Dan Scott: Clemson vs. Maryland Prediction

by - Correspondent -

If I were a smart man (okay, no unnecessary comments please), I'd retire today.

I mean really, how could I possibly top last week's prediction? Not only was I correct in my assumption Clemson would win the game, I only missed the final margin by two points. I also nailed the fact that the last team to have the ball would win (the kickoff with :02 doesn't count as a possession for the Aggies in my book), plus figured correctly that Jad Dean would play a major role in the outcome.

Yep, it was a pretty good week for the ol' Magic Helmet. Which scares me. Usually anytime I have that much success in anything, waiting around the corner on my next adventure is pure, unmitigated disaster.

But do I take my 1-0 record and go home? Nooooooo. Glutton for punishment that I am, it's time to do it all over again.

CLEMSON (1-0) at MARYLAND (1-0)

When Clemson Has The Ball

A year ago Maryland had played strictly man-to-man coverage defense against every opponent it faced up to the Clemson game. But in the Tigers' 10-7 victory at Death Valley the Terps totally flipped, playing zone coverage the entire afternoon? Why? Because they didn't have to respect Clemson's running game. Tommy Bowden and staff hope things are different this time around, and they have reason to be positive. The Tigers rushed for 183 yards on 51 carries in last week's 25-24 win over Texas A&M, wearing down the big Aggie defensive front as the game went on. Maryland's front four isn't as big, nor are they as experienced - the Terps start a freshman and two sophomores on the defensive line. That should lead to one of two things - Clemson running the ball effectively, or Maryland loading eight in the box to stop the run and play Tiger receivers man-to-man. If they choose the latter, quarterback Charlie Whitehurst could have that breakout game we've been waiting on since last season.


When Maryland Has The Ball

Ralph Friedgen's offense, which ground to a screeching halt a year ago, showed signs of life in last week's season opener vs. Navy. The Terps gained over 400 yards in total offense and rallied to win the game, 23-20. True, Navy was 9-3 a year ago, but the Middies lost several key members of that team to graduation. So, was Maryland's performance a sign of things to come, or simply a mirage? Clemson's defense should be a better test, although the Tigers gave up seven big plays to the Aggies last week. Defensive coordinator Vic Koening wants no more than two allowed per game. Clemson, which had troubles stopping the run last week, must do so this week. Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach is no Reggie McNeal, but he will run the occasional option and preside over a multiple-formation offense. Running back Mario Merrills (30 carries, 149 yards vs. Navy) is a talented back, and Clemson's ability to slow him may be one of the game's biggest keys.


Special Teams

Clemson was hot and cold in this area last week. The hot, of course, was led by Jad Dean's career day. The junior's six field goals set a Clemson single-game record, and his last kick gave the Tigers the one-point victory. And then there was Chansi Stuckey's electrifying punt return for a touchdown, Clemson's only trip to the end zone all day. But on the down side, snapper Nic Riddle was erratic on both punts and the final field goal, and the Tigers were penalized once for not having enough men on the line of scrimmage on one Dean attempt - the result of having only 10 men on the field. The kickoff coverage was a little too generous at times, as well. As for Maryland, special teams has been a strength since Friedgen took over. But this year only punter Adam Podlesh is an early standout.



I love Friedgen's offensive system. But without players the system can only go so far. Watching Bowden's new coordinators work up close and personal in last week's game, and in the week of practice which followed, leads one to believe something special could be on the horizon.


This one comes down to the oldest of football adages. The team that runs the ball best, and stops the run best, will win the game. And again, just a hunch, but watch for Whitehurst to have a big day.

Polishing up the Magic Helmet, I see...


Clemson 27, Maryland 13

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