SAPAKOFF COLUMN: Clemson just needs a smarter tackling dummy
Brushing up on math, I tried multiplying the number of missed tackles Clemson had during its 47-39 loss in Tallahassee last week by all the Florida State snaps. Alas, my DVR doesn't extend to 667 yards of total offense.
The No. 17 Tigers probably will be favored in every game from here to No. 6 South Carolina's visit to Death Valley. And without better fundamental defense, almost every outing is dangerous.
Clemson's best player on defense has been Travis Blanks, a hybrid linebacker/safety. He's a terrific talent but just a few months removed from his high school prom.
A fast-paced spread offense and a decent defense can reside within the same football program (see Oregon's 49-0 rout of Arizona last week), but it isn't easy. Remember how Texas Tech blasted Clemson, 55-15, in the 2002 Tangerine Bowl? One game before, Mike Leach and Co. lost to Oklahoma, 60-15.
This is where good tackling skills come in handy.
“You're not just going to knock good backs down,” Swinney said this week. “You have to wrap those guys up and get their legs.”
Until the Tigers get or develop better players, they need better practice. Surely, some Clemson engineering student can develop a smart tackling dummy that wiggles like a Florida State running back and celebrates when missed.
Warren Peper picked Charleston Southern to lose last week but was smart enough to match my 8-2 record. A whopping 588 Pigskin Picks people were smarter, going 9-1 or 10-0. On to Week 5:
Clemson at Boston Coll.
No Sammy Watkins, post-FSU funk, long trip, weather, BC's fast pace. One of the toughest remaining ACC games for the Tigers.
Sapakoff pick: Clemson, 31-28
Peper pick: Clemson, 31-20
South Carolina at Kentucky
No. 6 South Carolina's game next week against No. 5 Georgia projects as the highest combined ranking for any college football game played in South Carolina since No. 2 Clemson defeated No. 8 North Carolina, 10-8, in 1981.
Sapakoff pick: South Carolina, 35-0
Peper pick: South Carolina, 40-20
Chattanooga at Citadel
Bulldogs won't look ahead to Samford and get back to challenging for a Southern Conference title or FCS playoff spot.
Sapakoff pick: The Citadel, 28-14
Peper pick: The Citadel, 20-12
Norfolk State at S.C. State
Norfolk State and S.C. State were picked to finish 1-2 in the official MEAC preseason poll but are 0-1 in league games.
Sapakoff pick: S.C. State, 21-14
Peper pick: S.C. State, 21-17
Tennessee at Georgia
Freshman running back Todd Gurley has gone over 100 yards in three of the Bulldogs' four wins.
Sapakoff pick: Georgia, 35-17
Peper pick: Georgia, 28-14
Arkansas at Texas A&M
Arkansas is a probable dent in South Carolina's strength of schedule.
Sapakoff pick: Texas A&M, 28-17
Peper pick: Texas A&M, 30-20
N.C. State at Miami
The Citadel found out the Wolfpack is making strides each week.
Sapakoff pick: N.C. State, 24-21
Peper pick: Miami, 24-17
Duke at Wake Forest
Duke quarterback Sean Renfree threw four touchdown passes in 38-14 victory over Memphis last week.
Sapakoff pick: Wake Forest, 31-28
Peper pick: Wake Forest, 24-14
Texas at Oklahoma State
This is the same Oklahoma State team that lost to Arizona, 59-38.
Sapakoff pick: Texas, 28-27
Peper pick: Oklahoma State, 24-20
Ohio State at Michigan State
Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller and friends have a rugged road test against a Spartans team that struggled with Eastern Michigan (23-7 win).
Sapakoff pick: Ohio State, 18-17
Peper pick: Michigan State, 23-20
Last week: Peper 8-2, Sapakoff 8-2
Season: Sapakoff 31-9, Peper 28-12
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff