Here’s a look at what No. 4 Clemson is looking to accomplish against South Carolina State at 12:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium:
With 13 minutes remaining in the second quarter last Saturday, Georgia QB Aaron Murray was 8-for-12 passing with 122 yards, and the Bulldogs led 21-14. Then, the pass rush hit home, and Murray was never the same after that. For better or worse, the Clemson secondary is the scapegoat of this defense, and on nights when Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett aren’t chasing down quarterbacks, stickier coverage is going to be a necessity. Bashaud Breeland and Garry Peters appear to be the top two dogs on the perimeter. A nice quiet afternoon without any big plays would make defensive coordinator Brent Venables a happy man.
By the Clemson coaching staffs’ definition of a drop, six of quarterback Tajh Boyd’s 12 incompletions should have been caught. Martavis Bryant can still go and have a great year, and coach Dabo Swinney was bordering on indignant when it was suggested to him Charone Peake (five catches, 58 yards, a costly drop) didn’t have the greatest game. Now, this subject won’t matter in terms of going from 1-0 to 2-0. But as Peake admitted, this could be a mental thing if the receivers don’t cure the dropsies. And fast.
There will be an exhaustive list of unknown Clemson players to keep an eye on, if you opt to stick around for all four quarters instead of going for a walk in the park or something. Injuries are a way of life in college football, so it’s best to identify the solid reserves when they’re actually lining up and playing a game that counts, instead of guessing based on practice tape. Swinney always admits he wants a preseason game like the pros. He basically gets his wish granted today.
Ultimately, if Clemson sleepwalks its way into the third quarter and survives when it realizes it has to actually try its best against the overmatched Bulldogs, it probably doesn’t matter in December. But it would make for some mighty interesting queries after the game, and the talking heads would fire up the “here comes Clemsoning, sooner or later” line on the prompter. So it’s probably best if Clemson doesn’t toy with its guest, and lets the starters do some suntanning on the sideline during the second half.
Clemson 63, South Carolina State 10