Who has the edge?

Who has the edge?

Football

Who has the edge?

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By Will Vandervort

Here is a position-by-position breakdown of today’s 12:30 p.m. kickoff (Fox Sports South) of S.C. State at No. 4 Clemson.

Quarterback: Tajh Boyd accounted for five touchdowns last week in the Tigers’ win over Georgia. The only reason he will not put up those kinds of numbers today is because he will be pulled either in the second quarter or at halftime because the Tigers’ will be up at least five scores by then. Look to see Chad Kelly in the game by the end of the third quarter. Quarterback Richard Cue completed 13 of 23 passes for 178 yards in a losing effort for the Bulldogs last week, including a 74–yard scoring pass to wide receiver Tyler McDonald. Cue also ran for a touchdown. Advantage: Clemson

Running back: Clemson had 197 yards on the ground last week, including 132 from Roderick McDowell. McDowell should get his fair share today in Death Valley, but this will be a great day for guys like Zac Brooks and C.J. Davidson to get some quality work. S.C. State running back Justin Taylor ran for 80 yards and scored on an 11-yard run for the Bulldogs last week. Advantage: Clemson

Wide receiver / Tight ends:  It’s doubtful Sammy Watkins will play much today so look for guys like Martavis Bryant, Charone Peake and freshman Mike Williams to gain some valuable playing experience. Tight end Jordan Leggett (knee) could make his debut today. He is listed as probable for the game as is Sam Cooper (knee). Cooper, like Kelly, is coming off knee surgery after tearing his ACL in the spring game. S.C. State’s McDonald is capable of making big plays in open space, while Caleb Davis is also a big play threat for the Bulldogs. Advantage: Clemson

Offensive line: Clemson offensive line gave up only one sack last week against Georgia, while they also came off the ball and were physical at the point of attack. In his first start at center, Ryan Norton earned ACC Lineman of the Week honors. The Bulldogs have four starters that are either sophomores or freshmen. Center Tristan Bellamy (6-3, 300 pounds) is the lone senior of the group.  Advantage: Clemson

Defensive line: Clemson’s defensive line was impressive against Georgia. The Tigers had four sacks and consistently were in the Georgia backfield all night. Grady Jarrett continues to be the most consistent player up front, while Vic Beasley is off to a great start in his first year as a starter, recording two sacks at defensive end. Tavaris Barnes also had a sack. The Bulldogs are extremely small up front, though defensive tackle Curtis Hill (6-1, 320) will be hard to move in the middle of the line. Advantage: Clemson

Linebackers: Clemson’s Spencer Shuey was everywhere against Georgia, recording 18 tackles, including 10 solo tackles. Middle linebacker Stephone Anthony wasn’t so bad either. He collected 13 tackles, including strip-sack to set up the game-tying score before halftime. The Bulldogs play a 4-2-5 scheme so Joe Thomas and Justin Hughes are the two backers S.C. State will go with. Advantage: Clemson

Secondary: Georgia’s Aaron Murray did throw for 323 yards, but there were no busted coverages and no wide receiver got past anyone. The Tigers still had a couple of bad tackles and a few times guys on the back end fell out of their assignments on a couple of runs because they were trying to do too much on the back end instead of trusting what their teammate is doing. Left corner Stephen Murphy had one interception for S.C. State last week. The Bulldogs have a very experienced secondary with two seniors at the safety positions in Darius Drummond and Kimario McFadden, while right corner Mason Harris is also a senior.  Advantage: Clemson

Special teams: The Tigers still need to work in their return game, an area that was a weakness on the team last year continues to look that way after one week. They had no return longer than 24 yards and Watkins muffed a punt. Punter Bradley Pinion might be the Tigers’ best weapon. He had seven touchbacks on kickoffs and then punted seven times for 41 yards with only one return of four yards. Three times he pinned the ball inside the Georgia 20. S.C. State’s Nicholas Belcher missed an extra point and a field goal last week, but he averaged 46 yards on five punts, including one that went 61 yards. Murphy is the Bulldogs’ top return specialist. Advantage: Clemson

Prediction: The Tigers have this game won before it even kicks off. Look for S.C. State to get Clemson’s best shot. There will be no overlooking a lesser opponent today, but even if they did, Clemson will still win this game going away. Look for a lot of backups and young players get an opportunity to play a lot today. The key for Clemson in a game like this is to come out of it healthy. Clemson 47, S.C. State 7

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