Welcome to the Hurricane Matthew edition of What We Are Hearing! Seriously, though, before I begin, I’d like to urge everyone along the coast lines to be safe this weekend. Our prayers are with you! Bunker down some place out of harm’s way and watch some football.
Please also forgive this somewhat truncated edition of WWAH, as I have a 9-hour drive to Maryland still ahead of me tonight, and I drive from there to Boston tomorrow! A quick note before I begin, however. Gary will be in Shelby, North Carolina tomorrow to cover the commitment announcement of 4-star LB Justin Foster, and we will have the announcement LIVE here on CUTigers.com, so be sure to check in tomorrow night for that. The announcement will occur during halftime of his game, so it should be approximately 8:30 or so. We are projecting a Clemson commitment, and we will have a live interview with Foster after his announcement as well! You will be able to find the live stream on The Valley forum, HERE. In case you missed it, there was a great throng of prospects and commits in Death Valley for the big ACC showdown, and Gary provided a nice photo gallery and some reactions in this week’s Recruiting Radar, which you can view HERE.
What a game in the Valley on Saturday night! It was one for the ages, for sure. The place was absolutely rocking and was possibly the loudest it’s ever been. You can read my grades and analysis of the game HERE, but I wanted to add one interesting note about the game. Amazingly, that was Watson’s first 4th quarter come-from-behind win in his career. For a guy who is 23-2 as a starter (23-1 really because he left the 1st quarter of the 2014 GT game with an injury), that is a remarkable statistic. It just illustrates how consistently dominant the Tigers have been since the beginning of last season.
On to the Boston College matchup for the O’Rourke-McFadden Trophy….
Clemson leads the all-time series that dates back to the 1940 Cotton Bowl, 14-9-2. That Cotton Bowl was Clemson’s first bowl victory and first victory over a top-20 team, as BC entered the bowl ranked #11….2 of Clemson’s wins versus Boston College came in undefeated seasons—1948 and 1950……In 1982, Clemson tied a BC team led by QB Doug Flutie, 17-17. Donald Igwebuike missed a 43-yard field goal that would have won the game…Clemson had just 2 losses and 2 ties in 3 seasons between 1981 and 1983. One loss and one tie during that span were to Boston College….Clemson has won the last 5 straight meetings and 7 of the last 8 under Dabo Swinney. The 2008 meeting in Chestnut Hill was Dabo’s first win as a head coach…6 of the 11 meetings since BC joined the ACC have been decided by a touchdown or less….Boston College won the first three meetings after it joined the conference in 2005. They were quarterbacked by Matt Ryan in all three games, including 2005 when he made his debut in place of the injured starter. All 3 losses cost the Tigers a spot in the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers lost in overtime in both 2005 and 2006, and on a Matt Ryan Hail Mary with less than 2 minutes left in 2007. Tommy Bowden seemed snake bitten against Boston College, and Dabo won his very first meeting with BC, a road game in just his second game as head coach. Perhaps a sign of things to come for the Tigers….Clemson has won 7 in a row on the road, the 4th longest active streak behind Ohio State (19), Alabama (8) and Oklahoma (8)….Clemson has won 43 straight games against unranked teams. That is second only to Alabama (63). The next closest is Ohio State (23)....Jordan Leggett set the Clemson record for touchdowns by a tight end with his game-winning catch against Louisville….
As you’d expect, the Tigers were in very good spirits this week after an emotionally exhausting win over Louisville with enormous stakes on the line. It seems like a weight has been lifted. And I’m not just talking about the players. I got that same feeling talking to Dabo and the coaches as well. You could certainly feel a different vibe with Brent Venables, who had his toughest challenges of the season in back-to-back weeks. He was all smiles on Tuesday and met with us much earlier than the previous two weeks, when he limited our interview to just 10 minutes. Getting ready for BC must feel like going from one extreme to the other for Venables.
The offense has finally started to hum over the last two games—really since the 4th quarter of the Troy game. They scored 23 points in the first half in Atlanta, when they really had the pedal to the metal. Then they put up 42 points against a good Louisville defense on Saturday, scoring 5 touchdowns in less than a minute each! The offensive line was finishing its blocks much better, and both Gallman and Watson ran the ball like we saw in the second half of last season. The tempo was fast, execution was good for the most part—aside from the turnovers—and they demonstrated great balance with over 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing. We saw big contributions from Leggett and Scott that were lacking early in the season, and Trevion Thompson has shown the first sign of consistency in his short career. We are still waiting for Watson to be as sharp as he was last season and stop missing open receivers for touchdowns, but he still played a great game overall and made the throws down the stretch when they counted the most.
Defensively, when this unit is rested and fresh they are as good as any unit in the nation. The shutout against SC State, domination of GT and first half against Louisville were 10 of the best quarters you will see out of any defense. It was only after spending a ridiculous amount of time on the field against the #1 offense in the nation that they began to succumb. The scary thing is that they should only get better with the return of Austin Bryant and Adrian Baker, along with the development and maturation of talented young players like Richard Yeargin, Chris Register, Albert Huggins, Dex Lawrence, Tre Lamar, K’Von Wallace and Trayvon Mullen. On the subject of the former, Dabo told us Austin Bryant will make the trip to Chestnut Hill this week. How much he will play is anyone’s guess. I asked Dabo whether they would ideally like to rotate Christian Wilkins inside and out now that Bryant is back, and Dabo said it will just depend how Bryant plays. Dabo said that he really likes the flexibility it gives them, though. Wilkins and Ferrell have played about as well at defensive end as any of us could have hoped for going into the season, and now Albert Huggins has emerged as a solid contributor at tackle. So it will be interesting to see how much Wilkins plays on the inside once Bryant is back at 100%, but it’s a great problem to have. Adrian Baker will not make the trip, but he has been practicing all week with the scout team, and his return is imminent. The defense has gotten good play from Tankersley, Fields and Edmond at corner, and the eventual return of Baker should make the unit that much deeper and stronger. Tre Lamar (ankle) will be ready to play on Friday night, as will Denzel Johnson (hamstring). LB Jalen Williams is still on the mend from the sprained MCL in his knee, but Dabo said he is recovering faster than they anticipated.
Look for Christian Wilkins to have a big game on Friday night. He is a native of Springfield, Mass. and will have over 100 family and friends in attendance—all wearing orange. Wilkins is already a high-energy, high-motor guy, as you know, and is always the first one to work up a lather during pre-game warmups. He grew up a Boston College fan, so this game is going to be very nostalgic for him, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him involved in the offense in some capacity at some point!
The Tigers are currently ranked #12 in total defense, allowing 288.4 yards per game, and they are #14 in pass defense (159.6 yds/game) and #13 in scoring defense (16.0 points/game), even after playing the #1 offense in the nation.
Folks, Clemson is currently the #1 team in the nation in kickoff coverage, allowing just 13.58 yards per return! The Tigers were #115 out of 127 FBS teams last year, and it cost them a national title. Now that is coaching! Louisville was one of the top teams in the nation in the return game, and the Tigers answered that challenge. They will face another stiff one from BC on Friday night.
Just as last season, Boston College is ranked #1 in total defense, allowing just 202 yards per game. They are also #1 in pass defense (124.0 yds/game), #6 in rush defense (78.0 yds/game) and #16 in scoring defense (17.2 points/game). Now, those rankings are a little inflated because of the Eagles’ early schedule, which includes GT, UMass, Wagner and Buffalo. Virginia Tech isn’t exactly known as an offensive juggernaut either, and they hung 49 points on BC last week.
The Eagles’ offense, on the other hand, is far less statistically impressive. They are #113 in total offense with 335.6 yards per game, #110 in passing offense (172.6 yds/game) and #102 in scoring offense (23.4 points/game). Even in the running game, where they have been very strong in years past, BC is #76 at just 163.0 yards per game. Quarterback Patrick Towles is a graduate transfer from Kentucky who has completed about 51% of his passes this season for 806 yards, 6 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He is 6’5, 253 pounds and uses that size in the running game, averaging 4.2 yards per carry with 3 rushing touchdowns.
Despite their struggles this season, Steve Addazio’s Boston College teams have always been well-coached, very physical and tough on both sides of the ball in the trenches, so the Tigers can’t take this game too lightly. Even though BC lost every ACC game last season, they played FSU at home on a Friday night, and it was a one-possession game in the 4th quarter before a late BC fumble returned for a TD by the Noles. Not to mention that the Tigers have not always had an easy time in Chestnut Hill ever since Boston College joined the ACC. The Tigers lost in 2006 thanks to Ron Cherry games and a missed PAT in overtime, they lost a close game up there in 2010 with a better team, and two years ago with Deshaun Watson injured it was a hard-fought win with Cole Stoudt at quarterback. And, of course, Dabo’s first win as head coach up there in 2008 went down to the wire as well. It was a blistering cold Halloween weekend, and I can remember Dabo high-fiving and celebrating with the Clemson crowd after the game like it was yesterday.
I’ll make this short and sweet. The Tigers have superior personnel, and on paper this game shouldn’t be close. Boston College has not won an ACC game in football since 2014 and lost every ACC basketball game last season as well. It looked as if they were going to break the losing streak in their opener against GT in Dublin, but they allowed Tech to convert a 4th and 19 with 2 minutes left in the game, and the Jackets scored the game-winning touchdown with 35 seconds left. Clemson, on the other hand, has won 11 straight ACC games and 43 straight games against unranked teams. So it would be the ultimate irony if the Tigers managed to somehow lose this game. If they turn the ball over 5 times again like they did last Saturday, it would be a step in that direction, but hopefully they will protect the football this time around.
I think the Tigers have turned a corner similar to the one they turned at about this time last year and go on a run of domination. The first CFP Selection Committee rankings come out in about a month, and remember last year, they were released right after that 58-0 beat down in Miami that cost Al Golden his job. I think Deshaun Watson and the offense are about to show the nation what they are capable of over these next few games, and Watson will be right back at the forefront of the Heisman discussion.
Tigers take care of business in Bean Town, and Dabo beats BC for the 8th time in his 9 meetings as head coach, as Clemson dominates on both sides of the ball.
The prowl toward a 16th ACC Title in ’16, a repeat trip to the College Football Playoff and a second National Title continues…......
CLEMSON 55 Boston College 10