I'll admit it, I'm getting a late start on this week's preview, but it's been a busy couple of days. To make it up to you, I'll try to make this one lucid and understandable. No guarantees, though.
Maryland has fared pretty well against the Tigers in the past few years, when they were headed by Tommy Bowden. But Maryland's comeback win last year in Death Valley was one of the many straws that broke the Tigers' back, and Dabo Swinney (100% certified awesome name) now heads the program.
By all accounts, Swinney appears to be able to both recruit and coach, something Bowden struggled with at times. For that reason alone, expect Clemson, who has more talent than Maryland, just like they did last year, to come out focused and ready. As Dinich puts it, this year's Clemson is "more confident, more physical". That spells bad news for Maryland, whose upset last year was fueled by a non-existent, wilting second half performance on the part of the Tigers.
To break down the game in easy digestible bites of confidence vs. fear:
Why You Should Feel Confident:
Well, C.J. Spiller is a bit shaken up, so he'll probably be less effective than usual. It's at home, which can't hurt. Maryland has a history of bouncing back from bad losses (though I expected that bounce-back to come last week, not this week). A mainstream media member is picking Maryland. The biggest weakness for the Tigers is their WR corps, so it's a good bet the Nolan Carroll-less secondary won't get killed through the air. To compound that, Kyle Parker hasn't been spectacular at QB.
That is all.
Why You Should Feel Scared:
Too many reasons to list. First off, C.J. Spiller, even when injured, is an amazing talent and possibly the best home-run threat in the entire ACC. It doesn't really matter that Parker has thrown four interceptions (hey, Chris Turner nearly accomplished that in a single game!) with only five TDs, or that his completeness percentage is 47%; Clemson runs the ball, and runs it well.
Spiller is rested by Jamie Harper, a former five star who plays the role of replacing James Davis and doesn't do too terrible a job of it, and Andre Ellington, a former four star who is reminiscent of Spiller himself and is averaging 6.6 yards per carry.
Throw that up against Maryland's improving-but-weak defense, the same one ranked 110 in rush defense and is averaging 202 yards against, and the results could be disastrous. It's not irrational to expect another 17 tackle day from Wujciak, which would be a bad thing..
It gets worse. Clemson's biggest strength is actually their very solid defense, which is 26th in total defense (Maryland's is 103rd). They're particularly stout against the pass, not a good sign for a team that has relied on passing lately (28 rushing yards against Rutgers, anyone?). They're also tied for 30th in turnovers, which means they'll probably shoot up to 5th after the game. The Tigers have guys like DaQuan Bowers and Ricky Sapp (two DEs), who are extremely talented, if under-producing a bit (seriously, Bowers was the #1 player in the nation a couple years ago). This defense could completely control Maryland's offense if the Terps play anything like they have in the past four games.
Oh, and we've already established that they're focused this year, so that's off the table, too. And if you're looking for a comparison, Clemson beat MTSU by 23. This should be a loss, no doubt.
Prediction: It should be a loss, but Ralph Friedgen's Terps have a history of pulling out these types of games. Don't be surprised if Maryland stays close, which would be accomplished by solid, fundamental football and driving Da'Rel Scott into the ground. On the flip side, don't be surprised if Clemson runs away with it, dominating both sides of the ball. This Clemson team is miles better than any team Maryland has faced to date, with the possible exception of Cal. I believe Maryland can win, but it's not happening today. Clemson 31, Maryland 17.