Clemson fans got a huge scare on Saturday when quarterback Tajh Boyd came down awkwardly on his leg after throwing a pass to Dwayne Allen early in the third quarter in the Tigers' 36-14 win over Boston College. What looked like a surefire knee injury was diagnosed simply as a hip strain, and it looks as though Boyd will be good to go against Maryland this Saturday as Clemson tries to push its record to 7-0. Here's how the Tigers and Terrapins match up.
Clemson offense vs. Maryland defense
Losing Boyd would have been devastating to Clemson's offense. With all due to respect to Cole Stoudt (who did a fine job replacing Boyd), Boyd is the centerpiece of the offense and has built a nice rapport with his arsenal of weapons that Stoudt just doesn't have. Boyd managed to throw for 283 yards last week before he suffered his injury, so the offense is obviously firing on all cylinders. Andre Ellington had a nice day running the ball (117 yards), and he appears to be as close to 100 percent as he has been all year. Despite not scoring a touchdown, Sammy Watkins had another outstanding game, catching seven passes for 152 yards. He isn't making all the plays though, as nine different Clemson players caught a pass against Boston College. Dwayne Allen looks like an All-American at tight end. Maryland's defense had its best showing of the year last week, holding Georgia Tech to just 21 points and nearly stealing a road win. Defensive tackle Joe Vellano had an astounding 20 tackles in the game, and he is definitely a player to watch out for. Kenny Tate, one of the ACC's top defensive players, moved from safety to linebacker this season and hasn't missed a beat. Maryland did a good job containing Georgia Tech's wingbone rushing attack, but it has struggled to stop the run in other games (a 38-7 loss to Temple). We'll see how they handle Clemson's zone rushing attack.
Key matchup: Clemson running backs vs. Maryland front seven
It's going to be important for Ellington, D.J. Howard and Mike Bellamy to be productive in this game to alleviate pressure for Boyd. Boyd should be able to make all the same throws he has made this season, but it will be much easier for him if Maryland's defensive front has to respect the run game.
Maryland offense vs. Clemson defense
After a 1-for-6 start against Georgia Tech, reigning ACC Rookie-of-the-Year Danny O'Brien was benched in favor of backup quarterback C.J. Brown. Brown had a 77-yard touchdown run but was largely ineffective as a passer (4 for 17). So now the Terrapins seem to have a quarterback battle on their hands, and head coach Randy Edsall hasn't hinted at either being the starter. He may choose to play both, but you know what they say: If you have two quarterbacks, it means you have no quarterback. Kevin Dorsey has been the team's top receiving target (28 catches for 352 yards), but this passing offense, quite frankly, has been pretty bad. Davin Meggett is a solid running back, but he's not a game-breaker. Maryland is going to have to find an offensive identity early in this game if it wants to hang around. The Clemson defense has improved, allowing just 258 total yards each of the past two weeks. Its performance against Boston College could have been better, as there was shoddy pass coverage and tackling against a bad offensive team without its top two running backs. The Clemson defensive line has been improving week by week, and Andre Branch and Co. will look to continue that trend against the Terrapins.
Key matchup: Maryland backfield vs. Clemson defensive line
Clemson's front four needs to be a factor in this game. With Maryland unsure of who its quarterback will be, and, therefore, what exactly it will be trying to do on offense, the Tigers' D-line needs to get backfield penetration and blow up whatever it is the Terrapins will be trying to do.
Chandler Catanzaro made five field goals against Boston College and was named espn.com's half-season All-American kicker (bold, to say the least). Dawson Zimmerman continues to punt well and will now handle kickoff duties as well. We're still waiting to see Sammy Watkins get a couple chances to return kickoffs, as it appears that Clemson is the only team in the country who doesn't boot every kickoff out of the back of the end zone. Nick Ferrara has been good on punts, but shaky on field goals for Maryland. Tony Logan is a good punt returner but hasn't done much yet this season, and the Terps' kick return unit is nothing special.
With no Tajh Boyd in the picture, the outlook of this game would be very different. But the sophomore quarterback will play, and that is not good news for Maryland, which has quarterback issues of its own. Maryland has always been a thorn in Clemson's side, and they will be tough at home. With that said, the Terrapins have too many question marks to knock off the Tigers.
Clemson 31 Maryland 17