On the brink of the most important game of the season, here’s your first October Five for Friday blog in history…
1. Clemson has a better chance of beating Clemson than Syracuse does. Yesterday’s blog stated my feelings pretty clearly concerning how the Orange match up with the Tigers. It is frightening how much better Clemson is athletically than Syracuse, an advantage that should be exasperated by playing the game on artificial turf indoors.
The Tigers can shoot themselves in the foot with costly penalties, turnovers, and other miscues, allowing the Carrier Dome crowd to come alive and giving the Orange a fighting chance. But it’s more likely that doesn’t happen, Clemson handles its business, and Syracuse is merely left steamrolled in the Tigers’ wake.
Simply put: If Clemson plays well, the scoreboard will reflect that. If Clemson doesn’t play well, Syracuse still has to play a good game to win.
2. Connor Shaw is playing this week because…? Steve Spurrier must have been in coaches show mode when he announced Shaw would be the starting quarterback this week.
In the immortal words of the OBC, “It’s only Kentucky.” The Wildcats are three-touchdown underdogs and have major offensive deficiencies. The Gamecocks have one of the nation’s top five backup quarterbacks in Dylan Thompson.
Baseball coaches talk about giving a guy an extra day to recover when he’s healthy enough to play. That should have been the tact with Shaw this week. There’s no sense in risking further injury—we were told it would be a couple of weeks before he was ready anyway—especially given the presence of a dynamite backup option like Thompson.
3. Another one will bite the dust this weekend. By “another one”, I mean “an undefeated team that could push Clemson in the rankings should the Tigers continue to win”.
I expect Northwestern to beat THE Ohio State at home this week. I don’t think the Buckeyes are as good as they appear to be because of the general weakness of the Big Ten, as well as the selective weakness of tOSU’s schedule within that general weakness.
Here’s a fun stat for you: Ohio State hasn’t won a road game against a team that finished the season ranked since 2009. The Buckeyes are 4-0 against ranked competition under Urban Meyer, but the only road game in that stretch was a 17-16 win against last year’s disappointing Michigan State team.
Northwestern is incredibly talented on offense. Venric Mark is healthy in the backfield again, and the Pat Fitzgerald defense can be salty at home. I’ve been a big fan of the Wildcats’ program for a number of years, and this would be arguably the biggest win of the Fitzgerald era.
4. Clemson’s NFL alumni enjoyed a nice September. This is particularly true of DeAndre Hopkins, who was named the NFL’s Rookie of the Month earlier this week. The Texans certainly have gotten their money’s worth from Nuk, whose only touchdown catch of the game came in a comeback overtime win where he was the top option in the passing game.
C.J. Spiller had a long scoring run against Cleveland on Thursday night, although he is still being underused in favor of Fred Jackson for some reason. Andre Ellington and Jaron Brown are playing fairly well in their opportunities in Arizona. There are other guys stepping up too. It feels good to turn on the TV and see former classmates of mine playing well on Sundays.
5. The “Brad Brownell can’t recruit” people need to find caves and run to them. Donte Grantham is a tremendous player who had confirmed offers from Michigan and West Virginia, along with interest from Connecticut and Texas, among other programs. His selection of the Tigers over the Wolverines gives Brad Brownell his second signee in less than a year where he had to battle a basketball heavyweight to earn a commitment.
Last year, Sidy Djitte spurned Memphis to sign with Clemson. Now Grantham is in the fold, and the Tigers are making inroads with several other high-profile prospects in upcoming recruiting classes.
This may be a make-or-break season for Brownell, but getting Grantham in the fold may lead to more patience with a team still building for the future with no seniors on the roster.