Dan Scott: Maryland - Clemson Prediction


by - Correspondent -
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OFFENSE

What quarterback Charlie Whitehurst has done for the Clemson offense over the
last two weeks has been impressive, even with the understanding that his
record-setting performances came at the expense of the Atlantic Coast
Conference bottom-feeders. Still, there remains the unanswered question of
how he will fare against a quality opponent. The answer will come Saturday night
against No. 19 Maryland. If he's given time to throw, there's little reason
to believe Whitehurst won't be reasonably successful. But as Tommy Bowden
said earlier this week, this game will be decided partly by how well the
offensive line plays against a big, physical Terrapins' defense. Meanwhile,
Maryland's multiple offense has helped produce seven straight victories. Much
of the credit should go to West Virginia transfer Scott McBrien at
quarterback, who leads the ACC in yards per completion (16.2) and has
completed 61 percent of his passes during the seven game winning streak. A
big offensive line and a healthy Bruce Perry at tailback, providing help for
Chris Downs, could mean trouble for Clemson's struggling rushing defense.

ADVANTAGE - Maryland.


DEFENSE

As mentioned above, the Tigers have seemingly gotten worse against the run as
the season has worn on. The other half of Bowden's assessment of this game
was how well his defensive front four played against a physical, experienced
Maryland offensive line. If the Terps can run at will - both in the power
game and with the option - Clemson's strong secondary then becomes vulnerable
to the play-action pass. Maryland, on the other hand, will turn Butkus and
Lombardi award finalist E.J. Henderson loose on the Clemson offense from his
linebacker spot. Also expect the Terps to provide run support and additional
blitzing from one of their safeties. The other will provide help to the
cornerbacks when they use man-to-man coverage on Clemson's receivers.

ADVANTAGE - Maryland.


SPECIAL TEAMS

Maryland leads its opponents in every special teams statistical category
except for kickoff returns. Kickoff coverage cost Clemson field position and,
ultimately, a touchdown early in the North Carolina game a week ago. Plus,
it's the ESPN network televising the game, and it's at night. The combination
has not been a good one for Clemson punter Wynn Kopp.

ADVANTAGE - Maryland.


COACHING

Not a knock against Bowden here, but even going back to his last years as
Georgia Tech's offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen seems to have the Tigers'
number.

ADVANTAGE - Maryland.


BOTTOM LINE

For the first time in this space this year, the opposition claims every
category in the matchup breakdown. Still, Clemson could keep this one close
if their lines play well. If not, look out.


THE PICK

Maryland 34, Clemson 24

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