By Will Vandervort
Here is a quick look at what matchups to look for, the intangibles and what the eighth-ranked Tigers must do in order to get its eighth straight victory away from Death Valley.
When the Cavaliers have the ball: Quarterback David Watford will try and test the Clemson secondary often. Last week, the sophomore threw for 376 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Georgia Tech. He also threw one interception, but he put the ball up a school-record 61 times, while completing 43 passes. Wide receivers Darius Jennings and Tim Smith established a first in Virginia history with two receivers catching at least 10 passes in the same game. Jennings had a career-high 13, while Jennings had 10. Running back Kevin Parks is one of the best runners in the ACC with 614 yards and nine touchdowns.
When the Tigers have the ball: Tajh Boyd seemed to gain his confidence back in the second half of the Maryland game, especially in the fourth quarter when he ran for a touchdown and threw a 41-yard pass to Martavis Bryant. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris was stubborn when it came to running the football. Even without Boyd for three quarters, he was determined to run the football with Roderick McDowell and Zac Brooks. With Brooks banged up (shoulder) look for Boyd to get more carries this week from the quarterback position.
Keep an eye on:
Virginia running back Kevin Parks: The Cavaliers top running back has started all eight games. He scored the game-winner against BYU this year and rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns in a win against VMI. He has very good hands coming out of the backfield as well. He ranks second on the team with 29 catches for 289 yards and a touchdown. His longest catch this season is 54 yards. His longest run of the season is 61 yards.
Intangibles: Boyd returns to his home state for the final time as Clemson’s quarterback today. The senior from Hampton, Va., and Phoebus High School has played just one game in the state of Virginia previously and it was a memorable one. In 2011, as a sophomore, Boyd led Clemson to a 23-3 victory at Virginia Tech. The Hokies were ranked 10th in the nation by USA Today entering the game. Boyd finished his career with a 3-0 record against Virginia Tech as he also gained victory over the Hokies by a 38-10 score in the 2011 ACC Championship game, then quarterbacked the Tigers to a 38-17 win at Clemson last year. So Boyd is 3-0 vs. Virginia Tech. This will be his first game against Virginia.
To win, the Cavaliers must…
Do not turnover the football: Virginia has not taken care of the football too well. The Cavaliers have turned the ball over 16 times through eight games; the second most figure in the ACC. Virginia has nine interceptions and has lost seven fumbles thus far. By the way, the Tigers have gained 20 turnovers thus far this season—which leads the ACC—including 13 interceptions, which ranks second in the conference.
To win, the Tigers must…
Run the football: Virginia is giving up 182.0 yards per game on the ground. The Tigers are averaging 175.6 yards. It seems as if the Tigers are trying to run the football more, but there is a question if the offensive line is good enough to provide the kind of holes needed to be successful in the ground game. Roderick McDowell rushed for 161 yards and the Tigers as a team rushed for 236 yards overall in their win over Maryland last week. The big key for the Clemson running game will be based on Tajh Boyd and his ability to run the football. When Boyd can run the football with consistency, the entire offense is better.