Is there trouble afoot?
CLEMSON OFFENSE VS. MARYLAND DEFENSE: This is a category that, on paper, the Tigers should dominate. Maryland has allowed 391 yards per game so far this season, 279 of it through the air. And for all of the talk about Cullen Harper's "bad start," his completion percentage and yards per attempt are at or above where they were this time last year. Yes, the touchdowns are down. And yes, the interceptions are up. And no, he hasn't been as sharp as he or the coaching staff would like. But the senior quarterback hasn't been so bad as to warrant the kind of flak he's received in the past week.
The bigger issue here is Clemson's offensive line, and the injuries which keep making this unit younger and more inexperienced seemingly every week. The Terps are an aggressive team defensively, and big plays are there to be made if the Tigers can hold their own up front. And as you'll see in just a moment, the more points Clemson can score the better.
Only the line issues make this one close.
CLEMSON DEFENSE VS. MARYLAND OFFENSE: This is the matchup that would worry me if I were a coach. Shutout of S.C. State aside, the Tigers still have issues in the front seven. And Maryland's offensive line is big, strong, physical and experienced. They block for two good running backs - including Da'Rel Scott, who leads the ACC in rushing at 135 yards per game. And they protect quarterback Chris Turner, who seems to have made tremendous strides in the Terps' West Coast offense the last couple of weeks.
Given Clemson's troubles pressuring the quarterback (only two of the six sacks recorded so far this year were against FBS opponents, both vs. N.C. State), and the question marks that remain in the middle of the run defense, the potential for trouble Saturday is very, very real.
ADVANTAGE - MARYLAND
SPECIAL TEAMS: When you break this area down, category by category, it's virtually an even split. I give Clemson the edge because Maryland is just 3-of-8 on field goal attempts this year.
ADVANTAGE - CLEMSON
COACHING/INTANGIBLES: Ralph Friedgen has had enough success coaching vs. Clemson (4-3 against the Tigers) that his team shouldn't be bothered by a large crowd at Death Valley. It wasn't in 2006. Of course, sleeping babies wouldn't have been bothered by that crowd. Bottom line, take away last year's 30-17 Clemson win, and the previous three games were decided by a combined total of eight points.
ADVANTAGE - MARYLAND
THE BOTTOM LINE: When I saw the point spread on this one - it opened at 13 and the latest line I saw was Clemson by 11 - I nearly spit unsweetened tea all over my keyboard. Is Vegas serious? Not only will the Tigers not cover the spread, I'm very afraid the following is going to happen...
THE PICK: Maryland 34, Clemson 31