Last week, much to the dismay of Eagles fans, I took Wake Forest. Even though I selected the Deacs, I thought it would be a close game that just wouldn’t go the Eagles’ way.
This week, I am not so conflicted or generous.
I know people are bringing up the Florida State game last year, as well as the Clemson game, but there are a few things here that are different. First, as poorly as the Eagles played for long stretches last year, they’re even worse this year. At least that offensive line had guys like Anthony Castonzo anchoring it, and other strong linemen like Tom Claiborne, Rich Lapham and Nate Richman (who has gone MIA). Now, this group is getting chewed up by teams with lesser defensive fronts than Clemson. Second, the defense isn’t playing nearly as well in 2011 as it was in 2010. Last year, we were dealing with the top rush defense, which masked some of the ongoing problems with the pass defense (which is utterly terrible and paper-thin this year). Without it, and with diminished defensive line play in general, it’s going to be harder for BC to mount a serious challenge. Third, and I think this is a minor and debatable point, I think this Clemson team is looking better than last year’s Florida State team.
When it boils down to it, it’s not that I don’t think individual players have the passion and drive to win, and I know a number of guys have the talent, but I doubt if they have the ability as a whole to compete. This team is very poorly coached, underprepared, and fundamentally flawed. Furthermore, mediocrity is now not only tolerated, but embraced. Sure, this could be a textbook “trap” game for the Tigers, but even if they don’t play well, the best case scenario for the Eagles is probably something like the FSU game last year — an ugly win for the other team. If they’re firing on all cylinders, it’s going to be a blowout.
My belief is that it’ll be somewhere in the middle. I don’t suspect that Clemson will pull a complete no-show, but who knows, it may be hard for them to get up for this game after beating three ranked teams in a row. Whatever the case may be, I do expect a comfortable Tigers win. If Clemson mails it in, they’ll win by a touchdown or so. If they play BC like they’d play another Top 10 team, they’ll win by 4 or 5 touchdowns. I didn’t want to put a score on it, but since everyone else is, I’m going 34-10 Clemson.