What: Maryland travels to Death Valley after a bye week to take on Clemson in their biggest challenge of the season.
When: 12:00 pm
Where: Memorial Stadium, Death Valley, Clemson, SC
Gametime Weather: 67 and sunny
Where to Watch: Raycom/ACC Network
In a Turtleshell
Maryland Offense vs. Clemson Defense: Clemson's biggest asset on defense is Da'Quan Bowers, a monstrous defensive lineman that has finally begun to fulfill his massive expectations. He's an athletic monster and Justin Gilbert's absence at LT will really hurt Maryland for the first time all year. He's in the top 5 in the country in both sacks and TFL, and he's a guarantee to be in the backfield all day.
Elsewhere, Clemson's defense is just about as average as you can get...literally. They're 77th in run defense (just below average), 47th in pass defense (just below average), and 62nd in total defense (about as average as possible). They're a little better in points allowed (49th), a little worse in red zone defense (88th), and again, in the middle in turnovers forced (62nd). It's uncanny how they're neither spectacular nor bad at any particular thing, except Bowers' pass rushing ability.
If you couldn't tell, Maryland might want to focus on running the ball here. Bowers is a pass-rushing beast going up against a shaky offensive line, and Clemson's already significantly worse at run defense than pass defense. Auburn used the run to make a 17-point comeback on the Tigers; Miami rushed for upwards of 170 yards, too. Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett may be key here.
And yes, Maryland's getting Jamarr Robinson back from injury. I still expect Danny O'Brien to start at QB, but Robinson will (and probably should) get some time. I wouldn't mind him going with some Wildcat today (or Tony Logan) to take Bowers out of the game for a few plays.
Clemson Offense vs. Maryland Defense: The big development of the week for Clemson has been the advent of Andre Ellington's playing time. Formerly splitting time with fellow RB Jamie Harper, the quicker Ellington is apparently on his way to becoming the primary back for Clemson, and with good reason: the sophomore is a big play threat and is averaging over 6.5 yards per carry. Harper isn't ineffective, either; a bigger, more bruising back, he's averaging 4.0 yards/carry himself, which isn't too shabby. But Ellington's the one you need to worry about: Shakin the Southland said he might be a better pure RB than C.J. Spiller, and that's scary.
The good news is that there's not a lot else going on offensively for the Tigers. Kyle Parker is back after a successful freshman campaign, but life without Spiller and Jacoby Ford is a lot tougher. Parker's still doing what he's always done - be an effective, unspectacular passer that relies on his running backs - but the wide receivers are making it very tough for him to be anything more than that. The Tigers' WRs are inexperienced and very raw, and it's really limited Clemson to the running game. Of course, that's not terrible; Clemson's good at running. But it does make the offense one-dimensional.
(For the record, Clemson's offensive line looks very solid; they're in the top 25 for both sacks allowed and tackles for loss allowed.)
Maryland did a pretty good job containing Noel Devine outside of his 50-yarder earlier in the year, and Ellington will pose a similar problem. Joe Vellano was crucial in that game; he's great at disrupting plays and getting into the backfield, and will be again. Luckily, Maryland's ragged corners should get a nice little break against Clemson's young wideouts.
Keys in Cliches:
- Keep O'Brien (or Robinson) Off His Back. Da'Quan Bowers is reaching another level as a pass-rusher. He'll be double-teamed a lot, and probably held just as much. But it's necessary, for obvious reasons: O'Brien won't be asked to throw 35 times, but he will be asked to throw, and it's paramount that the passing game is established as at least a minor threat.
- Contain Ellington. I said it with Devine earlier in the year: stopping him will be hard, but all you really need to do is just contain. If Ellington can be kept in check - below, say, 4.5 yards/carry, which would be a feat indeed - Clemson will need to, to some extent, lean on the passing game.
- Special Teams Needs to Come Up Big. Look, Clemson's literally three plays away from being 4-1 with wins over Auburn (at Auburn) and UNC, with the sole loss coming against Miami. Saying Tony Logan will need to bust a punt return or two is a bit of an understatement.
Players to Watch:
- Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson - That's about as obvious as can be, but it's still true. Ellington's the star of the offense for the moment, and shutting him down is the key to shutting down the Tigers. It's easier said than done.
- Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson - See above. Entirely obvious, but again, he's the best player on the team. If Bowers has a big day, Maryland will be in a tough situation.
- Davin Meggett, RB, Maryland - Meggett's passed Scott in my mind, and that's not meant as a (big) slight to Scott. Sure, DRS isn't quite as electric as before, but Meggett just seems consistent as can be. The Terps need to be able to run today.
- Kenny Tate, S, Maryland - Vellano is the runner-up for this, but I get the feeling that Ellington will get to the second level a little more than Devine did for WVU thanks to Clemson's improved line. If he does, the secondary will need to tackle better than they have the past couple of games. Tate will not only need to do that, but also provide Maryland with a big play or two.
Prediction: Clemson is honoring C.J. Spiller at halftime of the game, slightly ironic considering Spiller's 1-3 record against the Terps.History would indicate Maryland being a threat in this game; they're historically a thorn in Clemson's side, Spiller's especially. But this Tigers team is better than their record indicates, and they're eager to show it. Maryland's not in a good situation here. Clemson wins, 28-13.