Right away, amidst all of the great numbers the Tigers have put together, one thing sticks out like a sore thumb: their rush defense is 80th in FBS and they allow just over 171 yards on the ground per game. That warrants a deeper look at who they’ve played, how many yards they rushed for against Clemson, and where their run offense currently ranks in FBS:
- Georgia Bulldogs: 222 yards; 28th
- South Carolina State Bulldogs (FCS): 86 yards
- NC State Wolfpack: 165 yards; 52nd
- Wake Forest Demon Deacons: 60 yards; 112th
- Syracuse Orange: 156 yards; 45th
Clemson shut down Wake Forest as well they should, as well as South Carolina State, but the other three teams were decent or better against the Tigers. One might expect Georgia to run all over Clemson as they’re a top team, but NC State and Syracuse, two mediocre ACC teams, have rushing production numbers very similar to that of Boston College. Now, that doesn’t mean anything on Saturday when this game is played, but it does show that Clemson indeed has not shut down the run.
Please also note that those numbers are not purely do to accumulation from facing run-heavy offenses. Clemson is allowing 4.24 yards per carry, which is tied for 71st in FBS. The nine rushing touchdowns they have allowed is tied for 73rd.
If you’re Boston College, you have found your opening. Running on an undersized Army defensive front is a lot easier than going up against Clemson’s maulers down in the trenches, but other teams have had success pounding the football against them. Also take into account the fact that the Eagles’ offensive line has been playing much better as of late, and even did well against Florida State. If Boston College’s offensive line has another good game on Saturday, they can open up some avenues for Andre Williams and Myles Willis and the Eagles can sustain some drives or put Chase Rettig and the passing game in much more manageable situations.
Clemson’s pass defense so far has been stellar, holding opponents to the 17th-lowest number of yards per game in FBS. Rettig looked fine in the Army game, and part of that was due to the fact that the pressure was not on him. Williams and Willis helped a great deal with that and they can here. Chase Rettig can make plays but the burden of having to win this football game is not squarely on his shoulders as it has been in years past.
For the first time in a while, the Eagles have found an offensive identity, and it is that of a power-run, smashmouth football team. Rettig is not going to be called upon to have 400-yard games like last year because of the change in philosophy. The good news is that this plays into not only a developing strength for the Eagles, but also a possible shortcoming for the Tigers.
The problem is, however, that Clemson’s defense is still very good overall. They get after the quarterback with ferocity (during the Eagles’ previous game at Clemson in 2011, it was prudent to worry for Rettig’s health as he ran for his life on every other play), they don’t give up many points, and they don’t let teams convert their third downs. Add in the fact that they’re in their own building and you’ve got a favorable situation for Clemson.
Despite the fact that the offensive line is playing better, it is not outrageous to think the Eagles might be outgunned here. Clemson has the talent to shut the Eagles down and Boston College will have to play an excellent offensive game to keep up. Clemson favored.