Clemson vs Missouri Preview
The Tigers will win this Saturday.
OK, so much for the bold prognostications. The Clemson-Missouri matchup this Saturday in Death Valley features two teams that play similar styles of football on both sides of the ball. Both like to spread the field on offense, both like to attack the ball defensively. With that in mind, it appears that all of the ingredients for a highly entertaining game are in place, which leaves us with only one question: Will it be a competitive game?
Don’t bet the house on it.
QUARTERBACKS- Missouri’s Kirk Farmer has regained the starting quarterback spot after sitting out most of 1999 with a broken leg. The 6-5, 211-pound redshirt sophomore started off strong in last week’s 50-20 win over Western Illinois, connecting on 10-22 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Despite his considerable size, Farmer has good-feet and adequate scrambling ability- two factors that should keep the Clemson defense honest against the wide-open Mizzou attack. Clemson’s Woodrow Dantzler barely broke a sweat Saturday night against The Citadel, hitting 16-17 passes for three touchdowns and rushing for 44-yards. The going won’t be so easy against a talented Missouri defensive front but look for Dantzler should continue to shine.
RUNNING BACKS- Travis Zachery didn’t take long to make his mark in 2000, starting the season with a career-high 52-yard run on Clemson’s first offensive play of the season. While The Citadel run defense proved to be about as tough as wet Charmin, Zachary was still impressive out of the backfield, finishing the day with 86 yards on 13 carries and four receptions, including a touchdown. Backup Bernard Rambert could very well be Clemson’s most elusive back and should continue to play a big role against Missouri. For the Tigers of the Midwest, Zain Gilmore returns as the team’s leading rusher from a year ago. The 6-1, 210-pound junior has the size to run through defenders and 4.4 speed to run away from them.
CLEMSON RECEIVERS VS. MISSOURI SECONDARY- For Clemson to win, this is a matchup they must take advantage of. Missouri struggled against the pass last season and gave up a less than impressive 253-yards last week against Western Illinois. Mizzou is relatively inexperienced in the defensive backfield and will likely start sophomore Gary Anthony at one corner. The Clemson receiving corps’ size, speed, and experience could add up to some very big numbers when the final gun sounds on Saturday.
MISSOURI RECEIVERS VS. CLEMSON SECONDARY- Perhaps the main reason Missouri shifted from a run-based attack in 1999 to a spread-field offense in 2000 was to take advantage of the team’s exceptional receiving corps. Senior John Dausman and sophomore Travis Garvin are solid possession receivers while junior Eric Spencer has game-breaking abilities. Despite the losses of Dextra Polite and DoMarco Fox from Clemson’s steady 1999 unit, the 2000 group could prove to be just as effective over time. Robert Carswell could be Clemson’s best ever at the safety position (quite a feat considering the Tiger’s history at the position) while Alex Ardley silently continues to blossom as one of the ACC’s elite cornerbacks. Safety Charles Hafley has been excellent in pass coverage while Darrell Crutchfield and Brian Mance have shown promise at the other cornerback spot.
CLEMSON OFFENSIVE LINE VS. MISSOURI DEFENSIVE LINE- If Missouri is to walk out of Death Valley with an upset, then this matchup is where it will all begin. With uncanny speed and bulldozer strength, Tigers defensive end Justin Smith is as dominant a defensive presence as one will find in college football. The 6-5, 273-pound junior registered 16 tackles for loss (including eight sacks) in 1999 and had another two tackles for loss against Western Illinois next week. Look for Smith to line up at a variety of positions against an undersized Clemson offensive line.
MISSOURI OFFENSIVE LINE VS. CLEMSON DEFENSIVE LINE- Missouri is big- very big- up front, averaging 308 pounds. Clemson will be forced to use quickness and athleticism to counter the whopping disparity in girth, likely with blitzes and liberal stunting. With Jason Holloman questionable with a sore ankle, Clemson will need a huge effort from its front four to control the line of scrimmage.
LINEBACKERS- Once again, the size of the Missouri offensive line will force Clemson to use its defensive speed and this is where the Tiger linebacking corps will be critical. All indications point to Keith Adams, Chad Carson, Altroy Bodrick, and Braxton K. Williams being up to the task. Meanwhile, Missouri is led by inside linebacker Jamonte Robinson, a 6-2 203-pound junior cut from the same mold as Clemson’s Carson. Both have a nose for the ball and both are highly intelligent players.
SPECIAL TEAMS- Missouri kicker Brad Hammerich was solid in 1999, connecting on 9-14 attempts and showing exceptional leg strength from beyond 40-yards. Punter Jared Gilpin struggled with a 38.7-yard average last season and didn’t fare much better against Western Illinois with a 39-yard average on six punts. The jury is still out on Clemson kickers Aaron Hunt and Tony Lazzara while Jaime Somaini punted exceptionally well against The Citadel, averaging 41-yards per punt. Joe Don Reames has breakaway speed on kickoff returns and is likely to pop a big one before the season is finished.
COACHING- Last year’s 4-7 record didn’t sit well with Missouri Head Coach Larry Smith. In an effort to boost the Tigers’ anemic offensive production of a year ago, Smith brought in Bill Cubit from Western Michigan to help revamp the offense. The result: an attack that looks a good bit like Rich Rodriguez’ Indy 500 scheme, with five wide outs and liberal use of the pass. Meanwhile, Tommy Bowden’s Tigers have had a year to master their own supercharged attack. While the battle of the open field offenses should make for interesting viewing, Clemson’s offensive arsenal should be too powerful for Missouri to hang around for more than a half.
FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 38 MISSOURI 10