Clemson vs. Texas A&M prediction: Tigers and Aggies tangle in Death Valley


by - Senior Writer -
Clemson and Texas A&M kick off Saturday at 3:30 pm on ABC
Clemson and Texas A&M kick off Saturday at 3:30 pm on ABC

Clemson vs. Texas A&M. A hot and steamy Death Valley. A sold-out crowd. A national television audience. A rematch. ACC vs. SEC. Two great quarterbacks. Two National Championship coaches. Two programs with military history. A matchup of Top 12 teams.

Does it get any better than that?

No. 1 Clemson takes on No. 12 Texas A&M Saturday in an early-season matchup that has all of the drama and more that you would want for an early September game.

NO. 12 TEXAS A&M (1-0) at NO. 1 CLEMSON (1-0)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Sept. 7

Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson (81,500)

The line: Clemson by 17.

TV: ABC. Broadcast Team: Sean McDonough (play-by-play) and Todd Blackledge (analysis) will be in the booth. Holly Rowe will be on the sidelines.

Radio: WCCP 105.5 FM, WTPT 93.3 FM, ESPN Upstate 97.7 FM and 1330 AM, Sirius XM 84

Radio Broadcast Team: Don Munson (play-by-play) and Tim Bourret (analysis) will be in the booth. Tajh Boyd and Reggie Merriweather will be on the sideline.

CLEMSON/TEXAS A&M SERIES HISTORY

OVERALL: Clemson trails series, 2-3

HOME: Series tied, 1-1

ROAD: Clemson trails, 1-2

LAST MEETING: Sept. 8, 2018 (28-26 W) - STREAK: Clemson, Won 2

NOTABLE

*Clemson's win last week was the school's 70th ACC regular-season win under head coach Dabo Swinney. At 70-16 in such games, Swinney pushed his career winning percentage in ACC regular-season games to .814, moving past College Football Hall of Famer Bobby Bowden (.813) for the top percentage in conference history (minimum three seasons). Swinney entered the year already ranked atop league history in winning percentage in all games (including non-conference and postseason play), a mark he pushed to .796 last week. The winningest coach in ACC history by percentage turns his attention this week to another conference against which he's enjoyed immense success in recent years. Swinney's squads have won eight of their last nine meetings against SEC competition since the start of the 2016 season.

*Clemson will seek its 20th consecutive regular-season non-conference win. Clemson's last nonconference loss in the regular season came in the 2014 season opener. No member of Clemson's current roster has lost a non-conference game in regular-season play.

*Clemson is attempting to win its 17th consecutive game, dating to the start of the 2018 season. It would tie Clemson's all-time longest winning streak, matching a 17-game streak across the final three games of the 2014 season and the first 14 games in 2015.

*The Tigers are attempting to win a 12th consecutive game by 20 or more points, which would extend its school record in the category and tie 2018 Alabama for the longest such streak by any team in the AP Poll era (since 1936).

*The Tigers are attempting to win a sixth-straight home game against SEC competition (def. Georgia in 2014, South Carolina in 2014 and 2016, Auburn in 2017, and South Carolina again in 2018). The current five-game home winning streak against SEC foes is already the longest in school history.

THE BREAKDOWN

WHEN TEXAS A&M HAS THE BALL

Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond, who threw for a career-best 430 yards against Clemson last season, will be front and center for the Clemson defense Saturday afternoon. Mond looked good in the opener against Texas State, completing over 70 percent of his passes and totaling four touchdowns. Last year in College Station, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables brought a lot of corner blitzes in an effort to get pressure on Mond, and head coach Jimbo Fisher responded with crossing routes and drag routes that gashed the Clemson defense. Will Venables continue to blitz, or sit back and make the Aggies earn their way down the field?

A big key for the Aggies is running back Jashuan Corbin. Clemson completely shut down the Aggie run game last season. Forcing Mond to throw early and often. Corbin looked good last week against Texas State, but it was Texas State.

Clemson’s young defensive line has to get pressure on Mond without help from the linebackers and blitzes – if Mond has time to sit in the pocket, he can pick apart a defense. That means players like KJ Henry, Xavier Thomas, and Justin Mascoll need to step in and play the best games of their young careers. Pressure is the key, and the Death Valley crown can do its part to make it hard for the Aggie offense to get rolling.

ADVANTAGE: EVEN

WHEN CLEMSON HAS THE BALL

So much has changed since these teams played last season. Travis Etienne carried the ball just eight times, Trevor Lawrence tossed nine passes and offensive lineman Gage Cervenka and wide receiver Justyn Ross played just one snap. Guess who are the go-to guys in Clemson’s offense this season? Clemson’s offensive line is better, deeper, more experienced, and will go against a Texas A&M defense that has had to replace several key pieces.

Also, Lawrence didn’t look his best last week, but you have to take into account the fact that Georgia Tech played a deep Cover 2 and Clemson coaches knew they didn’t need to forces the issue to win the game. That brings in Etienne, who used counter plays to rushed for 205 yards on just 12 carries. Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko won’t allow Etienne to run wild like the Yellow Jackets, and that will open up the passing game. Elko played tough against the run last season because no one knew if the Tigers could get the ball down the field. Still, Clemson had four plays of over 40 yards against the Aggies. Watch early to see which direction Elko is leaning.

ADVANTAGE: CLEMSON

SPECIAL TEAMS

Texas A&M punter Braden Mann averaged 55 yards per punt last year on five kicks against the Tigers. He wasn’t good against just Clemson and averaged 51 yards per punt on 50 punts last season, including 19 punts inside the 20-yard line. He’s a weapon that not many teams across the country have. Mann also handles kickoffs and gets a touchback about 70 percent of the time. Kicker Seth Small is steady if unspectacular.

Clemson kicker B.T. Potter hit all seven of his extra points last week, hit a 51-yard field goal, and achieved touchbacks on five of his seven kickoffs. Potter is the biggest weapon in Clemson’s special teams arsenal.

This could be the type of game where a big return could mean the difference, and Clemson is due for a big play in the return game. Can someone step in and provide that big play?

ADVANTAGE: EVEN

WHAT WILL HAPPEN

That betting line has stood out to me all week. Texas A&M is really good, and Fisher is a good enough game-day coach that he always keeps it close against the Tigers, even when he has Clint Trickett or Sean Maguire at quarterback. Now he has Kellen Mond, who is far better than either of those two, and the Aggies will be a handful.

Last year’s game was tight, closer-than-it-should-have-been fun, and both teams have talked about the mistakes they each made. So, what sets this game apart?

Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne and Clemson’s offense. When this group is playing well, they can score on anybody. Texas A&M will score points and have big plays and finish drives and this one will be exciting from start to finish.

Clemson pulls away in the second half behind the arm of Lawrence and the legs of Etienne as the A&M defense begins to wear down from the hammer blows of the Clemson offensive line.

FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 41, TEXAS A&M 27

Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 37-20 Clemson

Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 38-24 Clemson

Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 38-27 Clemson

Brandon Rink - Staff writer - 45-27 Clemson

Pigskin Prophet - 31-23 Clemson

Game Actual David Hood Mickey Plyler Tony Crumpton Nikki Hood Brandon Rink Pigskin Prophet
Georgia Tech 52-14 CU 44-13 CU 52-17 CU 45-13 CU 42-17 CU 48-13 47-9
Points - 1 4 1 1 1 1

* Points: 3 pts for best prediction of the week (tiebreaker is Clemson score), 2 pts for picking score exactly, 1 pt for picking the correct winner

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Tags: Tajh Boyd, Xavier Thomas, Justin Mascoll, Travis Etienne, Trevor Lawrence, Gage Cervenka, Justyn Ross, Brent Venables
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