COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Second-ranked Clemson hits the road for the first time in 2018 and it could not be a more difficult place to play.
The Tigers head to College Station, Texas, where they will face the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field, Home of the 12th Man. More than 102,000 fans are expected for the sold-out game.
Waiting for Clemson is a familiar face in A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher, who left Florida State last December to take over the Aggies’ program. Fisher brought with him former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko, who coached at Wake Forest from 2014-’16.
Clemson enters the game as a 12-point favorite.
Where: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas
Records: Clemson 1-0, Texas A&M 1-0
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Radio: 105.5 in the Upstate (Clemson Tigers Radio Network); Sirius Radio Ch. 135
Latest Line: Clemson (minus-12)
Series: Texas A&M leads the series, 3-1
First meeting: Texas A&M won, 30-15, in 1973
Last meeting: Clemson won, 25-24, in 2005
Three story lines
How will the Tigers handle the hostile environment? Last year, Clemson went on the road and beat four-ranked teams, winning at No. 12 Virginia Tech, No. 14 Louisville, No. 20 NC State and No. 24 South Carolina. Clemson went on to win those games by an average margin of 17.8 points. Though the Aggies are not ranked, Saturday’s atmosphere will probably trump any of the four games above, especially with an expected crowd of 102,000 jamming into Kyle Field, hoping to pull off the biggest win in the history of the program.
How will Clemson use its quarterbacks? Dabo Swinney has already said he is going to play both quarterbacks—Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence. The question is how and when will he use Lawrence? There is no doubt the veteran, Bryant, will get the start given his experience of playing in big games and playing in big road games. But, Lawrence is going to play. Last week, he played in five series and he led the Tigers on five touchdown drives, including two that were 95 yards or longer. However, that was against Furman and that was in Death Valley. How will he handle a hostile crowd with 102,000 people yelling and pulling against him?
Can Texas A&M’s offensive line handle Clemson’s defensive front? This is perhaps the key to the whole game. The Aggies are extremely young up front, starting three sophomores in Dan Moore, Jared Hocker and Carson Green. The Tigers will try to exploit their inexperience with veteran linemen in defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, as well as defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant.
Texas A&M players to watch
Trayvon Williams, running back: Williams became the second Aggie with three 200-yard rushing games with a career-high 240 yards on 20 carries vs. Northwestern State. The 240 rushing yards rank No. 2 in school history behind Bob Smith’s 297 vs. SMU in 1950.
Kellen Mond, quarterback: Mond looked solid against Northwestern State. The sophomore threw for 184 yards and two touchdowns while completing 17 of 25 passes. He made a couple of good throws in very small windows.
Tyrel Dodson, linebacker: Dodson led the team in tackles in 2017 with 105 tackles (tied for 5th in the SEC) and he tied for the team lead with four stops vs. Northwestern State. At 242 pounds, he’s one of the biggest linebackers in school history.
Texas A&M scouting report
The Aggies will be seeking to snap a five-game losing streak to AP Top 25 teams dating back to the win over No. 9 Tennessee in 2016.
The Aggies will be seeking their 30th straight home victory over non-conference opponents. Texas A&M’s streak of non-conference home wins dates back to 2008 (last loss was 41-23 to Miami (Fla.).
The offense gained 700-plus yards for the 8th time in school history in last week’s win over Northwestern State and set a school record with 40 first downs. The Aggies logged 500 rushing yards and 200 passing yards for just the second time in history.
Senior place kicker Daniel LaCamera is four field goals away from becoming the eighth player in school with 40 or more field goals.
Senior linebacker Otaro Alaka needs two tackles to reach 200 for his career. He is Texas A&M’s leading active tackler by more than 60 stops.
Senior 12th Man (and fullback) Cullen Gillaspia has made 27 consecutive appearances as the Aggies’ 12th Man. He is chasing Sam Moeller’s school record of 39 starts in the Aggies’ hallowed No. 12 jersey.