Clemson made it through its daunting three-game stretch against ranked opponents unscathed, and now the Tigers will have to prove they can win the games people actually expect them to win. Boston College limps in to Death Valley 1-4 and winless against FBS competition. And while the Eagles already have losses to Wake Forest and Duke on their resume, we've seen what can happen when Clemson has taken them lightly in the past. Let's take a look at the matchups.
Clemson offense vs. Boston College defense
Chad Morris' offense was finally challenged against Virginia Tech, by both the Hokies and the weather, but Clemson still managed to put up a decent amount of points. Tajh Boyd wasn't sharp, but he made big throws when he had to, namely a 32-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Allen to give the Tigers a 14-point lead. After being a huge factor in the team's first four games, freshman receiver Sammy Watkins was held in check by the Hokies. The focus Virginia Tech put on Watkins, however, allowed Allen and Jaron Brown to have good days catching the ball. Andre Ellington rushed for a touchdown but still doesn't look like himself after gaining just 40 yards on 16 carries. Freshman Mike Bellamy did a good job relieving Ellington and even had a nice touchdown run himself. Expect Clemson to revert back to the pass in this game, and for Watkins to return to 100-yard-plus status. Boston College's strength on defense is always its front seven, and this year is no different. Defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey spearheads a defensive line with size in the middle and quickness on the edges. Where the Eagles really excel is linebacker, with tackling machine Luke Kuechly and stud sophomore Kevin Pierre-Louis anchoring the unit. Cornerback Donnie Fletcher has good size and is an All-ACC candidate.
Key matchup: Clemson wide receivers vs. Boston College secondary
As previously mentioned, the Eagles strength on defense is its front seven. With that in mind, expect Clemson to turn to the passing game quicker and more often than it normally would. Chad Morris wants to establish run, and he should. But at some point, you have to get the ball to Watkins and Co. and let them exploit Boston College's weakness.
Boston College offense vs. Clemson defense
Simply put, Boston College has not been good on offense this season. They also learned recently that they will be without star running back Montel Harris against Clemson. That doesn't bode well for the Eagles. Sophomore quarterback Chase Rettig hasn't progressed like coach Frank Spaziani had hoped he would, and his problems have negated what is actually a decent corps of receivers. Defenses have been able to key in on stopping the run as a result. Boston College's offensive line is normally good, but it has struggled this year with three new starters. All of this adds up to an offense that has really had trouble moving the ball and scoring points. Clemson's defense took a huge step forward against Virginia Tech. Andre Branch was unblockable, and Tig Willard continued his stellar play as perhaps the team's most reliable tackler. Good pass coverage and a good pass rush made things tough on Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, who struggled mightily as the Hokies didn't score a touchdown at home for the first time since 1995. Expect the defensive success to continue against Boston College, which struggled offensively even before it lost Harris and receiver Ifeanyi Momah to injury.
Key matchup: Boston College offensive line vs. Clemson defensive line
Boston College's offensive line has had its share of issues, and Clemson's defensive line appears to be putting it all together. Despite the loss of Harris, the Eagles will still try to establish the run with backup Andre Williams (if he can play through his ankle injury). Clemson' defensive front needs to stuff Harris and also put a little pressure on Rettig when he decides to throw, just for good measure.
Clemson will be without kickoff man and holder Spencer Benton for six to eight weeks, so they are having to reshuffle those duties between Chandler Catanzaro and Dawson Zimmerman. Catanzaro is 5 for 7 on field goals this season, and Zimmerman has punted the ball well. It would be nice to see Clemson actually get a chance to return a kickoff. Boston College kicker Nate Freese has made 9 of 12 field goals including a 52-yarder last week, and Ryan Quigley is a solid veteran punter. Clemson gets a slight advantage because of its potential in the return game.
Clemson always seems to struggle with Boston College regardless of how the Eagles are playing coming into the game. I want to take Clemson in a blowout, but it just doesn't make sense given past experience. I think the Tigers win by a few scores, but it will take them a while to pull away. I think another (mildly) frustrating day against the Eagles is in store, but Clemson is too talented to not pull away eventually.
Clemson 35 Boston College 14