Breakdown: Tigers hold edge in quick-pace matchup

Clemson's Roderick McDowell runs 45 yards for a touchdown during the fourth quarter at Maryland.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Roderick McDowell runs 45 yards for a touchdown during the fourth quarter at Maryland.

Breaking down this week's matchup with a few predictions...

THE GOOD

The Virginia offense ranks seventh in plays per game (83.6 plays per game), in fifth in time of possession (33:59) and 35th in first downs offense (178).

Redshirt sophomore quarterback David Watford has completed over 70 percent of his passes in three games this season, coming off a school-record 43 connections last week at Georgia Tech.

He hands it off to the No. 4 rusher in the ACC, junior Kevin Parks, who's averaged 76.8 yards per game and leads the ACC with nine rushing scores (more than two conference teams, Wake Forest and UNC). Parks is also second on the Cavaliers in receptions (29), averaging 9.8 yards per catch.

Watford has a pair of upperclassmen receiver targets in Tim Smith (23 catches for 350 yards, TD) and Darius Jennings (28 for 247, 3 TDs), while tight end Jake McGee leads all Hoos in catches (31) with a pair of scores.

On defense, they boast three in the top-10 in the conference in tackles per game: linebackers Henry Coley (8) and Daquan Romero (7.8) and strong safety Anthony Harris (7.8). Harris leads the ACC in interceptions (5).

THE BAD

Virginia is in the bottom tier of the NCAA that allows more yards (393.8) than it produces (382.5), and it shows on the scoreboard with a near touchdown margin of defeat (29.3-22.6).

The Hoos offense is 114th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency (79), ranking 113th in pass efficiency (105.08) and No. 81 on third down conversions (37.7 percent).

In total defense, Virginia is middle-of-the-road (64th), but inside the 20, they've allowed 19 touchdowns and 26 scores total in 29 opportunities.

Since the opener 'W' over BYU (19-16), they've lost by double-digits in all but one game against FBS competition, outscored 17.5 per contest.

THE SKINNY

Wrapping up division play last week with a win, the Tigers complete their ACC slate in the Coastal, beginning on the road at Virginia and finishing with Georgia Tech after a bye in a home Thursday nighter.

Clemson has gone 6-1 in cross-divisional games the last two seasons and all six wins were by 16 points or more. The Tigers and Cavaliers haven't renewed this rivalry since a 2008-09 home-and-home, where Clemson prevailed by double-digits in both.

Virginia has knocked off three ranked opponents under head coach Mike London, but it's been a little while (at No. 23 Florida State, 14-13, in 2011).

Another close first half could certainly be in order this week for the Tigers, but the second half is where the Hoos have struggled - outscored 114-38 in six-straight FBS losses.

Three Predictions & a Pick

1.Both teams average over 83 plays per game, and both are coming off their highest-play outputs of the season (191 combined). The combined play average is 167.9 - have a feeling it will go under that.

2. Senior Clemson running back Rod McDowell becomes the first Tiger to rush for 100 yards in back-to-back games since Andre Ellington in 2011 (ACC Championship Game, 125; Orange Bowl, 116).

3. Virginia quarterback David Watford throws at least two interceptions and is held under six yards per pass.

Final Score: Clemson 38-17

(7-1 overall; 4-4 ATS on picks)

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Comments » 3

Xander5000 writes:

Play to dominate, play to win. This is a great time to fix whatever is hurting the team thats making us look like we have a banana in our tail-pipe or lead in our a**. Virginia is going to throw everything at you and so we have to dodge what we can and throw even more back at them.
If there is the chance that we are up 56-17 near the end of the of the 3rd Qtr.....that may be the time to practice and perfect our smash mouth game for the rest of the game. We need to establish that now for it is November and very important battles are on the horizon. Display not your grandfather's smash mouth where its 3yds. and a cloud of dust. No its 5 to 7yds. and a cloud of dust now. Thats whats needed now, in the near future and in the future to come to further Clemson's football legacy. Keep pounding it until there is daylight to a score. Come on O-line, impose that will to break Virginia's will. Give them no hope Clemson.

rsb8931#286014 writes:

I agree. If we get up by 40 points do whatever you can to go up by 50. Run it down their throat. "Run to daylight" is what Coach Howard told an old Clemson great tailback many, many years ago. It still makes sense today. He's under 70 so he's not that old!!!

clemvol writes:

I have not heard a lot of talk this week from the Tigers. I say good. I am glad they finally quit talking and will now start performing and playing to their talent level and have fun doing it. Maybe the light has finally turned on. I said at the beginning of the year, let your talking ( if you have to ) be done on the field and when the season is over then you can flap your gums. It's time to finish strong and leave a legacy. Get it done Tigers.

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