One of the country’s most anticipated non-conference matchups will be held today at Clemson’s Death Valley as the top-ranked Tigers host No. 12 Texas A&M for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on ABC.
The Tigers own the nation’s longest winning streak at 16 game’s, while the Aggies come in on a 5-game winning streak of their own.
Last year, Clemson hung on for a 28-26 victory at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas, as K’Von Wallace intercepted Kellen Mond’s two-point conversion attempt with 46 seconds to play. Mond led the Aggies on a ferocious comeback by throwing for 202 of his 430 yards in the fourth quarter. Two of his three touchdown passes came in the final 15 minutes.
What does this year’s game have in store for us and who has the edge?
Clemson’s wide receivers vs. A&M’s secondary: This is a matchup everyone needs to pay attention to. The defensive backs at A&M has are 6-foot-2 or taller. They are big guys. They are physical. They take pride in getting in receivers’ faces and having their hands on their chest. But Clemson’s wide receiving corps averages about 6-foot-4. They are big guys that also like to play physical. A&M had four interceptions last week after having just six all year in 2018. Clemson is hungry. It did not throw the ball much against Georgia Tech because it did not need to. It will today and I think the receivers will respond in a big way. Advantage: Clemson
Travis Etienne vs. A&M’s defensive line: Last week, Etienne rushed for 205 yards and 3 touchdowns in leading Clemson to an easy victory over Georgia Tech. The Tigers rushed for 411 yards overall. Texas A&M, which is replacing six starters on its front seven, held Texas State to 8 rushing yards in its season opener. Something has to give, right? Last year, Etienne had 8 rushes for 44 yards against A&M, a season low. He is a slippery player and can break through arm tackles. A&M takes pride in its run defense. They ranked third last year against the run and held Clemson to a season-low 115 yards. But it is a new defensive front and Clemson has a veteran offensive line that knows how to move a pile. Clemson’s offensive line is not Texas State’s. Advantage: Clemson
Tigers’ D-Line vs. A&M’s offensive line: I’m not sure why offensive lineman Jared Hocker wanted to make the Clemson defensive front mad, but he did. In case you missed it, this past Monday Hocker told the A&M media that they were going to upset Clemson in the Valley today. It is okay to be confident, but that is not something you wanted to share with the media and allow Clemson to hear it. Hocker’s comment will fire up the defense, which will look to shut down the Aggies’ strong running game, while also applying pressure to Mond. However, like Clemson on the other side of the ball, the Aggies have a veteran offensive line and have a clear advantage going against the Tigers’ youngsters up front. Advantage: Texas A&M
Kellen Mond vs. the Clemson secondary
Like A&M’s, Clemson’s defensive back are extremely tall and physical. They are also very experienced. The Tigers return three starters in the backfield and that is not counting reserve safeties Nolan Turner and Denzel Johnson. This is one of the game’s Clemson’s secondary has had circled on the calendar during the off-season. All they heard last year was how Mond embarrassed them and pointed out how bad they were. The secondary is anxious to prove everyone wrong, especially after dropping four potential picks in last year’s game that could have changed the outcome of the game very dramatically. Mond completed 23-of-40 passes for 430 yards and three touchdowns. He extended several plays with his legs, which allowed Aggie receivers to get open down the field. Though the Tigers will be ready, I still think Mond is going to be a tough out. Advantage: Texas A&M
Trevor Lawrence vs. A&M’s defense: From a passing standpoint, Trevor Lawrence had perhaps his worst game at Clemson. He threw two interceptions and he could have thrown two more. A&M had four interceptions in its win over Texas State, but it allowed the Bobcats to complete 29 of 46 passes for 211 yards. It’s hard to imagine Lawrence’s is going to struggle two weeks in a row, plus he is more of a prolific passer than anyone Texas State threw at the Aggies last week. Look for Lawrence to bounce back, especially if A&M plays press man, and look like he did in the Tigers’ wins over Notre Dame and Alabama in the College Football Playoff. Advantage: Clemson
Bottom Line: This game will be closer than the experts think, and it should be a high scoring game as well. Clemson and A&M both have just one starter back on their from seven. Both teams are talented on the defensive side of the ball, but the offenses are too, and they are a little more experienced, especially on the offensive lines. Look for Etienne and Texas A&M running back Joshua Corbin to have big games.
Prediction: Clemson 49, Texas A&M 35
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