CLEMSON - Another week, another aggressive defense facing Tommy Bowden's suddenly high-powered Clemson offense.
This time it's North Carolina, a team loaded with talent and playing with an uncommon level of confidence since overcoming its much-ballyhooed 0-3 start. But even in the depths of those three games, John Bunting's defense played well when his offense didn't.
Now, with both sides of the ball performing well, the Tar Heels present yet another difficult challenge for Bowden's Tigers.
"I think Oklahoma and Florida State both had under 300 yards of total
offense against them," Bowden said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "Their defense is really good so I think consistently moving the ball on offense is going to be the key. Their team is playing with a lot of confidence and they're starting to get
some of their swagger back when they went 10-1 with Mack Brown.
"Defensively, they attack you. They pressure with their front four. They present problems for you. Their linebackers are pretty big and they can run."
The telling factor for both teams will be UNC's front four. If the Tar Heels can get pressure on Clemson quarterback Woody Dantzler with just the defensive line, then Bunting can drop seven and effectively - he hopes - put a blanket around the Tigers' Heisman Trophy candidate.
The strategy worked well a year ago. Dantzler was hounded and frustrated for much of the first half at Chapel Hill before an injury to his ankle forced him out of the lineup with Clemson trailing 17-0.
So stopping the Tar Heels and getting Dantzler on the loose again begins with winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. And that battle begins with Peppers.
"You know where he is all the time. The problem is how much do you
alter your package to account for him," Bowden said. "We have to determine in the
next few days how much we want to limit our offense to account for a very good player. It's a fine line you have to walk. I'm sure they're doing the same thing with Woody."
The game within the game, then, focuses on Clemson left tackle Akil Smith against Peppers.
If Smith can slow Peppers, allowing the Tigers to run their offense without restrictions, Clemson's chances of a third consecutive win improve dramatically. If Smith needs help - either from a tight end or a running back - it could limit the Tigers' offensive sets.
"It gives you more flexibility on offense if Akil Smith can have some success," Bowden said. "He doesn't have to win all the battles just the majority of them. It helps if you don't have to leave a back in or leave a tight end in or run away from him. But not a whole lot of team have had success blocking him one-on-one. There's no doubt that's a key matchup."
Increased security efforts will continue for the game in Death Valley on Saturday. Clemson
asks you make a note of the following if you will be attending the game.
ITEMS NOT ALLOWED
Large Bags (i.e. Tote Bags) not including Diaper Bags
ITEMS CHECKED AND TAGGED BY PREMIER STAFF TO LEAVE AT GATES
ITEMS ALLOWED IN THE STADIUM, BUT SUBJECT TO SEARCH
Seat cushions or stadium seats with backs
Cameras (including video cameras)
Radios (including "Walkman")
Hand held televisions
Adults should carry a photo ID.
It is expected that the FAA will continue to have the No Fly Zone policy over Memorial Stadium.
There will continue to be no through traffic during the game on roads surrounding the stadium without proper placard.