PASS FIRST, RUN SECOND: With an offensive line that has yet to come into its own, the Tigers have become much better throwing the football with Cullen Harper and Aaron Kelly than running with James Davis and C.J. Spiller. That's not to suggest Davis and Spiller can't put up big numbers, but teams are continuing to crowd the box to force the Tigers to the air first. Harper must continue to check into pass plays in running situations and be able to convert on those plays. Pass first, then establish the run once the Maryland defense begins to loosen up.
AVOID THE BREAKDOWNS: On special teams that is. Special teams killed the Tigers in their only two losses of the season which included blocked punts, fumbled punt returns, kickoff returns for touchdowns, punt returns for touchdowns and missed field goals. Avoid giving up the big play and convert on all extra points and field goals and Clemson stands a good chance to win this game. Maryland has had their own special teams issues this year, but not as bad as the Tigers. Just be average here and Clemson should be in position to win the game in the fourth quarter.
MAKE SURE THE DEFENSE BOARDS THE TEAM PLANE: Assuming the defense that has played the first seven games shows up Saturday and there is no monumental letdown, the Tigers should be fine. QB Sam Hollenbach did a great job of picking apart Clemson's zone last season, but he's gone. Replacing him is Chris Turner and possibly Jordan Steffy (who entered the season as the starter but has been injured). Neither has been as effective as Hollenbach. If the Tigers force Maryland into long drives chances are Turner or Steffy will eventually make a big mistake. Clemson has been dominant this season against better offensive teams and there is no reason to expect that to change Saturday, especially against the Terps' banged up offensive line.
3 Keys to Victory
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