The Final Breakdown

CLEMSON - The final breakdown as the Tigers get set to host Boston College Saturday at Death Valley.

QUARTERBACK: There's a football saying that goes something like this: if you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback. It remains to be seen if the second part applies to Boston College, but the Eagles' two-headed monster of Justin Tuggle and Dave Shinskie has quite an interesting dynamic. Coach Frank Spaziani won't tip his hand as to who will start Saturday but both are expected to see the field.


B.C. quarterback Justin Tuggle will split time with Dave Shinskie at quarterback Saturday. (Getty Images)
Tuggle is the son of former Atlanta Falcon linebacker Jessie Tuggle. He's completed nine of 17 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns. Shinskie was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the fourth round as a pitcher in the 2003 MLB First-Year Player Draft. He called an end to his baseball career earlier this year while he was with the Toronto Blue Jays Double-A affiliate. So far in the 25-year-old's first football games since the fall of 2002, he's completed 16 passes out of 26 for 183 yards and two touchdowns.

If one was truly better than the other, it's likely that one would already be the clear cut starter.

Kyle Parker's numbers are similar to his counterparts from Boston College. In two games, he has completed 24 of 51 pass attempts for 420 yards and five touchdowns. While he doesn't have the most sterling of completion percentages (47), Parker showed on Thursday that he's more than capable of performing in the ACC.

The jury is still out on how Tuggle and Shinskie can perform against a conference opponent as Boston College is 2-0 against Northeastern and Kent State.

ADVANTAGE:

RUNNING BACKS: Boston College running back Montel Harris set the school's freshman rushing record with 900 yards last year. In the first two games this year, he's carried 34 times for 181 yards and three touchdowns and has factored into the passing game with a touchdown reception.

Harris' backup Josh Haden has 75 yards and a touchdown. Freshman Ronlandan Finch has 90 yards on the ground.

Small in size but big on making would be defenders miss, Harris and Haden are very serviceable, young running backs that fit well into the Eagle's zone running scheme. By the time they're careers in Chesnut Hill are over, Clemson fans will be happy to see them go.

Clemson's triple-threat at running back of C.J. Spiller, Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper has rushed for almost 300 yards this year, but have yet to find the end zone on the ground. Six-point carries aside, Spiller's presence and big-play reputation gives the Tiger stable an edge.


C.J. Spiller gives the Tigers the edge at running back and is coming off another strong performace last week. (Roy Philpott/CUTigers.com)
Having one of the best two running backs in the conference gives Clemson the edge in the position matchup against just about anyone in the ACC. Though the Boston College running backs are good in their own right, the added threat of Harper and Ellington helps build Clemson's advantage.

ADVANTAGE:

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: With the breaking of Xavier Dye's situation on Thursday morning, the latest talk about the Clemson receivers hasn't been who is going to emerge as the compliment to Jacoby Ford, who wowed with five catches for 109 yards and a touchdown against Georgia Tech.

Compared to Boston College's best wide receiver Rich Gunnell, Ford is simply better in every phase of the game. About the same size, Ford is faster, more explosive and a better pass catcher. Plus, he's a Biletnikoff Award Candidate.

Like Clemson, entering the season there questions as to who is behind Boston College's top wide receiving target. At 6-3, Colin Larmond has emerged as the next threat but he's still relatively unproven. His numbers are pretty close to Marquan Jones'. Larmond has four catches for 116 yards and a touchdown and Jones has three catches, one for a touchdown, and 108 yards. They both had five catches as true freshman last year.

Again, like Clemson, Boston College hasn't used its tight ends much in the passing game. Lars Anderson has no catches and Chris Pantale has just four for 32 yards. Like Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen, Pantale is big, young and athletic but inexperienced.

Allen and Michael Palmer factored into the Clemson passing game last week against Georgia Tech, each making big time catches. Despite an injury, Palmer continues to be a horse for Clemson a he fends off a few bangs and bruises. Expect the Clemson tight ends to be more of a factor in the game plan since Boston College prefers to keep opponents' offenses in front of its defense.

Palmer's experience and Allen's athleticism are better than what Boston College features from their top two tight ends.

ADVANTAGE:

OFFENSIVE LINE: Both teams return mostly starters to their respective offensive fronts this season. Boston College brings back four of its five from 2008 and Clemson's five that will start Saturday all bring starting experience.

Boston College has made a mark during its short history in the ACC as one of the best, most physical teams on the offensive. Last year, the Eagles ranked 25th in the country in tackles for a loss allowed and 49th in sacks allowed (21).

The right-side averages over 320 pounds and the left-side features Preseason All-ACC member Anthony Castonzo at tackle and left guard Nathan Richman, who started as a true freshman last year.

Center Matt Tennant is a candidate for the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman) and the Rimington Trophy (best center).

The biggest question on Clemson's line remains at right tackle where Landon Walker starts in place of Cory Lambert, who was given the starting nod in the Tiger's first two games.

An experienced front should help slow down the Clemson pass rush. Don't expect Death Valley to produce any pre-snap penalties from the five up front for Boston College.

ADVANTAGE:

DEFENSIVE LINE: This is almost too obvious. Boston College lost almost 700 pounds of run stoppers to the NFL in B.J. Raji and Ron Brace. Austin Giles and Damik Scafe were moved from the ends inside. Both weigh less than 300 pounds. Two starters at end return in Alex Albright, who missed most of the season due to injury, and Jim Ramella.


With the losses of B.J. Raji and Ron Brace, the Tigers get the edge on the defensive line. (Roy Philpott/CUTigers.com)
None of the four starters, all of whom are upperclassman, appear to have futures in the NFL. The Clemson front of Da'Quan Bowers and Ricky Sapp on the end and Jarvis Jenkins and Brandon Thompson plugging the middle features four Sunday prospects.

If Raji and Brace are still around, it's a push, but they're not.

ADVANTAGE:

LINEBACKERS: Mark Herzlich is a candidate for having one of the most heartbreaking stories in college football this year. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a malignant tumor that is most often found in bone or soft tissue. His being lost for the season was a huge hit to the Eagle defense.

First predictions for the return of middle linebacker Mike McLaughlin, who injured his Achilles this spring, were set for mid-September, but he's not even listed on the Boston College depth chart.

In a couple of years the Boston College trio of Dominick LeGrande, Luke Kuechly and Alexander DiSanzo could be as respected as any in the league. However for now, it's young and inexperienced. LeGrande has the most experience as a sophomore with nine tackles last year. Kuechly is a true freshman and DiSanzo red-shirted last year.

Though depth remains a question for Clemson, the Tigers have more experience and skill. Freshman All-American Brandon Maye continues to show that he is going to be an all-conference performer by the time his Clemson career is over. Butkus Award Candidate (outstanding linebacker) Kavell Conner bounced back wonderfully against Georgia Tech after not playing against the Middle Tennessee spread. It's hard to call Kevin Alexander and Scotty Cooper the weak part of anything, but it's also hard to say they're better than Conner and Maye.

ADVANTAGE:

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Boston College's starting cornerbacks are no slouches in their own right. DeLeon Gause's name has been mentioned by several Clemson coaches and players as the guy to keep an eye on in the secondary. Despite an ankle sprain, which caused him to miss four games last year, Gause had 22 tackles, an interception and a pass break up.

He's played well in big games, including the 2007 ACC Championship when he stepped in to replace DeJuan Tribble and made 10 tackles.

Along the perimeter with Gause is Roderick Rollins, who proved he can make an impact during last year's meeting with Clemson when he returned a blocked punt 25 yards for a touchdown.

Marcellus Bowman starts at strong safety but has experience playing the free. A thick 225 pounds, he doesn't shy from contact anywhere on the field.

Wes Davis is the returning starter at free safety. Though he may get the nod over Clemson's Marcus Gilchrist, based purely on experience at the position, Gilchrist has shown he's able to move from free safety to corner and back to free during a game with little problem.

Chris Chancellor's cover skills against bigger receivers may be questionable, especially after being beat late in the fourth quarter against Georgia Tech's Demaryius Thomas last week. Fellow corner Crezdon Butler and strong safety DeAndre McDaniel are two of the best secondary players in the conference.

Clemson's starting corners are faster, more productive and better overall than Boston College's starters. Throw in two sophomores backing up the Eagles' starters in comparison to Clemson's backups, who could contend for starting jobs at Boston College, the Tigers get the nod again.

ADVANTAGE:

KICKER: Boston College kicker Steve Aponavicius is one of the better feel good stories around college football. Although he's been the starter since he walked on mid-season in 2006, his leg hasn't always provided the strength that Clemson kicker Richard Jackson showed last week. Aponavicius' career long is 45 yards but he's the ACC's active career field goals (34) and PATs (107) leader.

ADVANTAGE:

PUNTER: Saturday will be a homecoming of sorts for Boston College punter Ryan Quigley, who attended North Myrtle Beach HS. He and Clemson punter Dawson Zimmerman are both juniors. Quigley averaged just over 39 yards per punt last year and Zimmerman just over 38. Zimmerman has punted eight times this year for an average of 36. Quigley is averaging 45 yards on 11 punts.

ADVANTAGE:

RETURNERS: Spiller and Ford get the nod over Gunnell and Harris. The Clemson duo returned a kick and punt, respectively, for touchdown against Middle Tennessee. Gunnell has shown his ability to take a punt the distance with a touchdown return this year. He averages 22.5 yards per return. Boston College has had just three kickoff returns.

ADVANTAGE:

HALE'S PREDICTION: Clemson 24 Boston College 10


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