The second quarter of the season starts this season as the 2-1 Clemson Tigers welcome the 2-0 and 15th-ranked Texas Christian Horned Frogs into Death Valley. Tiger head coach Dabo Swinney will be looking to add another first onto his coaching resume as he tries to win his first game against a ranked team, but this one won’t be easy as TCU brings in a hard-nosed offensive and defensive team that cannot afford a loss if they want to remain in the talk for a BCS berth. Last week, the Picking Machine got back on track with a very close prediction in the Boston College game, and it stays on track with the prediction of another great game this week.
TCU at Clemson
When TCU Has the Ball
The game plan for TCU will be fairly simple – spread the field, run the football, and try and hit some big plays on the play-action pass off of the running game. Quarterback Andy Dalton has been careful with the football so far this season, and has a solid backfield mate in running back Joseph Turner. On the outside, he has Bart Johnson and Jimmy Young to challenge Clemson corners Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor. Look for Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to use safeties DeAndre McDaniel and Marcus Gilchrist as deterrents to the running game and trying to force TCU into being one-dimensional. If the Tigers can force Dalton to the air, Ricky Sapp and Da’Quan Bowers could take advantage of a solid but unspectacular TCU offensive line. The cat and mouse game between these two units should be fun to watch all game.
ADVANTAGE – CLEMSON
When Clemson Has the Ball
A week after seemingly finding their identity against Georgia Tech, the Clemson offense and freshman quarterback Kyle Parker took a step backwards last week against Boston College. Parker locked onto receivers too often, had problems with his accuracy, and as a result the Tigers had to settle for a touchdown on special teams and six Richard Jackson field goals. This week, they get an even tougher defense with sack master Jerry Hughes, who will try to take advantage of Clemson’s offensive line. Like TCU, the Tigers will probably have to run the football in order to win and the health of running back C.J. Spiller and tackle Chris Hairston will be key. Clemson might have to run a few reverses, execute better on play action, and use the tight ends and fullbacks as extra blockers to chip on TCU’s defensive linemen and linebackers in order to buy Parker time. If Spiller’s toe is still a problem, this could be a breakout game for backup Andre Ellington. It would be awesome to see the Tigers hit their backs and tight ends more in an effort to be multi-dimensional.
ADVANTAGE – TCU
The Clemson special teams have been extremely special this season – Spiller has already returned two kicks for touchdowns, and Jacoby Ford has a punt return for a TD as well. Jackson has been a revelation at kicker, and gives the Tigers a dangerous late-game edge from anywhere inside the 50-yard line. Punter Dawson Zimmerman has been very good as well, and could be the difference in a field position game. TCU kicker Ross Evans is very good, also, and Clemson fans don’t want to see him lining for a game-winner late Saturday evening. However, TCU hasn’t seen this kind of speed since they played Oklahoma last year, and in a tight defensive struggle, special teams could be the difference. With Spiller still hurting, perhaps Ford or even Ellington provide a big spark this week.
ADVANTAGE – Clemson
If Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney wants a win that establishes his credibility on the national stage, this could be the game. He faces Gary Patterson, a coach that many thought would actually be a good fit at Clemson after Tommy Bowden’s departure last season. Patterson is known as a perfectionist, and his teams have won consistently in the Mountain West conference. The head coaching edge definitely goes to TCU on this one, but Swinney has Steele on his coaching staff, and his defensive game plan could be the difference here. Perhaps Swinney takes a page out of Paul Johnson’s book from two weeks ago and throws the book at the ranked Frogs in an effort to shake things up.
ADVANTAGE – Slight to TCU
This game has all of the ear marks of a classic Saturday struggle. Two explosive defenses, play-makers on offense, coaching strategy – all of the pieces are in place and should give Clemson fans a reason to sell out Death Valley. Remember how loud the Miami game was in 2005? Those of us that were lucky enough to be there remember how the Clemson crowd was a factor in the contest. Imagine if this Clemson defense had that kind of support as the Tigers try to propel themselves back into the national consciousness. The bottom line is that Clemson will have to take TCU’s best shot and still be standing at the end, and it will require Parker to step up his game and play at the level he did in the second half of the Georgia Tech game. This one will be close, but the Tigers pull ahead late in the third quarter and hang on for the win.
CLEMSON 20, TCU 13
Clemson Injury Report For TCU Game
Questionable - Chris Hairston, OT, knee
Everyone else available to play