Tigers looking to overcome Cavs' 3-4 defense
CLEMSON -- The No. 18 Clemson Tigers are saying all the right things about not overlooking Saturday's college football game against Virginia (3-7, 2-4 ACC).
In addition to playing for the program's first Atlantic Division title, and the added emotion of the 3:30 p.m. kickoff marking the final run down Death Valley's hill for seniors, Clemson (7-3, 5-2) should be focused for another reason -- it has seen nothing like Al Groh's pro-style defense.
It's the first 3-4 defense Clemson will have seen this season.
"It's one of the better defenses we will have played," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "They're a true 3-4 team. They're the only team in the league that plays that (style). They don't really sub a lot. A real key for us is to be able to run the ball. They're hard to move. They're big, tough guys."
If Clemson can't run the ball, Virginia will sit back in a Cover-2 shell pass defense.
The 3-4 also offers zone-blitz looks the Clemson offensive line and freshman quarterback Kyle Parker have not seen this season.
Moreover, the Cavaliers are one of the biggest teams the Tigers offensive front will meet.
Virginia defensive end Matt Conrath is 6-7, 270, nose tackle Nick Jenkins is 6-3, 285.
The Virginia secondary is super-sized, too, possessing three 6-2 defensive backs, including standout corner Ras-I Dowling (3 interceptions).
Virginia is seventh in the ACC in total defense (345.2 yards per game) and is sixth in scoring defense (24 points per game),
"They don't give up a lot of big plays," Swinney said. "You have to put drives together."
The Virginia offense is less of a concern.
Virginia ranks last in the ACC in scoring (19.8 ppg) and total offense (266.7 ypg).
The Tigers could become Atlantic Division champions before kickoff Saturday.
If North Carolina wins at Boston College on Saturday -- that game starts at noon on ESPN2 -- the Tigers will clinch a rematch with Georgia Tech in the ACC title game.
Swinney said the Tigers will watch little, if any, of the game.
"We leave the hotel (in Anderson) around 12:55 p.m.," Swinney said. "We won't be sitting around watching. There won't be a TV going in the locker room. ... It just doesn't matter."
Keep away and wild cards
N.C. State elected to kick away from C.J. Spiller, and the Heisman contender anticipates similar treatment in his final home game.
How the Cavaliers keep the ball away from Spiller is another question, as they've utilized squib kicks, pooch kicks and bunts, Swinney said. Virginia also has tendency to run fakes out of kicking formations.
Swinney said Andre Powell might not be able to sleep this week.
"They've done it all," Swinney said. "They've faked extra points, field goals, punts, they've run reverses on returns."
Both defensive end Da'Quan Bowers (knee) and guard Thomas Austin (foot) are listed as questionable for Saturday's game.