By Lee Lance.
Here we go! The season is here folks, and not a minute too soon.
Saturday afternoon at Clemson’s own Death Valley, the Tigers open the 2010 season at 3:30 against the Mean Green of North Texas University. Coming off of a successful season last year in which the Tigers won their division and played for an ACC Championship, Dabo Swinney hopes to pick up where last year’s team left off, only even better.
The Tigers should get a good test in at least one area that was a concern all of last season, stopping the ground attack of their opponent. The test will be a good one too as the Mean Green return one of the nation’s top rushers, Doak Walker nominee Lance Dunbar.
Some of the offseason questions will be answered Saturday afternoon in the Valley. Will the Tigers young linebackers be able to step up and slow down the running attack? Will the Tigers show that they have a solid ground attack of their own even after losing all-everything CJ Spiller?
Tiger Offense vs. North Texas Defense
The Tigers are looking to replace a good portion of their offensive production from last year, but the duo of Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper are going to surprise a lot of folks this year and the passing attack looks to improve as well. Look for a heavy dose of the tight ends early in this one, and don’t look for the Mean Green to be able to do much to slow the Tigers down. North Texas gave up nearly 40 points per game last season, as well as over 425 yards/game of offense.
The Tigers should be able to win this one with a good running game and some passes to the tight end, but everyone will be watching to see how the receivers perform. Receiver coach Jeff Scott said this week that he would rotate eight guys in there and hoped to see five or six show separation on the field. Kyle also mentioned that he hopes to give everyone an opportunity so that they can determine which players will shine when it counts. Look for Marquan Jones to be one of the players to show that he is ready to be a consistent playmaker.
Clemson’s experienced offensive line should give Parker time to find some of his unproven receivers and the running game should be a strength.
North Texas offense vs. Tiger defense
Clemson had to prepare for a lot of offensive looks from North Texas as they have added a new offensive coordinator in the offseason. The Tigers have watched film from South Florida along with North Texas to prepare for Saturday’s battle. The Tigers expect to see a lot of spread offense from the Mean Green and expect Clemson to respond with a lot of nickle package.
As mentioned above, the Mean Green return one of the nations leading rushers in Lance Dunbar. Dunbar rushed for nearly 1400 yards and 17 touchdowns a year ago and is a Doak Walker Nominee, but those things won’t help the Mean Green to very much production against a very talented Tiger defense.
Corico Hawkins challenged the Clemson defense this week to be the nation’s best this year. That all starts Saturday in the Valley as they show that they can stop one of the top rushers in the nation. Clemson has their best defensive line since the early 90’s. North Texas returns an experienced offensive line that only gave up 12 sacks last season. This will be a good early test for the Tiger defensive line. Expect the Tigers to win this battle.
Clemson will start a red-shirt freshman and two sophomore’s at linebacker. Tig Willard gets the start with Brandon Maye sidelined with a knee injury. With an experienced line and secondary how the linebackers perform will be the key to the Tiger’s success on defense in 2010. North Texas and start linebacker Lance Dunbar will provide a good test Saturday in the Valley. Expect the Tigers to pass this test.
How well will starting place kicker and walk-on Chandler Catanzaro handle his first live game kicking situation in Memorial Stadium in front of 80,000 fans? If I had to guess, which I guess I do, I am guessing he will do just fine. He has proven during practice that he is the most consistent place kicker on the team, at least for now, and Clemson sure doesn’t need to have a season full of kicking woes like has been seen in recent years.
Another “how will” would be, how will Marcus Gilchrist do taking over for CJ Spiller on kick returns as well as punt returns? We have heard good things from Dabo Swinney in regards to this, and have every reason to believe that Gilchrist will do a fine job.
Everything you could think to look at in regards to this game, from stats, to talent, to even recruiting stars(although I think those are meaningless), all those things say the Tigers have a huge advantage and I think everyone would have to agree. The Tigers are way too much for the Mean Green in every facet of the game, and this game will be a good tune-up game for Clemson, and at least a nice pay day for North Texas.
PREDICTION: Tigers 42, Mean Green 6