The Final Breakdown

No. 16 Clemson will try to bounce back from last weekend's emotional loss at No. 4 Florida State with another road trip.

WHAT: No. 16 Clemson at Boston College
WHERE: Alumni Stadium (44,500) - Chestnut Hill, Mass.
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 29 (3:30 p.m.)
SPREAD: Clemson -7

This week, Clemson is set to do battle with ACC Atlantic Division rival Boston College.

Led by Frank Spaziani, Boston College is fresh off a bye week. The Eagles [1-2, 0-1 ACC] have lost to Miami, 41-31, and Northwestern, 22-13. Their lone win was a 34-3 victory over Maine.

Off to a 3-1 [0-1 ACC] start under fourth-year head coach Dabo Swinney, Clemson is 1-1 in Chestnut Hill under Swinney.

In 2008, Clemson beat Boston College for the first win of Swinney's career. During their return trip in 2010, the Eagles won in a defensive struggle, 16-10.

Saturday will be anything but a defensive struggle as both teams have prolific offenses.

Boston College's pass defense looks good on paper, but when you take a deeper look inside the numbers, they're a bit skewed as the Eagles have faced some rather pedestrian passing attacks.

Nuk Hopkins will be depended on for big plays against Boston College Saturday afternoon. (Roy Philpott)
Miami is 37th in the country in passing and 82nd in passing efficiency.

Maine is 58th in passing offense and 77th in passing efficiency, among FCS teams.

And Northwestern is 104th in the nation in passing offense and 72nd in passing efficiency.

On Saturday, Boston College will face one of the nation's elite passing attacks when Tajh Boyd rolls into town without Sammy Watkins, but DeAndre Hopkins and the rest of Clemson's high-powered offense will be there. Watkins is missing the game because of an "abdominal virus."

Clemson ranks 24th in the country in passing offense and 29th in passing efficiency.

Boyd is fifth in the ACC with 246 yards per game and second in the conference with an efficiency rating of 156.8. He's completed 83 of 122 passes for 984 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions.

Hopkins is second in the ACC with 7.8 catches per game and third with 101.8 yards per game.

Unlike last week, Boyd shouldn't have much to worry about, in terms of a pass rush. Boston College is among the teams tied with Clemson in sacks per game, with an average of one.

Look for Clemson to roll up some yardage through the air and put a hurting on Boston College's national statistical rankings.

The Watkins loss hurts, but the Tigers have proven they have other weapons to compensate.


The rushing attacks that Boston College has faced this year are a little bit better than the passing attacks. Miami, Maine and Northwestern have somewhat formidable ground games -- emphasis on somewhat.

Miami is 67th in rushing offense.

Maine is 33rd in rushing offense, among FCS teams.

Andre Ellington has been relatively quiet since rushing for over 200 yards against Auburn. Could that change Saturday? (Roy Philpott)
Northwestern is 27th in rushing offense.

For Boston College, linebackers Nick Clancy, Kevin Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto rank first, second and fourth, respectively, among ACC defenders in tacklers per game.

Despite having three of the ACC's top tacklers, Boston College has given up an average of 186.7 yards on the ground.

Since Clemson likes to spread out opposing defenses with multiple wide receiver sets, there could be a number of plays when either Pierre-Louis or Divitto have to stay on the sideline. The extra defensive back on the field for Boston College could allow Boyd and Andre Ellington more room to operate.

Ellington is tops among ACC rushers with 95.8 yards rushing per contest. He's one of four ACC rushers with five or more touchdowns on the ground.

His numbers have taken a bit of a hit since the 25-carry, 228-yard performance against Auburn in the season opener. But Ellington hasn't carried more than 15 times in a game since then.

Boyd has proven to be a capable runner this year. He's second among Clemson ball carriers with 119 yards.

Like the passing attack, the Clemson ground game should have a big day. Advantage: Tigers.


Through three games, Chase Rettig is first among ACC quarterbacks with 317 yards per game. He's also sixth in the conference with an efficiency rating of 133.6.

Boston College QB Chase Rettig leads the ACC in passing at over 317 yards per game. (Getty Images)
The junior quarterback has completed 72 of 127 passes for 951 yards with six touchdowns and an interception.

His favorite receiver, Alex Amidon, who is second among ACC receives with 8.3 catches per game, leads the conference with 122 yards per game. The junior has 25 catches for 366 yards and a touchdown.

Running back Tahj Kimble and wide receiver Johnathan Coleman are the only other Eagle pass catchers with double-digit reception totals [10].

Though Boston College's pass offense currently ranks 16th in the country, the Eagles haven't faced much, in terms of quality pass defenses/pass rushes.

Miami is 89th in pass efficiency defense and 94th in sacks per game.

Maine is fourth in pass efficiency defense and 78th in sacks, among FCS teams.

Northwestern is 55th in pass efficiency defense and tied for 78th in sacks.

After four games, the Clemson pass defense/pass rush isn't exactly an elite operation. The Tigers are 63rd in pass efficiency defense and tied for 101st in sacks.

Before Florida State put up 380 yards through the air, Clemson hadn't allowed more than 250 yards passing. Through three games, Furman had the top passing performance against Clemson -- 242 yards and a touchdown.

The Clemson pass rush is due for a break out game, but don't expect that to happen this weekend in Chestnut Hill. Boston College has given up an average of one sack per game. The Eagles' offensive line is a typical Boston College front -- they're big and physical. Center Andy Gallik is the little guy among the starting five at 6-foot-3, 300 pounds.

Boston College gets the nod in this matchup.


The porous Clemson run defense has been a topic of conversation since, well, before the season started. With so little experience returning to the Tigers' defensive line, we had this one pegged from a mile away.

Clemson has given up an average of 206.5 yards per game, which ranks 100th in the country.

Deshawn Williams and Clemson's front four will be under the spotlight Saturday. (Roy Philpott)
Auburn put up 180 yards while Ball State had 252 and three touchdowns. Furman was held to a respectable 107 before Florida State dropped 287 yards and scored five touchdowns.

Aside from Georgia Tech and, maybe, South Carolina, the Clemson defense won't have much trouble holding opponents to under 200 yards on the ground.

That will start this weekend with Boston College, which is among the 10 worst teams in the country when it comes to running the ball. The Eagles are 114th in the nation with 95.7 yards per game.

The numbers aren't low because a lack of carries. Aside from the 21 rushing attempts against Northwestern, Boston College has remained committed to the run this season. The Eagles had 34 carries against Maine and 41 in the Maine game.

Andre Williams leads Boston College with 36 carries for 117 yards and has scored their only touchdown on the ground. Rolandan Finch has 25 rushes and Kimble has 17.

Look for Stephone Anthony to build on his 8 tackles per game average [7th ACC]. And look for Clemson to keep the Boston College ground game at bay.


Clemson and Boston College have a pair of the top kickers in the country.

Clemson's Chandler Catanzaro has converted 15 consecutive field goals dating back to last season. (Roy Philpott)
For the Eagles, Nate Freese is second in the country with 2.23 field goals per game. The Tigers' Chandler Catanzaro is tied for 13th with 1.75. Both are a perfect 7 of 7 this season.

Boston College punter Gerald Levano averages 45.33 yards per attempt, which 15th in the nation. Clemson's Spencer Benton is 39th with a 42.53 average.

Spiffy Evans has returned two punts for 92 yards, both of which were against Maine. One went 82 yards for a touchdown. Aside from those two returns, the Eagles have returned just one other punt this season.

Adam Humphries has the lone punt return for Clemson -- it went for 13 yards.

With the new kickoff rules in place, neither team has done much in the return game.

The two teams are 73rd and 74th in the nation in punt return defense while Boston College has the advantage in kickoff return defense [T-16] to Clemson's ranking of 116. Of the 264 yards allowed by the Tigers, 90 were by Lamarcus Joyner last week.

It's a close matchup, but Boston College gets the nod, thanks to Levano and Clemson's struggles in defending kickoff returns.


PREDICTION: Clemson 33 Boston College 28 Top Stories