Clemson vs. Texas A&M Prediction: Tigers battle the crowd in College Station
|Friday, September 7, 2018, 12:08 PM- -|
No. 2 Clemson takes to the road this weekend for a primetime game at Texas A&M.
The Tigers-Aggies matchup pits head coaches Dabo Swinney (Clemson) and Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M) against each other for the ninth straight year, but the first non-conference matchup between the two national championship coaches. Over the previous eight meetings, when Fisher was in the ACC, each coach won four times vs the other.
College GameDay airs live from Aggie Park on Saturday, Sept. 8 (9 a.m. – noon ET), and simulcast on ESPNU. Live programming, including SportsCenter, will occur throughout the day on Friday, Sept. 7, and leading into the show on Saturday morning. This marks the sixth time GameDay will originate from the campus of Texas A&M.
HOW TO WATCH
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas
Radio: 105.5 WCCP-FM, 97.7 ESPN Upstate, Sirius 135; XM 193, Internet 955
Spread: Clemson by 12
*With GameDay in town, that means former college coach Lee Corso will make headgear selection No. 313 this weekend. Corso now has a career record of 204-108, including 1-0 record this season.
Corso has picked Clemson six times (record: 4-2); he has picked against Clemson ten times and is 4-6 with those ten picks, losing five straight headgear picks in which he has gone against the Tigers. Corso has picked Texas A&M three times, going 1-2 with those headgear picks; has picked against Texas A&M three times, going 3-0 with those headgear picks.
This is the 10th time since the start of the 2015 season that Clemson has played at a College GameDay site; ties with Alabama for the most in that span. The last two times Dabo Swinney has taken Clemson on the road at the site of College GameDay, the Tigers won both of those games by at least two touchdowns.
* Clemson has enjoyed a recent run of success against opponents from the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers are 13-9 against SEC foes under the guidance of Head Coach Dabo Swinney. Clemson's success against the SEC has been particularly pronounced as of late, as the Tigers are 7-3 against the conference in the College Football Playoff era, including a 6-1 mark in regular season play during that time frame.
Clemson has won five of its last six against the SEC, including three in 2016, the most wins against SEC opponents in a single season in school history. Clemson has won its last six regular-season games against SEC opponents, including its last three true road games.
*Both schools are also famed for their military heritage. Clemson was an all-military school until 1955, while Corps of Cadets participation at Texas A&M was mandatory until 1965. Outside of the United States Military Academy at West Point, no schools in the country supplied more officers to the United States Army during World War II than Texas A&M and Clemson.
WHEN TEXAS A&M HAS THE BALL
The Aggies started the 2018 season in a big way last weekend, racking up 503 yards in the ground (758 total) in a rout of Northwestern St. Running back Trayveon Williams led the way with 20 carries for 240 yards and three easy touchdowns. Quarterback Kellen Mond was 17-25 for 184 yards and two touchdowns. The Aggies will want to run the ball against Clemson’s front seven, and Fisher used more two tight end sets last week than we’ve seen from him.
A&M's offensive line allowed two relatively easy sacks last week against Northwestern State, and it’s essential they use the run to open up the passing lanes for Mond. If A&M can’t run the ball successfully or gets behind early, Clemson’s big dogs on the defensive line can pin their ears back and make Mond’s life miserable.
Against Clemson last week, the Furman Paladins had some success running in the alleys and getting outside. Not much success, but some. If the Aggies can run the football outside and hold onto the football, look out. The big threat in the passing game last week was tight end Jace Sternberger (two TDs), but they have to have more of a threat on the outside.
The matchup to watch is Nickel/SAM Isaiah Simmons against Sternberger.
WHEN CLEMSON HAS THE BALL
Clemson’s offense was, in a word, vanilla last week against Furman. On the afternoon the Tigers had 531 yards of total offense. Clemson's two quarterbacks, senior Kelly Bryant and freshman Trevor Lawrence, combined to hit on 19-of-31 throws for 264 yards and four touchdowns, and Bryant also added a 35-yard run for a score.
Ah, the quarterbacks. Swinney said this week that both quarterbacks will play again this week, but will the coaches go with the hot hand? Will it be a strict platoon? Nobody knows at this point and it will be interesting to watch.
Sophomore running back Travis Etienne will take the majority of the carries. Defensively, A&M will need to limit Etienne's production – and Bryant’s from the quarterback run perspective - and record key stops early. The key will be the two-QB system and how the Aggies respond.
To open the running lanes, the Tigers will have to get receivers Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers, and Hunter Renfrow (and all of those frisbee catching dogs) involved. If downfield throws are hit early, expect the running lanes to open.
ADVANTAGE: SLIGHT TO CLEMSON
Rodgers had two punt returns for 87 yards last week and proved that he can be a reliable weapon in the return game. BT Potter had six touchbacks on kickoffs and Greg Huegel hit a 49-yard field goal. Will Spiers punted twice – a 34-yarder and a 33-yarder. Texas A&M’s Braden Mann averaged 52.50 yards on two punts last week and Daniel LaCamera hit his only field goal. The Aggies didn’t make much of an impact in the return game.
ADVANTAGE: SLIGHT TO CLEMSON
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
Expect the crowd and the atmosphere to make a difference early. A&M will put together one good scoring drive in the first half, but Clemson’s defense will settle in and allow the Clemson offense to pound the A&M defense. If Bryant excels early, he will get the majority of the snaps. If Bryant struggles, Lawrence can come off the bench and spark the offense with his arm. I think Lawrence will be a spark in this one. Tigers pull away in the second half.
FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 27, TEXAS A&M 13
Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 34-17 Clemson
Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 31-17 Clemson
Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 28-13 Clemson
Brandon Rink - Staff writer - 34-16 Clemson
Hannah Rogerson - TigerNet Intern - 31-20 Clemson
Pigskin Prophet - 31-16 Clemson
Ben Boulware* - Former Clemson All-American linebacker - 28-7 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.