The Final Breakdown

CLEMSON - No. 9 Clemson heads to Maryland for the last time, looking for redemption after last weekend's devastating loss to Florida State.

WHAT: No. 9 Clemson at Maryland
WHERE: Byrd Stadium - College Park, Md.
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 12 (3:35 p.m.)
SPREAD: Clemson by 14
TV: ESPN

MARYLAND PASS ATTACK VS. CLEMSON SECONDARY/PASS RUSH
The predicament that Maryland finds itself in isn't quite as bad as it was last season when the Terps came down to Clemson, but it ain't good. For starters, they won't have a backup freshman linebacker playing quarterback.


South Carolina native Caleb Rowe will start against the Tigers at quarterabck. (Getty Images)
Randy Edsall was pretty mum on whether or not C.J. Brown was healthy enough to play before Thursday night's injury report was released. Instead of Brown, it's Blue Ridge product Caleb Rowe who will run the Terps' offense on Saturday.

Earlier this month, Brown suffered a concussion against Florida State. And he may have suffered another injury against Wake Forest during last Saturday's 34-10 loss. The official listing is a trunk injury.

Clemson fans can breath easy. The last time the Tigers went to College Park, Brown picked up177 yards passing, 162 yards rushing and accounted for four touchdowns.

Through six games this season, he's passed for 1,262 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. His efficiency rating is 153.36.

Rowe, who's also played in six of the seven games, has completed 44 of 85 passes for 702 yards with two scores and an interception. His rating is 126.55.

He'll be without Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, the Terps' best two wide receivers, both of whom suffered season-ending injuries last week at Wake Forest.

The duo has accounted for 66 of the team's 131 catches and just over half of the 1,964 receiving yards. Diggs leads the team with three touchdown catches.

And that's definitely a good thing for the Clemson cornerback corps, which is also a little short-handed. Garry Peters, the top reserve, is out with a foot injury. Bashaud Breeland, who was ejected in the second half of the Florida State game for targeting, will have to sit-out the first half, because of the new NCAA rule.

Martin Jenkins, who will start opposite of Darius Robinson, might be the best pure cover cornerback on the Clemson roster, but he's spent most of his career working at nickel back. While he's capable of playing on the outside, Jenkins' move from the inside is a bit of a loss when it comes to covering slot receivers. But Freshman Korrin Wiggins has worked at nickel this season and he'll take over as the starter on Saturday.

Though freshman Cordrea Tankersley has played just three snaps on defense this season, he's slated to fill in behind Jenkins and Robinson during the first half and, of course, Breeland in the second.

Nationally, Maryland is middle of the road when it comes to protecting the quarterback. The Terps have given up 12 sacks this season, which is tied for 47th in the country with 17 other teams.

Half of the sacks allowed have been allowed in the last two games against Virginia and Wake Forest. National leader Vic Beasley and the rest of the Clemson pass rush could be in store for a fruitful afternoon with Rowe playing quarterback. While he does have some athleticism, Rowe isn't as great a threat on the ground as Brown.

The top healthy pass catcher for Maryland is Brandon Ross, the starting running back. He's caught 14 passes for 162 yards, so keep an eye on him coming out of the backfield.

Despite their struggles against the pass, Clemson should win this matchup because of Maryland's losses at wide receiver. Kind of like they were at Syracuse, Clemson's athletes in the secondary are better than the ones Maryland will have at receiver.

ADVANTAGE:

MARYLAND GROUND GAME VS. CLEMSON FRONT SEVEN
As a team, Maryland doesn't run the ball very well. The Terps are 76th in the country with 159.8 yards per game. Their average is that high because of the first three games of the season -- Florida International, Old Dominion and UConn, during which the Terps averaged 262.3 yards per game.


Corey Crawford and the Clemson front seven have a significant edge against the Terps Saturday. (Getty Images)
In the four games since, they haven't rushed for more than 120 yards in a single game. Florida State and Wake Forest held them to 33 and 39 yards, respectively.

Ross, a sophomore, leads the team with 458 yards and is second with four touchdowns. Brown is second with 251 yards and first with six touchdowns.

Backup running backs Albert Reid and Jacquille Veil have combined for 321 yards and a score on 66 carries.

Ranked 57th in the country against the run, Clemson has allowed opponents to rush for an average of 153 yards per game. Look for that number to fall this week with a solid performance against Maryland's ground game.

The Tigers won't have to worry too much about getting stretched vertically with Diggs and Long both watching from the sidelines. Plus, running the ball was already a weakness for the Terps. It'll become weaker over the course of the season with Diggs and Long on the shelf.

Having Brown on the sideline right beside them doesn't help either.

On the surface, Rowe doesn't look like he'd be a threat to run, don't let appearances fool you. While we've acknowledged he's not a dual-threat to the level that Brown is, he's not too bad with his feet.

And you can never under-estimate the power of motivation. Upstate kids with no offer from Clemson can make plays on Saturday afternoons.

Still, we'll go with Clemson in this matchup.

ADVANTAGE:

CLEMSON AIR ATTACK VS. MARYLAND SECONDARY/PASS RUSH
Let's get the elephant out of the room at that is The Final Breakdown.

Tajh Boyd had one of the worst performances of his college career last Saturday against Florida State and rumors of an alleged gambling debt have some folks wondering if that's got something to do with why he played so poorly against the Seminoles.


Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense are looking to find their rhythm after a dismal showing the last two games. (Getty Images)
Regardless of what's true or not, one has to wonder if there will be any hangover from last week's loss to Florida State and, of course, any lingering distractions from the story. Assuming that Boyd bounces back to normal, he could be in line for a big-time performance against Maryland.

The Tigers are due. They can't really go three straight weeks with sluggish play by the offense, right?

We'll see.

The chips are stacked against Boyd, probably more so than they've ever been since his tenure as the starting quarterback at Clemson. It makes sense -- the fall from the top is a whole lot harder. After all, Boyd did enter the month with more hype and momentum than he's seen at any point during his career.

Guess what? In the past, when it seemed like there was something that could knock Boyd off course, he bounced back, better than ever.

It certainly helps that he'll take Sammy Watkins back to College Park with him. The thought of Watkins returning to Byrd Stadium for one more came probably makes some Maryland fans quiver.

The way he lit up that secondary in 2011, the Terps have to be worried about what might happen again on Saturday. One might assume that it would probably be a similar kind of feeling Tiger fans would have if Brown was playing.

Jameis Winston smoked Maryland's secondary up worse than he did Clemson's. The Terps have given up some big afternoons through the air. UConn passed for 349 yards, Virginia had 263 and Wake Forest put up 260.

It doesn't help that the two guys who were supposed to start at cornerback for Maryland were lost before the season even started.

Their starting secondary includes a 5-7, 175-pound freshman at cornerback in William Likely. Like Jenkins, don't let the size full you. He's a quality cover guy. There's also a pair of sophomores at safety.

Boyd's not the only one in this group that's been struggling for Clemson. At times, Mike Williams looked like a freshman on his first big stage against Florida State. Martavis Bryant has yet to start the trek back up after his latest ride on the roller coaster.

We'll also see if Stanton Seckinger bounces back from his very forgettable game against the Seminoles.

However, Boyd won't really have a choice as to whether or not he can forget about the pass rush. It'll be there. And that's no knock on his offensive line.

Maryland is tied 21st in the country in sacks with 19. Outside linebacker Marcus Whitfield has 6.5. Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil, who's second among the linebackers with three, is out for the game, so that's a plus for Boyd. Reserve nose tackle Andre Monroe is second on the team with three.

But, at the end of the day, this group is much more talented than what Maryland will have on the back end.

ADVANTAGE:

CLEMSON GROUND GAME VS. MARYLAND FRONT SEVEN
While Clemson continues to be mediocre on the ground, the Maryland run defense has emerged as one of the best in not just the ACC. The Terps currently sit 27th in the country in run defense, giving up an average of 123.7 yards per game.


Roderick McDowell and the Clemson running game has to get going on the road this week. (Getty Images)
It's a 3-4 base that Maryland operates from.

Outside linebacker A.J. Goree leads the team with 46 tackles. He's also got four tackles for loss. Naturally, the team has a high tackle for loss total.

Nine of the players that have been in on a tackle for loss don't have a sack. So the figure isn't necessarily bloated because of the high sack total. The run defense ranking is another reflection of that.

Quite frankly, Clemson has struggled to run the ball, and there are a number of reasons why.

The offensive line is still a work in progress, even with four of last year's starters back. Injuries to David Beasley and Giff Timothy have damaged the continuity.

No offense to Roderick McDowell, Zac Brooks and D.J. Howard, but they're not Andre Ellington. That guy was good. Still is. That's why he plays on Sundays.

It certainly doesn't help that tight end situation isn't ideal either.

That all makes for a recipe that nets the first matchup win for Maryland.

ADVANTAGE:


Senior kicker Chandler Catanzaro has proven to be one of the top kickers in Clemson history. (Roy Philpott)
SPECIAL TEAMS
The kickers are good.

Same song, same story for Chandler Catanzaro -- he's good at what he does, one of the best to ever do it at Clemson.

Maryland's Brad Braddock is also really good at his job. He's 13 of 16 on field goals this season. Two of his three missed are from 50 and 51 yards.

The punters are good.

Nathan Renfro averages 41.7 yards per attempt. Bradley Pinion averages 41.1 Pinion has down 20 punts inside the 20-yardline. Renfro has 11.

The Terps will lose a lot in the return game with Diggs' absence. Likely is now the guy. He's got 70 yards on eight punt returns and averages 28.8 yards per kickoff return.

Clemson continues to have little to no presence in the kickoff return game. Humphries is still in double-digits in punt return average [11].

Neither team seems to have a noticeable edge here.

ADVANTAGE:

PREDICTION: Clemson 37 Maryland 17

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