Prior to the biggest game of the season, it’s time for an autumn edition of the Five for Friday…
1. Containing Andre Williams might not be as hard as it may seem. In my opinion, Boston College’s offense is Wake Forest with a running game. Now, it’s a doggone impressive running game, but the passing attacks from both teams are very similar.
Williams is a super back that leads the country in both rushing attempts and rushing yards per game this season. Those seem like figures that come from a volume runner, but Williams is perfectly capable of breaking off a big run with his 6’0”, 227-pound frame.
Simply put, he’s a handful. Just ask Florida State. But Clemson’s defensive responsibilities should be focused on him more than any other Eagle player because of the way Boston College uses its receivers.
Here’s a fun stat about usage as it relates to the passing game. Alex Amidon has accounted for 45.7% of BC’s receptions and 47.8% of its receiving yards this season. Only Michael Campanaro of Wake Forest (54.3%) has a higher percentage of a team’s receiving yards, and even he is behind Amidon in terms of reception percentage. To put this into perspective, Sammy Watkins has 28.0% of Clemson’s receiving yards and 22.3 % of the catches.
In theory, Clemson should be able to dedicate seven or eight defenders to stopping Williams first, double-team Amidon with a safety over the top, and still be able to adapt to whatever happens on a particular play. When a team boasts the nation’s most-used running back and the conference’s most-used receiver, it’s no secret who will be targeted in the normal flow of the offense.
2. This will be an alumni-heavy crowd. Clemson is always a tough place to play when the student section sets the tone. This is why I have been so critical of the student body when it has failed to adequately support the Tigers since I enrolled at Clemson in 2007.
There are two factors that could make this a lazy atmosphere at Death Valley on Saturday. First, it is fall break for students, so the student section will almost certainly not be full. Second, some students are already waiting in line for tickets for the Florida State game. In fact, that line currently extends around about half of the stadium.
I’m not sure what Clemson will do about this situation, but I could definitely see a scenario where the students’ desire to look ahead to Florida State might make the stadium quieter on Saturday if people decide to stay in line and not enter the stadium for the game. Again, I’m not sure if this is a factor or not, but it might be interesting to watch.
It will be up to fans and alumni to create noise in the stadium this week. Fall break games are notoriously sleepy atmospheres, and the Eagles are certainly capable of winning a game like that. The rest of the crowd needs to understand the forces at play so it can be prepared to step up to the plate.
3. South Carolina won’t make it through this three-game stretch without a loss. The Gamecocks have to play Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri in consecutive weeks, all on the road. That sounds like a stretch that is tough to make it through unscathed.
Think about this: Since 2000, 37 teams have faced back-to-back-to-back true road games. That averages out to less than three times per year this happens. Out of those 37 teams, only eight had to face conference opponents in all three road games—including South Carolina. The combined record of the previous seven was 10-11.
The Gamecocks had a similar stretch in 2011 and finished 2-1. I think that’s feasible this time around, even though they should be favored in all three contests.
For the record, I think they will beat Arkansas this week, but the next two games seem a bit more difficult to me. It could be a case where South Carolina loses one to the schedule rather than to its individual opponents.
4. There are a couple of intriguing storylines at work in this week’s schedule. You have the narrative of close-loss teams from last week looking to right the ship against tough opponents. Washington hosts high-powered Oregon after fighting tooth-and-nail only to fall short against Stanford. Northwestern faces the same battle, except the Wildcats are on the road at Wisconsin.
I don’t see either team bouncing back after being physically and mentally tested and dropping games a week ago. But both are also capable of pushing their respective opponents.
Also, in the Red River Rivalry, Mack Brown will look to potentially save his job by not getting blown out by Oklahoma. After splitting single-digit games from 2007 to 2010, Texas has been outscored 118-38 by its rival from the Sooner State in the past two seasons combined. Yes, the Longhorns have lost to the Sooners by an average of 40 points over the past two meetings.
I’m not sure Brown actually needs to win to save his job. But if he can’t keep the game competitive, he might want to start drafting cover letters.
5. If you’re not watching the baseball playoffs, you’re doing it wrong. Seriously, it’s the best thing on television right now. It’s certainly the best thing in sports.
We’ve seen two near no-hitters in the postseason, one from a rookie and one from a Cy Young Award winner. We’ve seen a number of walkoff wins and fantastic finishes. The managerial chess matches have been tremendous (how did Joe Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays keep an elimination game against Boston close with the worst bullpen in the playoffs and a starting pitcher who only got three outs? CRAZY!)
I love baseball in an irrational way, so I know some of you are shrugging me off right now. My advice: Just give it a shot—baseball in October is a different animal.