The Final Breakdown

The only thing that stands between Clemson and next week's trip to Tallahassee is Furman.

WHAT: No. 11 Clemson vs. Furman
WHERE: Memorial Stadium (85,000) - Clemson, S.C.
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 15 (3:30 p.m.)
SPREAD: Clemson by 35.5
TV: Fox Sports Net

The weekend matchup with the rival from Greenville shouldn't pose much of a threat to Clemson's quest for a 3-0 start.

Led by second-year head coach Bruce Fowler, Furman is off to an 0-2 start this season with close losses to Coastal Carolina and Samford.

The Paladins fell 47-45 to the Chanticleers in triple overtime last Saturday. A week earlier, Furman lost 24-21 to Samford.

Fresh off a 52-27 thumping of Ball State, Clemson looks to move to 3-0 before heading down to Tallahassee for the nationally televised primetime showdown with Florida State.

The goal for Dabo Swinney: win, of course, plus keep everyone healthy in Saturday's tune-up against Furman.

FURMAN RUN GAME VS. CLEMSON FRONT SEVEN
Clemson's run defense has struggled over the first two weeks of the season. The Tigers are 98th in the country against the run, giving up an average of 216 yards per game.


Jerodis Williams leads the Furman offense and will be used extensively Saturday afternoon. (Furman Athletics)
Two weeks ago, Auburn's Tre Mason Onterio McCalebb hit Clemson up for 180 yards, but neither of the two backs scored a touchdown.

Ball State's Horactio Banks did. He ran for 120 yards, pacing the Cardinals' 252-yard rushing effort.

Jerodis Williams leads Furman with 183 yards rushing on 35 carries. He's also scored a pair of touchdowns. The Paladins' second-leading rusher, Hank McCloud has 72 yards.

Williams, who averages 5.2 yards per carry, rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown against Coastal Carolina.

We said it last week, but ended up being wrong. But, guess what? We'll do it again.

Clemson's starting defense won't allow a rushing touchdown on Saturday.

ADVANTAGE:

FURMAN PASS ATTACK VS. CLEMSON SECONDARY/PASS RUSH
Reese Hannon has all the makings of a solid FCS quarterback. The freshman from Greer High School camped at Clemson during his prep career and probably would have jumped all over a Clemson offer, had the Tigers extended one.


Bashaud Breeland and the Clemson secondary played pretty well last week against ball State. (Roy Philpott)
Over two games, Hannon's completed 22 of 35 passes for 255 yards with four touchdowns. Fellow quarterback Dakota Derrick, who's played in both games this season, has connected of 15 of 36 throws for 242 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions.

The top Paladin receiver this season has been slot receiver Will King, who leads the team with 13 receptions for 205 yards and a pair of scores. Split-end Ryan Culbreath also has a pair of touchdown grabs.

Once again, Clemson struggled to generate much of a push up in pass rushing situations against Ball State. DeShawn Williams was credited with a sack against the Cardinals, but it was the only one of the game. The Tigers have three this season.

It's a concern for the long-term. As for the short-term, not so much. Furman's heaviest offensive lineman is left tackle Dakota Dozier, who checks in at 291.

Clemson should be able to have their way against the smaller Furman offensive line. The Tigers' season sack total should see a nice boost after Saturday.

Thus far, the strength of the Clemson defense has been the secondary. The Tigers are 16th in the country in pass efficiency defense with a rating of 91.68.

Of the three turnovers created by Clemson, three have been interceptions. That figure is certain to increase, too.

ADVANTAGE:

CLEMSON RUN GAME VS. FURMAN FRONT SEVEN
Andre Ellington opened the 2012 campaign with a solid 228-yard performance evening against Auburn. He followed that up with 13 carries for 41 yards and two touchdowns.

Ellington will get some work, but Roderick McDowell, D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks will split a lion's share of the carries. McDowell has carried 12 times for 70 yards with a pair of scores while Howard has 40 yards rushing.


Andre Ellington hopes for another quick day Saturday against the Paladins. (Roy Philpott)
Furman could show some resistance to the Clemson ground game. So far this season, Furman has given up 150 yards to Samford and 112 to Coastal Carolina.

Middle linebacker Matt Solomon leads the Paladins with 23 tackles, which ranks second among all Southern Conference defenders. Weak-side linebacker Gary Wilkins is second on the team with 22 while strong-side linebacker Mitch McGrath. Both outside linebackers are among the top-10 tacklers in the SoCon.

Nose tackle Neal Rodgers is a big, 6-foot-3, 300-pound run stuffer. Defensive tackle Colton King has nine tackles, all of which were made against Coastal Carolina.

This matchup presents the biggest challenge for Clemson, but the Tigers still get the nod.

ADVANTAGE:

CLEMSON PASS ATTACK VS. FURMAN SECONDARY/PASS RUSH
Just in case you've been living under a rock the last two months, Sammy Watkins will make his 2012 debut this weekend.

Even without the star wide receiver, Tajh Boyd hasn't had much trouble putting up some solid numbers. He's completed 43 of 57 passes for 437 yards with four touchdowns. His go-to guy has been DeAndre Hopkins, who has 19 catches for 224 yards with four touchdowns.


Tajh Boyd has been effective through the air and on the ground in Clemson's first two games. (Roy Philpott)
Boyd's numbers would be even more impressive if the Tigers hadn't dropped a few very catchable passes over the last couple of weeks.

Fortunately, for Clemson, they'll get ol' reliable back. Watch out, Furman, Watkins is sure to be back with a vengeance.

The Furman secondary was hit up for 216 yards by Samford and another 292 from Coastal Carolina. The Paladin's pass efficiency defense rating of 151.38 is 90th among 121 FCS teams.

Clemson played four quarterbacks against Ball State. All four are projected to play against Furman.

ADVANTAGE:

SPECIAL TEAMS
Chandler Catanzaro played a big role in Clemson's season opening win over Auburn. Spencer Benton's ACC record-setting field goal against Ball State wasn't as critical as the four kick Catanzaro made a week earlier, but it was every bit as impressive.


With Chander Catanzaro and Spencer Benton, the Tigers have two of the special teams weapons in the ACC. (Roy Philpott)
Clemson has one of the ACC's most reliable kickers in Catanzaro. Throw-in Benton and the Tigers have one of the league's all-time strongest legs in Benton. It's not a bad one-two punch to have.

The return of Watkins makes the Clemson special teams game even more formidable. If used in the kick return game, there's a good chance Watkins could make something happen. Furman has allowed an average of 23.9 yards per kick return.

Furman has a quality kickoff return option in Jairus Hollman, who has 193 yards this season. His 21.4 yards per return is 52nd among FCS return men.

Like last week, we'll project this as a perfect 5-for-5 for Clemson.

ADVANTAGE:

PREDICTION: Clemson 69 Furman 10

CUTigers.com Top Stories