Inside the Game: No. 9 Clemson at Maryland

Clemson needs to get the running game going against Maryland, and will look to Roderick McDowell to lead the way. He is averaging five yards per carry this season. (Travis Bell/Sideline Carolina)

How can No. 9 Clemson get its mojo back Saturday at Maryland? Here are a few ways that will happen:

No offense to Tajh Boyd, but he’s out of rhythm and he can’t get it back by himself. Three of Clemson’s previous games have these factors in common that the other four don’t: the Tigers ran it on at least 55 percent of their plays, they threw it less than 37 times, and Tajh Boyd’s passer rating was above 150 points. Those games were Georgia, Wake Forest and Syracuse, the only three games leaving offensive coordinator Chad Morris content. Roderick McDowell may not have scored yet, but he’s having a quietly solid year (446 yards, 5.0 per carry) and Zac Brooks almost never goes backwards (5 negative yards combined on 40 carries), so let those guys take over a game for a change. Maryland is No. 26 nationally in rush defense, though.

No C.J. Brown. No Brandon Ross. No Dave Stinebaugh, no Stefon Diggs or Deon Long. The first three (QB, RB, TE) are out for the game, and the latter two are wide receivers out for the season. So that’s Maryland’s entire starting depth chart of skill players who won’t suit up Saturday. Clemson’s defense is facing a bunch of second-stringers. It’s not Jameis Winston, Devonta Freeman or Rashad Greene out there this weekend.

There’s something in the water in College Park. An unbelievable 21 players have been ruled out for Saturday’s game (compared to eight for Clemson), which means the Terrapins have been about as unlucky as it gets. For the most part, the Tigers have remained pretty healthy, so whatever virus has descended on Maryland in its final year in the ACC, it would be best not to become a carrier Saturday afternoon.

In football, teams will focus best after a loss. Because their coaches will ramp up the intensity, and because the players have a week to hear about how bad they are. Whereas slow starts may have been a concern in previous games, the Tigers really have no reason to present anything but an exemplary 60 minutes of football to prove they’re still among the nation’s elite in 2013. Pity poor Maryland and Virginia; they came at the wrong time on Clemson’s schedule.

Clemson 38, Maryland 17