By Will Vandervort
Here is a position-by-position breakdown of Saturday’s 12:04 p.m. kickoff as No. 6 Clemson hosts The Citadel at Clemson Memorial Stadium.
Clemson enters the game with a 9-1 overall record as it will conclude the home part of its schedule. The Bulldogs are 5-6 overall and come into Death Valley with a three-game winning streak.
Quarterback: Tajh Boyd will make his last appearance in Death Valley. He will leave Clemson with 52 game, season and career records as well as several ACC records. Boyd has a chance to close out his Clemson career with a 19-2 record as a starter in Death Valley. The Bulldogs will counter with two quarterbacks in Ben Dupree and Aaron Miller, who have combined to throw for only 989 yards this season, 1,971 yards fewer than Boyd. The Bulldogs as a team are averaging 91.4 yards a game through the air. Dupree needs 27 rushing yards to move past Nehemiah Broughton (2001-04) for sixth most in school history as he currently sits in seventh with 2,610 yards on the ground. Advantage: Clemson
Running back: Clemson’s Roderick McDowell will play in his last game as a Tiger in Death Valley. He enters it with a legitimate chance to get 1,000 yards for the season with a big finish in his last three games. McDowell has 737 yards and four touchdowns this season. Running back Darien Robinson enters Saturday’s game with 471 rushes for 2,890 yards. He needs 110 yards to become just the fourth rusher in Bulldog history to reach the 3,000-yard plateau. Advantage: Clemson
Wide receiver / Tight ends: Could this be Sammy Watkins last game in Death Valley? There is a pretty good chance. Watkins has bounced back from what he viewed as a disappointing season last year and is having an All-American type year like he did as a freshman. Watkins already has seven 100-yard games this year and leads the ACC with 1,086 yards on 71 catches, which includes nine touchdowns. Martavis Bryant is also starting to play well and has 698 yards on 34 catches this season. The Citadel averages 91 yards a game through the air and its running back is the team’s best receiver. Advantage: Clemson
Offensive line: Isaiah Battle should get the start at right tackle again. For the first time since the Georgia game, the Tigers were physical up front as they rushed for 168 yards on a Yellow jackets team that was giving up only 103 on the ground coming in. Pass protection is still an issue on the right side of the line, but Battle is an improvement there. Look for Clemson to get a lot of guys in for some work early and often. The Bulldogs are very small and athletic up front. It will be interesting to see if they can handle Clemson’s big and athletic defensive line. Advantage: Clemson
Defensive line: Clemson continues to lead the nation in tackles for loss with 96 through 10 games. Like last week, look for the Tigers to attack The Citadel the same way they did Georgia Tech’s triple option. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett seemed to have lived in the Yellow Jackets’ back field. Defensive end Corey Crawford also had one of his better games especially the way he set the edge and stayed with his assignment. The Bulldogs are giving up 167 yards a game on the ground, while defensive ends Justin Oxendine and Derek Douglas have a combined seven sacks. Advantage: Clemson
Linebackers: Clemson did a great job attacking the gaps with their linebackers and really confusing Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee, especially early in the game. By doing that, they took away the dive guy and eliminated the most vital part of the triple option offense. Look for the same strategy today, especially considering the Bulldogs have no real threat of a passing game. The Bulldogs play a 4-2-5 scheme so linebackers Carl Robinson and James Riley are asked to make a lot of plays, which they do. They lead the Bulldogs with 60 and 47 tackles respectively. Advantage: Clemson
Secondary: The secondary had just one mistake in last week’s game when safety Travis Blanks took a bad angle on the 65-yard touchdown run by the Yellow Jackets in the third quarter. As for worrying about The Citadel putting up some passing yards, it’s safe to say the corners and safeties will be up all afternoon to help with the run. The Citadel secondary will be tested early and often by Boyd and its strong receiving corps. Defensive back Brandon McCladdie and Tevin Floyd have four of the teams eight interceptions. The Bulldogs are only allowing 208 yards a game through the air. Advantage: Clemson
Special teams: Chandler Catanzaro will play in his last home game on Saturday. He is considered one of the greatest kickers in Clemson history and has made 37 of his last 39 field goals, including a career long 51-yard kick against Georgia Tech last week. Punter Bradley Pinion needs two punts inside the 20-yard line to set a new Clemson record for punts downed inside the 20 in one season. He currently has 22, but more remarkably he has no touchbacks. The Citadel’s Terrance Martin is averaging 25.7 yards on kick returns with a long of 68 yards. Kicker Thomas Warren is 6 of 10 on field goals and has not tried a kick longer than 39 yards. Punter Eric Goins is averaging 40.8 yards per punt and has 12 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. Advantage: Clemson
Prediction: Clemson 55, The Citadel 0