5 Keys To Pounding Ball State

After winning the most important game of the pre-Florida State part of the schedule this past Saturday, the Tigers face a Ball State team that is looking to earn a ton of respect, and dampen the mood of the Tiger football family. What can we expect this week?

This game offers very little relevance to Clemson's bowl hopes because it is not an ACC game. But a more intriguing hope is that a nice win Saturday could possibly propel the Tigers into the Top 25 and build some confidence as the Tigers prepare for Tallahassee.

Here is my look at what the Tigers have to do to put together an impressive win Saturday afternoon in Death Valley.

Where Is The Killer Instinct?
The Tigers have lacked the ability to put a team away easily this year, despite having an opportunity in all three games. In the loss to Georgia in Athens, the Tigers had two opportunities leading 28-21 to go up by double digits, and effectively put the Bulldogs away. As we all know, they were not able to close the deal. Same situation in the wins versus Louisiana Tech and Georgia Tech. Neither game really should have been as close as the scoreboard dictated.

Saturday the Tigers should put away an inferior team and allow valuable playing time for players like Charlie Whitehurst, Tye Hill, J.J. Howard, and Charles Bennett. Forget the possibility of moving into the Top 25 for a second and think about how valuable playing young kids can be. Remember the entire 2001 season? Me to, and the lessons all the young players learned being thrown into that fire by necessity and not margin of victory was telling.

The coaching staff NEEDS to see all the redshirt freshman and sophomores currently not starting get some reps, and Saturday is a game that should allow for that.

Stuff Marcus Merriweather
If there is one player that Clemson fans will look at Saturday and say, "He could play for us", it may be Merriweather. The bruising Ball State tailback rushed for 1,222 yards and 12 touchdowns last year and he is a pre-season All American candidate. He is also on the Doak Walker Award list, and he needs only 1,100 yards this year to break the school rushing record.

While lacking breakaway speed, Merriweather has proved his ability to run over linebackers and fall forward for the extra yard. The Cardinals will not doubt try and establish Merriweather early and often to set up the passing game.

As good as the Clemson defense has looked this year, they have given up 100 yard rushing performances to tailbacks in the first three games. This trend needs to stop Saturday.

Raise The Dead (Airese Currie)
It has become evident to most that Currie is in a sophomore slump. He needs to get out of it if this team is going to do special things this year.

To his credit, Tommy Bowden has defended Currie during his weekly press conferences. Maybe he is defending him because he really is not in a slump, maybe it's actually because he has just not gotten the right opportunities. My guess is that Bowden does not want Currie to get down because he knows that he needs Currie in the big ACC match ups down the road.

Saturday would be a perfect opportunity to give Currie some touches just to get his feet under him. If you can't get him the ball against Ball State, you have to wonder if he can be a factor at any point during the rest of the season. Here is one guy that hopes Currie can become an integral part of this offense.

Injuries Be Gone!
The absolute worst thing that could happen Saturday would be to suffer another devastating injury. Let's face it, the Tigers could probably sit their entire first string on both sides of the ball and still be favorites over this team. So, losing a starter to injury would be devastating to the Tigers chances in Tallahassee in 2 weeks.

One way to assure that the risk of injury to starters could be minimized is to take care of business in the first half, and allow the reserves to get most of the reps in the second half. But, if there is an injury God up there in the Heavens, please keep our team safe Saturday.

And PS: we sure would like to have Derrick Brantley back!

Take A Step Forward
The one constant through the first three games this season is that it appears that both sides of the ball, and the kicking game, have improved each week. Taking a step back Saturday is not what this young team needs.

This should be a workman-like game for the Tigers that should leave the team with more confidence after putting up a big win.

On paper, this is the kind of game that is almost impossible to predict, but that is my job here at CUTigers.com. This team has risen to every occasion so far this year, so I find it hard to believe that they won't be ready to play Saturday.

Ball State is a nice mid-major program that will receive a nice paycheck Saturday, but there is no way they should be in this game at the start of the 3rd quarter.

Rhymer's Prediction
Clemson-41, Ball State-13

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