

"It allows us to open up our playbook when we get six yards on first down, and that's when you start having fun," TE Dwayne Allen said.

The Tigers are having just that, averaging 487 yards and 38 points per game. The passing game has been Clemson's primary threat this season, but now the running game -- sparked by junior Andre Ellington -- has joined in on the fun, amassing more than 300 yards against Maryland.

If the Tigers can continue this balanced attack, they'll be tough to slow, even for a team with as much individual talent as North Carolina.

North Carolina's defense took an early blow from Miami, but once the Tar Heels woke up, they held the Hurricanes to just a field goal over the final two quarters of the game.

The front four of Quinton Coples, Sylvester Williams, Tydreke Powell and Kareem Martin (from end-to-end) is an extremely talented group.

Coach Everett Withers, the former defensive coordinator, also likes the depth the Tar Heels are developing at linebacker, which is needed with the dismissal of Ebele Okakpu. But the secondary is no longer getting the interceptions it used to get in bunches -- only six in six games.

That could bode well for the Tigers, who come into Saturday's game as one of the top passing teams in the ACC.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: After two encouraging performances in which it allowed just 17 total points in wins over Virginia Tech and Boston College, Clemson's defense took a step back against Maryland.

Terrapins QB C.J. Brown burned the Tigers for 162 yards rushing in his first career start.

"We've got to be more disciplined and accountable and play better with our eyes," defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. "Out of Maryland's 81 plays, 14 are sickening to watch. The rest of them weren't that bad."

Like it did in many of its earlier wins this season, Clemson's defense came up with big plays when it had to, so that offered some encouragement.

"It really wasn't bad," Steele said. "When we got down 14-0 I think the guys starting trying to press a little bit, but we got calmed back down and managed it from there."

Young backup LBs Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward continue to make progress, as does CB Darius Robinson, but the heart and soul of the unit remains the big guys up front -- DTs Brandon Thompson and Rennie Moore and DEs Andre Branch and Malliciah Goodman.

Meanwhile North Carolina's offense has one of the league's top rushers in redshirt freshman Giovani Bernard and a sophomore quarterback in Bryn Renner who ranks at the top of the league in passing efficiency.

Renner is throwing for better than 227 yards a game. His favorite target is senior Dwight Jones, but junior Eric Highsmith has been stepping up lately as well. The key to the offense is for Renner to make good decisions, which he doesn't always do. He has thrown six interceptions.

SERIES HISTORY: Clemson leads the series with North Carolina, 34-19-1 (last meeting, 2010, North Carolina won 21-16 in Chapel Hill, N.C.). Top Stories