The Maryland Terrapins head down to Clemson this weekend in search of their third straight win over the Tigers. Clemson has lost three in a row, and this game is a must-win if the Tigers have any hopes of repeating as Atlantic Division champions. Here we go.
Clemson offense vs. Maryland defense
Clemson's offense continued it's struggles last week against North Carolina. Turnovers weren't the problem as much as simply moving the ball. The passing game is still far from a known commodity, despite Kyle Parker throwing for more than 200 yards and a touchdown against the Tar Heels. Freshman DeAndre Hopkins, who had a team-high seven catches last week, is a game-time decision this week. Jaron Brown had four catches for 107 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown. He may have to help tight end Dwayne Allen shoulder the receiving load this week. The coaching staff said they would give Andre Ellington more touches this week, as he continues to out-perform co-starter Jamie Harper. Hopefully the increased workload for the shifty tailback will give the Clemson offense the boost it desperately needs. The Maryland defense is led by senior linebackers Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten, who have combined for 98 tackles on the season. The defensive line is young, but sophomore defensive tackle Joe Vellano has been impressive, notching five sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss this year. The Maryland secondary is pretty experienced but has surrendered back-to-back 350-yard passing efforts to Florida International and Duke. The Terrapins have done a good job of not letting their opponents' high yardage totals translate into points, as they are allowing just 18.4 points per game on defense.
Maryland offense vs. Clemson defense
Pocket passer Danny O'Brien and dual-threat Jamarr Robinson have essentially split time at quarterback for the Terrapins this season. Both have been productive, but they haven't faced a defense like Clemson's yet. If Da'Quan Bowers and the rest of the Tigers' front four can pressure the pocket, these two could be forced into mistakes. Torrey Smith is an All-ACC caliber wide receiver who has already racked up 405 yards and five touchdowns this season. He is averaging nearly 24 yards a catch, so the Tigers can't afford the downfield coverage problems they had against Auburn and Miami. Davin Meggett and Da'Rel Scott have each carried the ball 51 times this season, and the tandem has combined for 584 yards and six touchdowns. Clemson's defense showed improvement against North Carolina, only allowing 255 total yards. They couldn't stop the Tar Heels from converting several fourth downs at the end of the game, however. The defense needs to get itself off the field early and often this week. Da'Quan Bowers has been spectacular in his junior season, totaling six sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss thus far. The Clemson linebackers continue to struggle to make plays, as none are in the Tigers' top five in tackling. Corico Hawkins has been the best of the bunch (23 tackles). The Clemson secondary hasn't been able to make the same kind of impact plays it made last year. DeAndre McDaniel, Rashard Hall, and Co. need to start making big plays and forcing turnovers to spark this team.
Clemson's special teams have been pretty solid this year. Dawson Zimmerman is having an all-conference type season. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro has been decent but has missed a couple of big kicks. Marcus Gilchrist has been a solid return man, and Hopkins had a big punt return last week to set up a Clemson touchdown. Travis Baltz has handled kicking and punting duties for Maryland and has excelled in both, averaging 41.7 yards per punt and making four out of five field goals. Smith is a solid kick return man, but the real threat is receiver Tony Logan on punt returns. The junior is averaging an eye-popping 27.7 yards per return and has two returns for touchdowns. The Tigers will need to keep him in check as well as they did Miami's Travis Benjamin.
On paper, there is no doubt that Clemson should win this game. The paper hasn't mattered much in the last five years, however, when these teams meet. Expect another frustrating day against the Terps, but also expect Parker and Ellington to make enough plays to get Clemson its first conference win of the season.
Clemson 28 Maryland 17