Boston College has one of the ACC’s best rushing attacks, averaging 225.6 yards per game. Second-ranked Clemson has one of the nation’s best rushing defenses, allowing just 90.4 yards per game.
The Eagles have one of the nation’s best running backs in A.J. Dillon, who leads the ACC in rushing yards per game at 128.1 yards. The Tigers have the nation’s best defensive line, led by seniors Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell, along with junior defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence.
Clemson, who will visit No. 17 Boston College on Saturday (8 p.m., ABC), leads the nation in rushing yards allowed per carry at 2.2, while ranking second in tackles for loss with 89.
In other words, Saturday’s game in Chestnut Hill, Mass., will be strength vs. strength in what should be the most compelling matchup in a game that will perhaps decide the Atlantic Division’s representative in next month ACC Championship Game.
“Well, we lead the country right now I think in yards-per-carry defense. I think we’re only giving up two 2.0 something a carry,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “They’ve been very consistent (stopping the run). We’ve done a good job up front. That’s the main thing, just consistency in their performance from start to finish.”
The Tigers (9-0, 6-0 ACC) have been consistent since the beginning of the year. The most yards they have allowed in a game came at Wake Forest on Oct. 6, a game in which the Demon Deacons did not get their yards until after Clemson built a 35-0 lead and the first- and second-team defenses were basically done for the day. Wake Forest had minus-13 yards rushing midway through the third quarter.
Since then, the Tigers have held their last three opponents to a combined 164 rushing yards – 54.7 yards per game.
“We’re going to need that,” Swinney said. “We’re going to need to be who we are Saturday night. These guys know how to run the football. That is for sure.”
As consistent as Clemson has been at stopping the run, the Eagles (7-2, 4-1 ACC) have been just as consistent at running the football. Only twice have they been held under 200 yards in a game, both losses. Also, in the second loss at NC State, they ran for 120 yards without the services of Dillon, who was out due to a sprained ankle.
Dillon reaggravated his ankle in last week’s win at Virginia Tech and Boston College head coach Steve Addazio said Wednesday Dillon is day-to-day and will be a game-time decision. As for the Tigers, they are preparing as if Dillon will play.
“We’ve been challenged with many different styles of play, whether it be triple option, spread, you name it. This is another style of play that’s going to be a big challenge for us.”