Dan Scott: Clemson - Virginia Prediction


by - Correspondent -
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OFFENSE

The more he plays, the more comfortable Willie Simmons is getting at
quarterback. After a career-high 293 passing yards last Thursday against
Florida State, Simmons has a shot at surpassing that total this week against
a Virginia defense which allows yards in bunches. It wouldn't be a surprise
to see the running back tandem of Bernard Rambert and Yusef Kelly each pile
up big numbers today. As for Virginia, the Cavs have solid, young running
backs behind quarterback Matt Schaub. But it is Schaub who has recovered from
a slow start this season and is on a pace to throw for over 3,000 yards and
30 touchdowns, definitely another test for the Clemson secondary. And of
course what Tiger fan can forget Billy McMullen?

ADVANTAGE: Clemson


DEFENSE

When special teams doesn't give Clemson's defense a short field to work with,
it has been remarkably efficient this season. The secondary will get a
first-hand look at the resurgent and aforementioned Schaub. But if the front
four can do its job - like it has all season long - the Tigers have shown
they can do a number on talented quarterbacks (See McCown, Luke - Louisiana
Tech). Meanwhile, the Cavs give up 231 yards per game on the ground (15
touchdowns) and 208 through the air. The way Clemson can spread the ball
around, those numbers don't bode well for Virginia.

ADVANTAGE: Clemson

SPECIAL TEAMS

Virgina's kick return average is three yards less than its opponents, the
Cavs have converted just three successful field goals (3-of-5) and have
missed three extra points (20-of-23) this season. And still you have to rate
their special teams higher than Clemson's after the Florida State debacle.

ADVANTAGE: Virginia by default

COACHING

Al Groh made some nice in-game adjustments against the Tigers a year ago that
helped his team pull out that last-second victory. Of course, the Cavs then
immediately went on a long losing streak. Tommy Bowden suffered through his
toughest year as a head coach in 2001, and the Virginia loss was part of the
reason. But he has bounced back with a more diverse offense and seemingly
lower-key personality this season. Makes for an intriguing chess match.

ADVANTAGE: Even

BOTTOM LINE

Giving Clemson's special teams the benefit of the doubt here, there's no way
they give up 31 points again this week. That respite should be enough to
allow the Tiger offense to get going against a team which has become a
traditionally difficult opponent for Clemson.


THE PICK

Clemson 34, Virginia 20


Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Florence Morning News. He also hosts SportsTalk from 10 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.

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