The Tigers head north this week to face Boston College in the yearly battle for the O'Rourke-McFadden Trophy. The Tigers have won both games since the trophy was created, including a 25-7 win over the Eagles last year in Death Valley. Thanks to N.C. State's win over Florida State on Thursday night, Clemson likely controls its own destiny in the Atlantic Division race. They face another must-win this weekend against a Boston College team that has lost five in a row. Let's take a look.
Clemson offense vs. Boston College defense
Clemson had its most balanced offensive effort of the year against Georgia Tech, and it paid off with a 14-point win. Kyle Parker appears to have found a new favorite target in true freshman DeAndre Hopkins, who had four catches for 50 yards against the Jackets. Jaron Brown has provided a decent second option. These two will have to continue to make plays as teams are still focusing on bottling up tight end Dwayne Allen. Andre Ellington had a career game last week and is only getting better, which is scary for Boston College. Jamie Harper had his best rushing game of the year as well. The Eagles strength on defense lies with their linebackers. Sophomore Luke "Superman" Kuechly leads the nation with an impossible 97 tackles (13.9 per game). True freshman Kevin Pierre-Louis is making a case for ACC Freshman of the Year with 43 tackles, and Mark Herzlich is back after his battle with cancer. The Boston College defense took a hit when it lost senior defensive end Alex Albright for the year with a fractured fibula. This defense isn't on par with recent years, allowing opponents to pass for over 230 yards per game. The secondary is pretty experienced, though, led by senior safety Wes Davis (36 tackles).
Key Matchup: Ellington vs. Boston College linebackers
Ellington is Clemson's top playmaker on offense, and he could have a big day against a Boston College front that is not as good as in years past. If the Clemson offensive line can open holes like it did against Georgia Tech, it will be up to Ellington to make Kuechly and Co. miss.
Boston College offense vs. Clemson defense
The Eagles have finally settled on a quarterback, true freshman Chase Rettig, but that hasn't solved their problems in the passing game. The Eagles lost top receiver Colin Larmond Jr. before the season and haven't been able to replace him adequately. Bobby Swigert has been the most consistent wideout, totaling 347 yards on 21 catches with three touchdowns. The Boston College offensive line is one of the nation's best, led by left tackle Anthony Castanzo, a top-notch NFL prospect. They love to open holes for junior running back Montel Harris. Harris, the ACC's top rusher, is a workhorse that is averaging over 20 carries per game. The Clemson defense was phenomenal against Georgia Tech, holding the Jackets to their lowest point and yardage totals of the season. Da'Quan Bowers literally looks like a Heisman candidate (his numbers are comparable to Ndamukong Suh's at this point last season, just saying), leading the nation in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (17.5). The rest of the defensive line continues to play well to accompany Bowers' efforts. The Tigers look better in the secondary and are even establishing some depth with the emergence of young players like Jonathan Meeks. Heck, even the linebackers looked pretty good last week, as redshirt freshman Quandon Christian had his coming out party.
Key Matchup: Boston College offensive line vs. Clemson defensive line
Boston College is going to run the ball, and, if you stop them, they are going to run some more. They want to pound it out with Harris for four yards a play and methodically beat you down. That strategy hasn't worked out so far this year, but there's no reason it can't start to work on Saturday. The Clemson D-linemen are going to have to win their battles and stop the run. And when they force the pass, they have to get to the quarterback.
Clemson's kicking and punting were good again last week (except for one shanked field goal). The punt return game has been good no matter who is back there, and Ellington is proving that his shifty running style is just as effective on kickoff returns. Boston College has a very consistent kicker in redshirt freshman Nate Freese, and punter Ryan Quigley has been very solid also. The Eagles kick and punt return units have been nothing special so far this year.
Boston College is one of those teams that just seems to give the Tigers trouble every year. But with the Eagles mired in a five-game losing streak and Clemson finally putting it all together, I don't see the Eagles having much of a chance this year. The O'Rourke-McFadden Trophy stays in Clemson for another year.
Clemson 28 Boston College 10