KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SITE: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.
SERIES: Miami leads 5-3 (last meeting, 2009, 40-37 OT Clemson).
RECORDS: Miami 2-1, 0-0; Clemson 2-1, 0-0
POLLS: Miami (16 AP, 17 USA Today)
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- Miami wants to get the running game going. The Hurricanes have rushed for only 220 yards in the last two games and need to take advantage of a Clemson defense that is surrendering 185 yards a game on the ground. The Hurricanes must keep Clemson RB Andre Ellington, the ACC's No. 2 rusher, in check.
-- Clemson's priority will be protecting quarterback Kyle Parker. Parker suffered bruised ribs against Auburn on Sept. 18 and didn't throw a pass in practice until the Thursday after the game, so keeping Miami's aggressive pass rush at bay takes on added importance. Adding a question mark to that equation is the fact that the Tigers have had to juggle their offensive linemen a bit. With Miami ranking among the national leaders in sacks and tackles for loss, it's imperative that the Tigers keep Parker out of harm's way as much as possible.
The key to Clemson's early success has been establishing the running game, which it has done without fail through three games. The Tigers' rushing attack was particularly impressive in an overtime loss at Auburn when Andre Ellington rambled for a career-best 140 yards. Although coach Dabo Swinney has indicated that quarterback Kyle Parker "will have to pass more" for the Tigers to win in the ACC, the team is built on getting the running game into overdrive first. That may be even more important this week against Miami, which has a talented secondary and the ACC's second-best pass defense statistically.
Although it got burned a couple times for big plays on stutter-and-go routes by Auburn's receivers in its last game, Clemson's defense hasn't played poorly overall. But defensive coordinator Kevin Steele believes the unit is capable of much more, which is why he's made "a couple of changes that we think can help us." Steele declined to elaborate on the changes this week other than to say they involved some "tweaks" in schemes and "making sure we're getting snaps to the right guys." Clemson's defensive front is deep and productive, but the linebacking corps remains a work in progress.
Hurricanes: Miami's game at Clemson will feature an interesting clash in the trenches. The Hurricanes are second nationally in sacks per game (4.67), but the Tigers have allowed only two sacks all season. ... Though they play in different divisions, Miami-Clemson has developed into quite a rivalry since the Hurricanes began competing in the ACC. Clemson won the first meeting in overtime in 2004, and Miami won in three overtimes in the rematch in 2005. After a three-year break, Clemson won in overtime last year. The home team lost all three meetings. ... Four Hurricanes are ranked in the Top 10 of various NCAA statistical categories. RB Lamar Miller is second in kickoff returns (37.75 per-return average), WR Travis Benjamin is fourth in punt returns (24.5), LB Sean Spence is sixth in tackles for loss (2.0 per game), and DE Olivier Vernon is tied for ninth in sacks (1.17). ... Miami is playing its third consecutive game on the road after losing at Ohio State and winning at Pittsburgh. ... RB Damien Berry has rushed for 181 yard in his last two games. ... Miami is looking to get above .500 in league openers since joining the ACC in the 2004 season. The Hurricanes are 3-3 overall and 2-1 under coach Randy Shannon. ... Miami leads the FBS statistics in tackles for losses per game with its average of 11.3. That includes 3.5 sacks per game.
Tigers: Clemson and Miami have gone to overtime in each of their last three meetings, with the visiting team winning on each occasion. No series in college football history has had four consecutive overtime games. ... The Miami game marks the first of eight consecutive ACC games for Clemson. It is the first time in school history that the Tigers have played eight straight league opponents in eight consecutive weeks. ... QB Kyle Parker threw for 326 yards (25-of-37) in last fall's overtime win at Miami, then came back in he spring to hit two home runs in a baseball doubleheader against the Hurricanes. ... DE Da'Quan Bowers has 17 tackles, all first hits, in Clemson's three ganes. He had four tackles for losses at Auburn. ... Bowers and DE Andre Branch led Clemson in sacks with three each ... Dabo Swinney is 10-2 at home in his brief coaching career at Clemson. ... RB Andre Elllington is averaging 7.25 yards per carry with 764 yards on 105 rushes. He had 140 yards on 22 carries at Auburn. ... Senior SS DeAndre McDaniel is tied for fifth in school history with 12 career interceptions. He got his first picke of the season at Auburn.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Jacory Harris -- Harris has thrown six picks in the last two games and though not all were his fault, it is a potential issue for the junior. He also has six touchdown passes and is completing 64 percent of his throws.
WR Leonard Hankerson -- Hankerson had a quiet game at Pittsburgh (three receptions for 36 yards) but ranks in the top five in the league in catches and receiving yardage (5.3 and 80.3 per game, respectively).
LB Sean Spence -- Spence may have had a sophomore slump in a season affected by injuries, but he is more than making up for it as a junior. He is fourth in the league in tackles for loss (2.17 per game) and leads Miami in tackles with 24.
DE Andre Branch -- While most opponents focus on slowing down Da'Quan Bowers, Andre Branch has quietly emerged as a force as the Tigers' bandit end. He has three sacks this season and 14 tackles -- just three fewer than Bowers. How much pressure he's able to put on Miami QB Jacory Harris could have a big impact on Clemson's success.
QB Kyle Parker -- Parker's bruised ribs are feeling better, but until he's able to show that he can make accurate passes in a game, many Clemson fans remain concerned. Parker never left the game at Auburn after being injured and nearly led the Tigers to victory, which has afforded him more admiration from his teammates. He could gain even more respect Saturday.
OG Mason Cloy -- Although he hasn't started a game this season, Cloy may be the most-watched guy on the field Saturday. The redshirt junior will be replacing the injured David Smith at left guard, which could have serious ramifications for the Tigers' running game and pass protection. The good news is that Cloy does have 17 starts, albeit most of them at center, over his first two seasons, so he shouldn't be wide-eyed at first snap.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They're kind of like Sears and Roebuck -- you open up the catalog and pick what you want, and they're exactly what you'd order." -- Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier on Miami's defensive personnel..