Why It Matters: Because getting a win with a linebacker at quarterback over Clemson on the road would be big for recruiting momentum. It's tough to sell a 4-8 season, even with all the problems Maryland had, but 5-7 sounds a lot nicer, and recruits will be a lot more willing to listen about all of those things that kept Maryland from postseason play.The phrase "beat Clemson on the road with a linebacker at quarterback" will resonate.
When + Where: 3:30 at Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.
Series History: 26-32-2. That's actually significantly closer than I anticipated, but of course it's helped by a strong run of results in the Claiborne era.
Odds: Clemson at ... wait for it ... -31.
I'll put that again: -31.
Yikes, but would you really take Maryland to cover that spread?
At a Glance
Last Time Out: Maryland got walloped by Georgia Tech in less-than-flattering fashion. Clemson? They took Duke to the woodshed, racking up an extraordinary 718 total yards to win it 56-20; it was over in the first quarter. Maryland's defense better come to play.
Season So Far: Vintage Clemson, more or less. They're 8-1 and a top-15 team, but lost by two scores to Florida State, which then turned around and lost to N.C. State. They've torn through pretty much everyone else they've faced so far this year, though, and have won the last five 228-112, averaging upwards of 45 points a game. In fact, should they win out and beat South Carolina in Columbia, there's a decent, admittedly-not-that-great shot they'll make a BCS bowl as an at-large bid. The only thing missing to make this as Clemson-y as possible is a traditional disappointing loss that makes everyone remember that Dabo Swinney is their head coach. It's really unlikely to come on Saturday, but everyone really, really wants it to.
Notable Stats: As you'd expect with an offense masterminded by Chad Morris and spearheaded by the likes of Tajh Boyd, Nuk Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Andre Ellington, this is one explosive team. They're 2nd in the ACC and 7th nationally in scoring offense, as well as 2nd and 9th in total O. Quite a lot of that does come from the run game, but this is arguably as good a passing offense as you'll see at this level, first in the ACC in total passing by a country mile and 10th nationally behind a whole host of Air Raid attacks. It is, of course, driven by Hopkins, who's sixth nationally in receiving yardage and a hugely dangerous weapon. And while the defense isn't exactly impressive, they've been pretty solid all season long, at 4th in the ACC in scoring D and 7th in total D, which is more than enough cover for that huge offense.
As a side note, they're first in the ACC in 30+ yard plays. Maryland better figure out their safeties, stat.
Know the Name: Tajh Boyd. Watkins and Hopkins get a lot of hype, and deservedly so, but Boyd's been the biggest piece of the puzzle for Clemson's offense this season. A capable runner and big-armed passer, Boyd's been smart, efficient, accurate, and above-all productive. This will be the biggest test for Brian Stewart's defense since West Virginia - and they've gotten significantly more battered since Week 4.
Probably Wrong Conclusions After a Fleeting Glance: Much to my chagrin, this particular iteration of Clemson doesn't seem like a great Clemsonin' candidate. Of course, the obvious comeback is that a Clemsoning comes when it's least expected, but the defense seems completely coherent and the offense is fearsome. Unlike a few previous Clemson teams, there's no big weakness that can clearly be exploited - the biggest is that their defense isn't great, but is Maryland's offense really going to come close to testing them? That's the big factor in all this: Maryland itself. Because if they play like they did last Saturday, Clemson can Clemson and still win by two scores. You could see Maryland start to break down against Georgia Tech, and while I really hope it doesn't happen three more times to close the year, there's a chance it does. Maryland's guys have gone through a lot, and it just looks like too much to expect them to have enough in the tank to make a game of this.
But then again, it's Clemson, so you never really know.