Who has the edge? No. 2 Clemson at No. 17 Boston College
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — It will be a chilly night in Chestnut Hill, Mass., today as No. 2 Clemson visits 17th-ranked Boston College (8 p.m., ESPN) with the ACC’s Atlantic Division Championship on the line.
The Tigers (9-0, 6-0 ACC) come in as the heavy favorite, but some believe the chill in the air and expected 20 mph winds will give the hometown team an advantage at Alumni Stadium. There is a wind advisory for the Boston area from noon until 10 p.m., as winds will blow West 15 to 25 mph with gusts up to 50 mph at times.
However, the good news for Clemson is the strong winds are expected to develop by midday and last through the afternoon. The temperature is expected to be around 39 degrees at kickoff and will be 38 by the end of the game.
So, what does any of that mean? Not much because the game will be decided on what happens between the lines.
Who has the edge in this key Atlantic Division contest?
Clemson’s D-Line vs. BC’s O-Line: This is the matchup of all matchups. Strength vs. strength in a game that will decide the ACC’s Atlantic Division Championship. Everyone knows about Clemson’s defensive front, which is led by Massachusetts native Christian Wilkins, who is coming home tonight to play in front of a large contingency of friends and family. The Tigers lead the ACC and rank sixth nationally, allowing just 90.4 yards rushing per game. Even more impressive is the fact they’re holding opponents to 2.2 yards per carry, which leads the nation. On the other side, the Eagles are tall and big on the left side of the line. Left tackle Aaron Monteiro (6-7, 320) and left guard Sam Schmal (6-7, 315) lead a group that has four seniors. The Eagles rank fourth in the ACC, averaging 225.6 yards per game on the ground, while averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The challenge for BC will be trying to prevent Clemson’s talented defensive line from getting in the backfield and disrupting plays. Clemson ranks second nationally in tackles for loss with 89, while the Eagles’ offensive line has allowed 54 tackles behind the line (6.0/game) which ranks 10th in the ACC. The key matchup to watch is Clemson senior defensive end Austin Bryant (6-6, 280) go up against BC’s sophomore right tackle Ben Petrula (6-5, 325). Bryant has 22 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss, including 4 sacks. Advantage: Clemson
Clemson’s tackles vs. BC’s defensive ends: This is the matchup to watch when Clemson has the ball. The Tigers are led up front by All-American left tackle Mitch Hyatt (6-5, 310), who will be going up against senior defensive end Zach Allen (6-5, 285). Allen has 5.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss this season. On the other end, the Tigers right tackle, Tremayne Anchrum, could have his hands full with speed rusher Wyatt Ray (6-3, 255), who is tied for the ACC lead with 9 sacks. Ray has a total of 10.5 sacks. Anchrum has had his issues against speed rushers at times and the majority of the sacks the Tigers have allowed have come from the right side. Clemson has allowed just 12 sacks this season, including none in the last two games. Clemson held Florida State and co-ACC sacks leader Brian Burns to no sacks when they played two weeks ago down in Tallahassee. Advantage: Boston College
Trevor Lawrence vs. Boston College secondary: This is where the wind will supposedly play an advantage for the Eagles. However, what some don’t consider is the velocity Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence puts on the football. He throws the ball at 60 mph, the perfect arm strength for a quarterback to have in windy conditions. So, with that out of the way, let’s focus on what is happening when he tries to go up against a very talented Boston College secondary. The Eagles lead the ACC and rank fourth nationally in interceptions with 14. Right corner Hamp Cheevers leads the ACC with 5 picks, including one he returned for a touchdown. Left corner Taj-Amir Torres has two interceptions. However, opponents have thrown for 12 touchdowns, while the Eagles are yielding 221.8 yards through the air. It will be interesting to see how BC tries to confuse Lawrence, who is just a freshman, and is making his first true road test as a starter. The game was announced as a sellout earlier this week. Advantage: Boston College
Travis Etienne vs. BC’s A.J. Dillon: Etienne leads the ACC with 998 rushing yards. Dillon leads the ACC by averaging 128.1 yards per game. Etienne is averaging 8.6 yards per carry, which leads the ACC in running backs who have carried the ball at least 100 times. Dillon is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Etienne has rushed for 15 touchdowns, which leads the ACC. Dillion has rushed for 8. Etienne comes into the game healthy. Dillon is questionable, and many expect he will play with an injured ankle. Advantage: Clemson
Clemson’s linebacker vs. BC’s tight ends: The Eagles love to use the tight ends, which can sometimes be an issue for Clemson’s aggressive style of play. The Tigers love to blitz up the middle, which can be countered by slipping a tight end over the middle. BC also likes to freeze the linebackers with play-action, especially if the running game is working, and throw the ball to the tight end behind them. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables will try to be creative on how he covers up his schemes and coverages in hopes to confuse quarterback Anthony Brown and force him to make a mistake. Clemson’s linebackers did a good job overall against Texas A&M’s talented tight ends back in Week 2, limiting them to three catches for 69 yards. They will need a similar effort tonight, especially going against BC tight end Tommy Sweeney, who has 24 catches for 230 yards and 3 touchdowns. Advantage: Clemson
Bottom line: With game day in town and with the game being sold out, emotions will run strong early. That should carry Boston College for a little while. However, talent will eventually begin to play out, as long as Clemson takes care of the football. All week long, the Tigers have heard how the weather will hurt them and BC has an advantage. They’ve heard how physical BC is and how tough it will be to go against that team in the cold weather. Trevor Lawrence has heard how he has never played in the cold weather, especially up in the north. All of those things are just poking the Tigers and remember what happens when the Tiger gets poked one too many times. Look for Clemson to truly make a statement tonight and show the nation why they are true national championship contender.
Prediction: Clemson 45, Boston College 20