When he first saw the schedule, after committing to play football at Texas A&M last December, tight end Jace Sternberger could not believe his eyes. There they were, one of the top teams in the country sitting right there for the taking in Week 2.
“That’s a big opportunity to open some eyes,” he said.
Clemson, of course, is that opportunity as the Aggies welcome the second-ranked Tigers to a Texas-sized welcome at Kyle Field, where more than 100,000 fans will be happy to greet them.
“I think the energy is going to be phenomenal at Kyle Field,” A&M quarterback Kellen Mond said in The Greenville News. “I think it is going to be the best atmosphere that I have ever played in.”
Though the atmosphere may be great, the team the Aggies (1-0) are playing will as well. Though they are coming off an impressive 59-7 win off FCS foe Northwestern State, a game in which they ran for 503 yards and totaled more than 700, what Clemson brings to Kyle Field on Saturday night will be a little more challenging.
What the Tigers bring is one of the best defenses in college football, along with the best defensive line in the country. It all starts with preseason All-Americans Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Clelin Ferrell, along with Austin Bryant, up front.
“Clemson’s D-line is dynamic,” A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “They can beat you with power. They can beat you with speed. They have good experience. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
In the Tigers’ season-opening win over Furman, the defensive line was responsible for five of their 10 tackles for loss.
But it is just not the Clemson defense that has Fisher and his boys concerned. The Tigers are loaded with weapons on the offensive side of the ball, too. Wide receivers Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers, Hunter Renfrow and Justyn Ross are on the outside. Running backs Travis Etienne, Tavien Feaster and Lyn-J Dixon can take the football to the house on any given play, and then there is a two-headed monster at quarterback in Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence.
“They’re a complete football team on offense, defense and special teams,” Fisher said. “Look at the record. Look at the results and what they’ve done.”
Last week, Clemson (1-0) totaled 531 yards, while Bryant and Lawrence combined to throw for 263 yards and four touchdowns on 19-of-31 passing. Bryant also ran 35 yards for another touchdown, which brings a different element the Aggies need to stop altogether.
“As crazy as it sounds, they’re probably more similar than they are different in some ways,” Fisher said. “You say one throws it better than the other, but the other has been very productive at times. Kelly has been in big games, and Trevor is a talented guy. They’re both good in all aspects.”
And as Sternberger said, it is a great opportunity for the Aggies in Week 2.
“Their track record speaks for itself,” the tight end said about Clemson. “They’re a great team. Coach (Dabo) Swinney does a great job with the program. Their defense is sound. Their offense is sound.”