The countdown is on to Clemson football first in Athens (Georgia) and then back in TigerTown on Sept. 6 (S.C. State).
We’re counting down the Clemson schedule – by strength of schedule – with a quick profile, team I.D. and prediction.
We start with the two non-Big Five teams…
12) S.C. State Bulldogs
Plays Clemson: at Memorial Stadium, Sept. 6 at 12:30 p.m.
2013 Record: 9-4 (T-1st in the MEAC).
Coach: Buddy Pough (97-43 career record).
Offense (2013 ranks): Spread (Scoring offense: 44 FCS, 28.8 PPG; Yards per play: 94 FCS, 4.82).
Defense (2013 ranks): 4-2-5 (Def. yards per play: 1 FCS, 3.49; Scoring defense: 3 FCS, 15.2 PPG; 3rd down defense: 2 FCS, 27.4%).
S.C. State Identity
1. Junkyard dogs - S.C. State has had a top-25 defense nine of the last 10 seasons under Pough, leading the FCS in total ‘D’ last year (238 YPG). Clemson won comfortably over the Bulldogs last season in Death Valley, 52-13, but two of the first-half scores came via pick-six. Tajh Boyd was lifted early with the lead after his second-worst completion percentage (60.9) and yard output (169) of the year. The Tigers didn’t fare any better than their season average of 4.2 yards per carry. D-lineman James Robinson returns after leading the Bulldogs in sacks (7.5), while Justin Hughes (58 tackles/4 TFL) anchors the LB corps.
2. On the run - S.C. State displayed a Pistol look and ran the ball 86 times to 22 passes last season against the Tigers, averaging just 1.9 yards per rush. Leading rusher Justin Taylor (706 yards/6 TDs) was limited to 16 carries for 45 yards. Also back is second-leading rusher Dondre Lewis-Freeman (409 yards/4 TDs) and their ’13 tops in yards per rush, Charles Brown (5.3).
3. One-man offense gone - 6-3 speedster Tyler McDonald burned Clemson for touchdown catches of 63 and 51 yards for both of S.C. State’s scores last season. He averaged 17.8 yards per catch with seven touchdowns over the course of the year. 6-3 redshirt junior Dennis Rowe looks to step in after averaging 17.8 per reception as well with four touchdowns in 2013.
(Way too early) S.C. State pick: 45-3 Tigers.
Analysis: In the Chad Morris era, Clemson has won by 32 points per game against FCS opponents – 40 points per since the close shave in the first one (35-27 over Wofford in 2011). Under Pough, S.C. State has had a winning season 11 of the last 12 seasons, but over the last three, they have lost by 37 points per to FBS opponents.
11) Georgia State Panthers
Plays Clemson: at Memorial Stadium, Nov. 22, time TBA.
2013 Record: 0-12 (Last in the Sun Belt).
Coach: Trent Miles (20-48 career record, FBS and FCS level).
Offense (2013 ranks): Pro-style (Scoring offense: 113, 18.8 PPG; Yards per play: 85, 5.37; Field position advantage: 109).
Defense (2013 ranks): 3-4 (Def. yards per play: 107, 6.29; Scoring defense: 110, 36.7 PPG; 3rd down defense: 123, 50.3%).
Advanced Stat Ranks: Success Rate – 120 (35%); Points per trip inside the 40 – 105 (3.7); Adj. line yards – 107 (87.9); Def. Success Rate – 106 (47.6%); Def. points per trip inside the 40 – 92 (4.5); Def. adj. line yards – 102 (90.5).
Georgia State Identity
1. Rough debut – Georgia State has only played football since 2010, going 6-5 in that premiere season. Since? The ATL’s other college team has gone 4-30, including an 0-12 run in their first year on the FBS level in 2013. They lost by almost 20 points per game last season, dropping contests to FCS programs Samford and Chattanooga by 38 points combined and routed 86-10 by Power Five teams (West Virginia/Alabama).
2. Growing up - The Panthers had four true freshmen linemen on the two-deep and one starting last season in a 3-4 scheme – the lackluster numbers showing such a developmental year. Two senior starters move on there meaning the entire line will be comprised of true sophomores. The entire unit will have a few juniors with experience, but next-to-no seniors that played much at all in 2013.
3. Same QB, new o-line - Junior quarterback Ronnie Bell, an Ohio transfer, passed for 2,573 yards and 15 touchdowns (with 11 interceptions) last season – respectable numbers, but those came in a pass-happy scheme. Bell connected on just 50 percent of his passes, averaging only 5.9 yards per attempt. He loses his top receiver (Albert Wilson, 1,177 yards), but returns sophomore Robert Davis (6-3 190), who averaged 16.2 yards per catch. The Panthers miss four of their five most experienced linemen off from last year’s team, but that may not be the worst thing, as Ga. State was 108th in adjusted sack rate last year.
(Way too early) Georgia State pick: 52-6 Tigers.
Analysis: There’s an argument that S.C. State could be listed as a stronger opponent, but in year two under Miles…and with the extra scholarships, the Panthers should improve. For Vegas purposes, both games have a “trap” element to them with S.C. State after a tough road game (Georgia) and Georgia State in front of a huge rivalry showdown. Either way, Clemson is a ton better than both clubs and wins with ease.
Next up: 10) Wake Forest Demon Deacons - A new era in Winston-Salem...