Dan Scott: Clemson - Maryland Prediction
Clemson at No. 13 Maryland
Clemson's passing offense needs to be in high gear. The Terps give up almost 240 yards per game through the air, but can quarterback Woody Dantzler take advantage while avoiding interceptions? His running (see DEFENSE) may be the deciding factor. Maryland's pass offense by itself would be enough to give Clemson's porous secondary fits. But throw in the option element in Ralph Friedgen's attack, and it becomes doubly difficult to defend.
While Clemson's front seven continue to show signs of improvement, the defensive backs are struggling worse than ever. Open competition at the cornerback spots has done nothing but changed the starting victim on a week-to-week basis. Maryland, meanwhile, gives up only 92 rushing yards per game, or exactly what Dantzler averages on his own. They also create turnovers by the boatload - 25 in nine games. E.J. Wheeler may be the best linebacker in the conference.
Punter Wynn Kopp's improvement continues for the Tigers, as his season-best 41 yard average vs. Florida State would attest. Aaron Hunt bounced back from an early miss last week to hit two straight field goals against the Seminoles. Brooks Barnard is averaging 44 yards per punt for the Terps, but kicker Nick Novak is just 12-20 on the season.
Tommy Bowden is 11-2 following a loss as a head coach, including 8-1 at Clemson. Ralph Friedgen has the mojo working at Maryland, his first year back at his alma mater.
This is a tough one. Most signs should point to Maryland winning this game: Itching to beat Clemson after losing 13 of the last 14 between the two; the first sellout crowd in ages; a chance to win the Atlantic Coast Conference title. Yet when all is said and done, this one comes down to an old football proverb - whoever wins the turnover battle wins the game. Maryland turns it over three times. Clemson two.
THE PICK: Clemson in a stunner, 28-24.