It’s the final regular-season game outside state borders for No. 9 Clemson, and here’s how it can exercise its historical dominance at Virginia on Saturday:
RATTLE THE QUARTERBACK
Virginia’s David Watford might end up becoming one of the better quarterbacks in the ACC. He’s just not there yet. He succumbs to pressure, as well as complex defenses, so this could be another thrilling day for Clemson’s revived defense. Interesting matchup to watch: defensive end Vic Beasley’s been lining up to the quarterback’s left (blind side) all season long, but the Cavaliers have future NFL player Morgan Moses at left tackle and true freshman Eric Smith at right tackle. Maybe Beasley shifts position to pick on the clearly less formidable matchup.
STARTING FIVE UP FRONT
No coach enjoys having to constantly rotate offensive linemen. It’s a pain in the neck, especially because chemistry is probably the best friend of the big uglies. Clemson left guards David Beasley and Kalon Davis each have four starts, while right tackles Gifford Timothy (five starts) and Shaq Anthony (three) are also swapping time. At some point, it would benefit left tackle Brandon Thomas, center Ryan Norton and right guard Tyler Shatley — not to mention quarterback Tajh Boyd — to settle on a starting group and run with that.
TIGHT ENDS FOR REAL?
We’ll see if Dabo Swinney backs up his big talk this week about his tight ends. There’s really no reason the combo platter of Stanton Seckinger, Sam Cooper, Jordan Leggett and a dose of Jay Jay McCullough can’t be successful right now. Leggett had some blunt words this week about his own abilities — “I’m one of the most athletic tight ends here” — and offensive coordinator Chad Morris swore the freshman would see the field more.
Nobody talks up an opponent like Swinney, but this week’s it’s difficult to imagine the Cavaliers posing a significant challenge over the course of 60 minutes. Only the Tigers can get in the Tigers’ own way. Virginia’s simply too young and not talented enough to match up at every position, as evidenced by its five-game losing streak. It would require a major loss of focus for Clemson to still be sweating it out in the fourth quarter, and given its drought of putting together a satisfactory four quarters, this would be the time to rectify that.
Clemson 41, Virginia 14