|by David Hood|
If the Tigers are indeed to have that November to Remember, it all starts Saturday with a trip to Virginia to take on a Cavalier team mired in a five-game losing streak. How bad have things gotten in Charlottesville?
Since starting the 2012 season with a 2-0 record, Virginia is 4-14 in its last 18 games. Last week, the offense managed to score seven points off of five Georgia Tech turnovers in a 35-25 defeat, and the Cavaliers have allowed an average of 36.3 points in the last four defeats.
To sum it all up – the Cavaliers are young (55 freshmen and sophomores have played this season) and they have struggled.
Because of the ACC’s unbalanced schedule, Virginia and Clemson will not play again until 2020 in Clemson. The Tigers won’t visit Charlottesville again until sometime after the 2024 season. Virginia and Clemson played every season from 1977-2004, but have only played twice since that time (2008 and 2009). So by 2024, when the already announced ACC rotating crossover schedule is complete, Virginia and Clemson will have met four times in the 20 seasons between 2005-2024.
With this being the last trip to Charlottesville until we are all a lot older, can the Tigers keep the offensive momentum that started late last week and begin November on a high note?
NO. 8 (BCS) CLEMSON (7-1, 5-1 ACC) AT VIRGINIA (2-6, 0-4)
WHERE: Scott Stadium (61,500) – Charlottesville, Va.
WHEN: Saturday, November 2, 3:30 p.m.
SPREAD: Clemson -17
WHEN CLEMSON HAS THE BALL
Clemson’s offense began to get on track in the second half at Maryland last week, and finally ran the ball with authority, picking up over 200 yards on the ground for the first time this season. Why were the Tigers able to run the ball effectively? Part of that has to do with the fact that teams have decided to defend against the deep pass to Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant and have been playing a lot of Cover 2 with two deep safeties, in effect daring Clemson to run the football.
Last week, Morris accepted that challenge and the Tigers were able to have a big rushing day. The Cavaliers haven’t exactly been stellar against the run this season, allowing 182 yards per game and 4.56 yards per carry. That number is good for 83rd in the country. The Wahoos have given up 211 passing yards per game, which might mean in a normal situation that the Tigers would have to rely on the ground game a little bit more than usual. This isn’t a normal situation - Virginia's pass rush was considerably weakened by the loss of DT Brent Urban to injury, and DBs Demetrious Nicholson and Maurice Canady also are out with injuries.
This is a team that has been giving up 29.3 points per game this season, and that number should go up Saturday. Two players to watch out for on Virginia’s defense are sophomore defensive end Eli Harold, who has 5.5 sacks, and junior safety Anthony Harris, who had two interceptions last week and now has five on the season. Again, the Wahoos have talent in spots, but they are young, and the loss Urban is a big blow.
WHEN VIRGINIA HAS THE BALL
In a 35-25 loss to Georgia Tech last Saturday, quarterback David Watford threw for a career-high 376 yards and two touchdowns, and wide receivers Tim Smith and Darius Jennings became the first Cavaliers ever to have at least 10 receptions each in the same game. Smith caught 10 passes for 151 yards, both career highs. Jennings had a career-best 13 receptions for 199 yards and two TDs.
For the season, Smith has 23 catches for a team-best 350 yards and one TD. Jennings leads Virginia's wideouts with 28 receptions (for 247 yards) and three touchdowns. Watford has gotten better as the season has progressed - in each of his past three games, he's passed for at least 263 yards. The Cavaliers have also had 11 different players with a rushing attempt and 18 different players have caught a pass, meaning the Tigers will have to defend the entire field. Junior tailback Kevin Parks has rushed for nine touchdowns and is second on the team in receptions with 29. Junior tight end Jake McGee has 31 catches (in seven games).
Defensively, the Tigers have been better this season and had a very solid 52 ½ minutes last week at Maryland. However, they gave up a huge play for a touchdown in the first quarter, and two late touchdown drives that had defensive coordinator Brent Venable fuming.
However, the Cavs are averaging just 3.86 yards per carry, and if they can’t muster enough of a running game to at least keep Clemson honest, it could turn into a long day for Watford. Last week, the Cavaliers all but abandoned the running game as Watford set school records for completions (43) and attempts (61). Against Georgia Tech that might be ok, but with the way Clemson has been getting to the quarterback this season (Clemson leads the nation with 29 sacks), that could spell disaster.
The Cavs have a solid punter in Alec Vozenilek, who is averaging 41.0 yards per punt. Right behind him is Clemson’s Bradley Pinion, who is averaging 40.75 yards per punt. Vozenilek booted the fourth-longest punt in the nation this year with a 77-yard kick at Pitt. The punt was also the fourth longest in UVa history. Neither team is lighting up the punt return category. Virginia is 109th nationally in kickoff returns, averaging 18.56 yards per return. Clemson is even worse – the Tigers are 123rd nationally (out of 125 teams) in averaging 17.06 yards per return. Kicker Ian Frye (3-for-4 on field goals) has been injured since late September, but has been listed as probable for the game against Clemson. In his absence, Vozenilek did all of the kicking and hit 7-of-10 field goals. Clemson’s Chandler Catanzaro has been steady, hitting four field goals last week against Maryland.
ADVANTAGE: SLIGHT TO CLEMSON BECAUSE OF CATMAN
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
Virginia scares you a little bit because of the success they have had throwing the ball, and Watford isn’t exactly a statue in the pocket – he can make plays with his feet. Clemson’s defense has been prone to giving up the big pass play, and if the Wahoos can get a turnover or two out of Clemson’s offense and hit a few big plays, this one could be a fight just like the other recent ACC games for the Tigers. However, the Cavs are 2-6 for a reason, and they simply don’t have the athletes to stand up to Clemson on either offense or defense. It might be close for a bit, but I think this is the week the Clemson offense finally begins to click. The defense gives up some big plays, but the Tigers prevail. UVa is 2-12-1 all-time against ranked Clemson teams, including 1-6 at Scott Stadium. That number goes to 1-7 after Saturday,
FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 44, VIRGINIA 20
|Game||Actual||David Hood||Mickey Plyler||Tony Crumpton||Nikki Steele||Lawton Swann||Pigskin Prophet||Butt-Head|
|Georgia||38-35 CU||37-34 CU||31-28 CU||31-28 CU||34-31 CU||37-31 CU||39-34 CU||48-31 CU|
|SC State||52-13 CU||55-13 CU||56-10 CU||63-17 CU||56-16 CU||57-10 CU||60-13 CU||63-21 CU|
|NC State||26-14 CU||37-13 CU||41-20 CU||63-17 CU||37-17 CU||45-20 CU||-||34-17 CU|
|Wake Forest||56-7 CU||41-13 CU||41-17 CU||41-14 CU||38-13 CU||52-13 CU||45-17 CU||45-17 CU|
|Syracuse||49-14 CU||38-22 CU||34-17 CU||45-27 CU||45-17 CU||47-17 CU||38-20 CU||70-21 CU|
|BC||24-14 CU||44-17 CU||41-17 CU||45-20 CU||42-21 CU||52-21 CU||47-17 CU||42-21 CU|
|FSU||51-14 FSU||34-30 CU||31-30 CU||30-27 CU||31-24 CU||38-34 CU||34-28 CU||44-24 CU|
|Maryland||40-27 CU||38-13 CU||45-17 CU||42-20 CU||37-10 CU||42-13 CU||35-21 CU||44-14 CU||Points||-||11||9||10||7||11||6||9|
* Points: 3 pts for best prediction of the week (tiebreaker is Clemson score), 1pt for picking the correct winner
David Hood can be reached at email@example.com