The top-ranked Clemson Tigers will get their first test of the season Saturday when they host No. 12 Texas A&M at 3:30 p.m., inside Clemson’s Death Valley.
These two teams played an instant classic last year, as the Tigers hung on for a two-point victory when K’Von Wallace intercepted Kellen Mond’s two-point conversion attempt with 46 seconds to play.
Several Aggie players have come out this week and guaranteed they will leave Death Valley with a victory, while the Tigers have stayed quiet.
What’s going to happen? We will find out tomorrow at 3:30 p.m.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.
Records: Clemson 1-0, 1-0 ACC; Texas A&M 1-0, 0-0 SEC
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
TV: ABC (Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe)
Radio: Clemson Tigers Network (Don Munson, Tajh Boyd, Tim Bourret, Reggie Merriweather) **Sirius XM 81** Touchdown Radio (Brett Dolan, Gino Torretta).
Latest Line: Clemson minus-17.5
Series History: Texas A&M leads 3-2
Streak: Clemson has won 2 straight
Last meeting: September 8, 2018, Clemson 28, Texas A&M 26
Three story lines
Last year, Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond threw for 430 yards and 3 touchdowns, including 202 of those yards in the fourth quarter in nearly leading the Aggies back from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit. However, Mond was fortunate in the game, too. Clemson dropped four potential interceptions in the and two of Mond’s touchdown passes came off great plays from his receivers, while the other bounced off K’Von Wallace’s hands and into the arms of an Aggies’ receiver in the end zone. Will Mond be as fortunate in the Valley? Or will Clemson’s defense make those plays this year and not allow A&M to hang around?
Clemson linebacker Chad Smith and James Skalski will be tested early and often by A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher. The Tigers’ linebackers are susceptible to the screen game and wheel routes out of the backfield and no coach draws up better plays with screens to the running backs and tight ends than Fisher. Look for the Aggies to go these plays early and often or until the Tigers can prove they can stop it. The good news for the Tigers is A&M does not have a Dalvin Cook in the backfield.
A&M’s goal is to stop the run and that will not be any different in this game. Last year, they held Clemson to a season-low 115 yards rushing. This will likely be the poison they use to try and slow down Clemson’s offense. They will also employ 6-foot-4, 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-1 defensive backs to try and counter the Tigers’ tall and very physical 6-foot-4 wide receivers in Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, Diondre Overton, Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson. This should be the game’s most intriguing matchup.
Texas A&M Players to Watch
Kellen Mond, QB: He is one of two returning FBS QBs to have 3,000-plus passing and 400-plus rushing yards in 2018. Texas’ Sam Ehlinger also did the same last season. Mond needs 324 passing yards to become the ninth Aggie QB to reach the 5,000-yard mark in career passing yards. He needs 5 passing touchdowns to become the eighth Aggie to reach 40 passing scores.
Braden Mann, P: He became Texas A&M’s first winner of the Ray Guy Award after leading the FBS in gross punting and solidifying himself in the NCAA record books in three categories last season. A unanimous All-American and the 2018 SEC Special Teams Player of the Year, Mann averaged 50.98 yards per punt, the best mark in college football history by nearly a yard (min. 36 punts). Mann owns the NCAA record for the most 60-or-more yard punts in a single season as 14 of his 50 punts in 2018 travelled 60-ormore yards, including a career-long 82-yarder against Kentucky. Mann broke the NCAA record with the highest gross punt average in a single game at 60.8 on five boots against Alabama, breaking the record of 60.4 that was originally set by BYU’s Lee Johnson vs. Wyoming, in 1983, and matched by Quinn Sharp of Oklahoma State vs. Nebraska in 2010.
Jhamon Ausbon, WR: Against Texas State, the junior eclipsed the 1,000 receiving yards mark, as his 75-yard game upped his career total to 1,021 yards.
A&M’s offense will find its way into the Clemson end zone a few times, as no one knows how to attack Brent Venables’ defense better than Fisher. However, the Aggies will have trouble stopping Clemson as well. Look for quarterback Trevor Lawrence and receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross to have big games on Saturday.
Clemson 49, Texas A&M 35
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