Clemson vs North Carolina Preview and Prediction
Travis Zachery led the Tigers with 129 yards rushing on 28 carries against UNC last year.
It's mid-October and time for one of the more interesting traditions in sports
to unfold once again. No, we're not referring to the pennant races, the mid-season
point of the NFL, or the NCAA national football championship race. It's Carl Torbush's
annual production of his one-man play "Hanging on for Dear Life."
QUARTERBACKS- Ronald Curry is an exceptionally gifted athlete who is blessed
with the rare combination of size, speed, and quickness. Unfortunately for Torbush,
Curry hasn't proven to be anything more than a slightly above-average quarterback.
While his numbers have been respectable in 2000 (74-135, 1250-yds, nine touchdowns
and five interceptions), Curry hasn't yet shown the decision making ability to
effectively lead the Tar Heel offense. Ironically, Clemson's Woodrow Dantzler
is now the player that North Carolina fans expected Curry would be when he arrived
in Chapel Hill.
RUNNING BACKS- True freshman Brandon Russell leads the Tar Heel rushing
attack despite averaging only 3.4 yards per carry. As a team, North Carolina has
gained only 128 yards per game on the ground and scored a total of only six rushing
touchdowns. In direct contrast, Clemson has averaged nearly 300 yards rushing
and has amassed an astonishing 29 rushing touchdowns in seven games.
CLEMSON RECEIVERS VS. UNC SECONDARY- North Carolina's secondary has struggled
thus far, allowing 233 yards per game through the air and a total of 11 passing
touchdowns. Cornerbacks Anthony Anderson (5-9) and Errol Hood (5-10) could have
serious problems guarding Clemson's sizable receivers, particularly if 6-4 Kevin
Youngblood joins 6-3 Rod Gardner in the starting lineup.
UNC RECEIVERS VS. CLEMSON SECONDARY- North Carolina's receiving corps is
both deep and talented, with junior speedster Kory Bailey leading the way. Bailey
has proven to be both a deep threat and an effective possession receiver, averaging
17.6 yards per catch and 63 yards per game through the air. 6-2 sophomore Sam
Aiken leads the team with three receiving touchdowns while Bosley Allen boasts
an impressive 22.3-yards per catch average. Despite giving up a league-leading
163 yards per game through the air, Clemson cornerbacks have been burned a handful
of times in the past two weeks.
Advantage: North Carolina
CLEMSON OFFENSIVE LINE VS. UNC DEFENSIVE LINE- North Carolina has churned
out its fair share of talented defensive linemen over the past few years and it
certainly appears that the Tar Heels are once again loaded up front in 2000. Sophomore
Julius Peppers (who will play against Clemson despite suffering a concussion last
Saturday against NC State) and senior Ross McAllister are the bookends of a North
Carolina unit that has allowed an average of only 101 yards per game on the ground.
With that fact in mind, the going will be tougher for a Tiger offensive line that
has dominated its opponents thus far.
NORTH CAROLINA OFFENSIVE LINE VS. CLEMSON DEFENSIVE LINE- North Carolina
has struggled to establish a ground game (128 yards per game average) while Clemson
has been exceptional at stuffing the run as the Tigers have allowed an average
of only 74.7 yards rushing per game. It will be key for the Clemson linemen to
provide an effective pass rush, something this unit has failed to do consistently
LINEBACKERS- A strong performance by the Clemson linebackers will be critical
if the Tigers are to keep Curry under wraps. Look for North Carolina to try and
hit their running backs and tight ends in the flat and underneath in an effort
to take advantage of Clemson's ultra-aggressive blitzing schemes. For the Tar
Heels, Merceda Perry and All-ACC candidate Brandon Spoon lead starting group made
exclusively of seniors.
SPECIAL TEAMS- North Carolina kicker Jeff Reed has connected on 6-7 field
goal attempts thus far for an 86% success rate. Clemson kickers have connected
on a mere 91% on PAT kicks. Those statistics alone make the advantage decidedly
clear in this category.
Advantage: North Carolina
COACHING- Quite simply, it is a miracle that Carl Torbush has remained
the head football coach in Chapel Hill as long as he has. The Tar Heels are loaded
with talent- perhaps more so than Clemson- yet continue to flounder about in the
depths of mediocrity. One could only imagine what might happen to a UNC basketball
coach if his teams consistently performed at such a level. As for Clemson, the
Tigers haven't appeared to fire on all cylinders since the second half against
Virginia on September 23. With Florida State and South Carolina looming, it's
time for the team to find its stride as they head into the stretch run.
Clemson- 42 North Carolina- 17
A look back at last year's North Carolina game at Death Valley