Clemson vs. Furman Prediction: Old foes meet again
|Friday, August 31, 2018, 12:01 PM- -|
College football is back!
No. 2 Clemson is back in Death Valley Saturday, the first time (except for spring game and scrimmages) in nearly 300 days. That’s far too long.
Clemson is seeking to become the first team in ACC history to win four consecutive ACC titles outright. (Note: Florida State earned at least a share of nine consecutive ACC titles from 1992-2000 but never earned more than three consecutive titles outright.)
Clemson is attempting to become only the second team ever to earn four consecutive College Football Playoff berths (Alabama, 2014-17).
It all gets started Saturday.
NO. 2/2 CLEMSON (0-0, 0-0 ACC) vs. FURMAN (0-0, 0-0 SOCON)
WHEN: SATURDAY, SEPT. 1, 12:20 P.M.
WHERE: MEMORIAL STADIUM (81,500), CLEMSON, S.C.
TELEVISION: ACC Network (Tom Werme, Dave Archer, Lericia Harris)
RADIO: Clemson Radio Network (Don Munson, Rodney Williams, Reggie Merriweather) *Sirius 111, XM 193, Internet 955
CLEMSON/FURMAN SERIES HISTORY
OVERALL: Clemson leads series, 42-10-4
HOME: Clemson leads series, 24-2
ROAD: Clemson leads series, 18-8-4
LAST MEETING: Sept. 15, 2012 (41-7 W)
STREAK: Clemson, Won 30 (Undefeated in 31)
*Clemson is facing the opponent against whom the team played its first game in program history. Guided by Head Coach Walter Riggs, Clemson earned a 14-6 road victory against the Furman Purple Hurricane in the Tigers' gridiron debut on Oct. 31, 1896.
*With a win, Clemson would improve to 43-10-4 against Furman all-time.
*Clemson is opening a season against Furman for the ninth time in program history. The Tigers are 8-0 all-time against Furman in season openers, including victories to begin the 1896, 1915, 1916, 1964, 1979, 1989, 1994 and 1998 campaigns.
*Clemson is looking to win its 31st consecutive contest against Furman and extending its unbeaten streak against the Paladins to 32 consecutive games. The last tie between the two teams occurred in 1937, and the most recent Furman victory in the series came during the 1936 campaign. Clemson's 30-game winning streak against Furman is its longest active winning streak against any opponent.
*As the No. 2-ranked team in the FBS, Clemson is the highest ranked team Furman has faced in football, topping the 1988 version of the Tigers, who were ranked third and beat the Paladins, 23-3, in what turned out to be Furman's 12-2, national championship season.
The Paladins return 15 starters off last year's team that posted an 8-5 record and advanced to the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs under first-year head coach Clay Hendrix, the consensus SoCon Coach of the Year in 2017. Following a 0-3 start a year ago, the Paladins reeled off seven straight wins and competed for a share of the SoCon championship in the regular season finale, dropping a 26-20 verdict to Samford. A 28-27 road win over Elon in FCS first-round playoff action ensured the Paladins a No. 19 ranking in the final STATS FCS poll — Furman's first Top 25 poll finish in five seasons.
Nine starters, led by senior All-SoCon safety Aaquil Annoor (64 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 FF), sophomore linebacker Elijah McKoy (81 tackles, 1 FF), and redshirt senior All-SoCon nose guard Jaylan Reid (45 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 2 sacks) return off a defensive unit that paced the SoCon in sacks (34) a year ago.
Offensively, Furman sports more youth with only five returning regulars paced by redshirt senior running back Kealand Dirks (720 rushing yds., 9 TDs), junior wide receiver Thomas Gordon (39 rec., 717 yds., TD), and sophomore offensive lineman Reed Kroeber, a SoCon All-Freshman Team and Hero Sports Freshman All-America pick a year ago.
A renewed commitment to the ground game (225.8 ypg) that netted 36 rushing TDs in 2017, almost double the 16 posted two years ago, paid huge dividends for Paladins, who will look to continue the impressive offensive balance that helped Furman top the SoCon in scoring offense (32.6 ppg) last fall.
Furman also returns the SoCon's leading kick scorer (82 points) in sophomore Grayson Atkins (55x55 PATs, 9x13 FGs), who appears also ready to assume the squad's punting and kickoff duties.
Clemson returns 61 lettermen from 2017 that finished fourth in the final AP and USA Today Coaches polls. That is the most returning lettermen in Clemson history by six. The Tigers have 17 returning starters, including the starting punter and placekicker, just one short of the school record of 18 returning starters for the 1977, 1981 and 1988 seasons.
The list of returnees includes four first-team AllAmericans, a first in Clemson history. Three of the returning All-Americans, Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, are defensive linemen. It is believed to be the first time in college football history a school has had three returning first-team All-America defensive linemen on the same team.
The fourth returning first-team All-American on the 2018 team is offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt, who has been a starter since his freshman season. He was a first-team selection by Sporting News and ESPN in the 2017 season when he became the first Clemson offensive lineman in 30 years to win the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, an honor that goes to the top offensive lineman in the ACC.
Kelly Bryant returns at quarterback after guiding the Tigers to 12 wins as the starting quarterback, including a record six wins over top 25 teams. He joined Tajh Boyd as the only Clemson quarterbacks in the last 50 years to lead the Tigers to an ACC championship without having started a game in a previous year. Bryant completed 262 of 398 for 2802 yards and 13 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. His .658 completion percentage was 10th best in the nation.
The native of Calhoun Falls, SC also rushed for 665 yards on a team-high 192 carries and scored 11 touchdowns. He tied the school record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback on the way to averaging 248 yards per game in total offense.
The Tigers are loaded across the board.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
Furman is good and getting better. The Paladins have a history of knocking off FBS programs, but that won’t happen Saturday. This is a different Tiger team than any other the Paladins have played, and the depth across the board will show early on a hot day. The Paladins will put an early drive or two together using misdirection and the option, but once Clemson’s defense settles in it will be a long day for the folks from Greenville.
FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 54, FURMAN 9
Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 55-10 Clemson
Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 52-7 Clemson
Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 49-7 Clemson
Brandon Rink - Staff writer - 55-3 Clemson
Hannah Rogerson - TigerNet Intern - 28-7 Clemson
Pigskin Prophet - 52-3 Clemson
Ben Boulware* - Former Clemson All-American linebacker - 117-0 Clemson
* Boulware is new to TigerNet picks and will be here all season long. The former Clemson defender is now a co-owner of The Junkyard gym in Anderson, South Carolina.