By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
No. 9 Clemson battles Maryland one last time in the ACC Saturday afternoon.
When the Terrapins have the ball: With C.J. Brown out for this game, the Terps will turn to former Blue Ridge High School (Landrum, S.C.) quarterback Caleb Rowe, who came in for the injured Brown in last week’ loss to Wake Forest and threw for 207 yards and a touchdown in the second half. Rowe will be making his second career start as he stepped in for the injured Brown a few weeks back in a win over Virginia. He threw for 332 yards in the victory. Rowe will be without the services of Maryland’s top two receivers as Stefon Diggs and Deon Long suffered season-ending leg injuries in the loss at Wake Forest. Four of Maryland’s top five receivers will be missing in action. Rowe will also be without the services of starting running back Brandon Ross and starting tight end Dave Stinebaugh. To put those numbers into perspective, Maryland will be without almost 70 percent of its rushing yardage, about 64 percent of its passing yardage, and more than 71 percent of its receiving yardage from this season against the Tigers.
When the Tigers have the ball: The injuries do not stop on offense. Maryland’s top tackler (L.A. Goree) and leader in interceptions (Dexter McDougle) will also miss Saturday’s game. Seven other defensive players are also listed out and three others (defensive lineman Zeka Riser, linebacker Matt Robinson and linebacker Alex Twine) are listed as probable. Despite all of those injuries, the Terps rank 25th nationally in total defense (354.4) and 27th in rushing defense (123.7).
Keep an eye on:
Maryland wide receiver Levern Jacobs: With Diggs and Long both out for the season, Jacobs becomes the Terps’ new big play threat. Last week, he opened the second half with a 56-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. For the season, Jacobs has 13 catches for 245 yards and is averaging 18.8 yards per catch.
Intangibles: Clemson has had a kickoff return for a touchdown against Maryland in three of the last four meetings. C.J. Spiller had a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown at Maryland in 2009. He finished the return wearing just one shoe. In 2010 Andre Ellington had an 87 yard kickoff return for a score at Clemson. Then in 2011, Sammy Watkins had an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the Clemson win at Maryland. It is the only time in history Clemson has had a kickoff return for a score against the same team three straight years. Clemson has not had a kick return for a touchdown since Watkins return in 2011.
To win, the Terrapins must…
Play above their head: When you are missing 70 percent of your total offense, it’s hard to think there is any key to the game that will win the game more than this. The Terps have been decimated by injuries and when you are missing your starting quarterback, running back, starting tight end and two starting wide receivers expectations are not that high.
Create turnovers: The Terps have created only 13 turnovers this year but Clemson has been careless with the ball as of late, committing eight of its 10 turnovers in the last three weeks, including a season-high four in the loss to Florida State. With an offense that is limping coming into Saturday’s game, turnovers and a short field can go a long way in pulling off the upset.
To win, the Tigers must…
Take care of the football: It is as simple as that. If the Tigers prevent Maryland from having a short field and take care of the football, Clemson will win this game. The Tigers had only six combined turnovers in the first six games and won the turnover battle in five of those games, they tied the other. Last week, they lost four turnovers, were outscored 24-0 off turnovers and lost the game big. You do the math. Swinney’s teams are 29-3 when they win the turnover battle.
Get an early score: Coming off not only the loss, but the disappointing way in which they played, the Tigers need to have something good happen early in this game in order to get their confidence back. It does not matter how it occurs whether it is on offense, defense or special teams, but anything positive happening early in this game will go a long way towards a victory.
Have some fun Tajh: Now that he is out of the Heisman Trophy race, his mom is doing better, and those ridiculous gambling allegations are now behind him, Boyd can concentrate on being Tajh Boyd again and go have some fun. Sure he has a sore ankle, but it will be good for Clemson to see No. 10 come out and sling the ball around like he is capable of doing, while showing off his famous smile in the process.