Dan Scott: Virginia - Clemson Prediction


by - Correspondent -
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Eric Sampson is listed as doubtful with an ankle injury.
Eric Sampson is listed as doubtful with an ankle injury.

When Clemson Has The Ball

Here we are at game six, and for whatever reason - depending on which party you ask - Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden is finally giving redshirt junior running back Yusef Kelly a chance. The hope is Kelly's straight ahead, physical style will make up for problems on the offensive line, not to mention the inexperience displayed by youngsters Duane Coleman, Kyle Browning and Reggie Merriweather. But questions linger. Is Kelly truly in shape? Can he make a difference? How healthy is quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (foot)? Will missing Airese Currie (ankle) slow the passing game? The Cavs give up yards, but seem to find a way to keep opposing teams out of the end zone just enough. That was the formula a year ago, and it appears Al Groh's team is rounding into that shape again.

ADVANTAGE - Virginia



When Virginia Has The Ball

Quarterback Matt Schaub's return to the Virginia lineup has had a remarkable effect on the Cavs' offense, to be sure, but it has helped the defense as well. How? Simple. With Schaub in control, Virginia's offense tends to possess the ball longer. That means the defense, which gave out from being overworked earlier this season in the loss to South Carolina, gets more rest. Schaub's ball-handling and ability to throw on the run make him even more dangerous than most other good quarterbacks, and he has plenty of help in the running game. Virginia has two of the top 5 ground gainers in the ACC, led by sophomore Wally Lundy's league-leading 102.4 yards per game and six total touchdowns. That mix spelled problems for opponents - including Clemson a year ago, and will do so again in this one. Clemson is playing without starters Khaleed Vaughn (knee surgery) and Eric Sampson (ankle).

ADVANTAGE - Virginia



Special Teams

While Aaron Hunt continues to struggle in the field goal department, suddenly he has company in punter Cole Chason. Chason, a redshirt freshman, did not strike the ball well at all last week at Maryland, giving Tiger fans another reason to hold their breath on special teams. Meanwhile, Virginia kicker Connor Hughes has connected on 11 straight field goal opportunities, and leads the ACC in scoring (8.2). Clemson leads the nation in kickoff return yardage (29.2).

ADVANTAGE - Virginia



Coaching

Tommy Bowden's struggles vs. ranked teams (Virginia is No. 25 in the AP Poll this week, No. 24 in the Coach's Poll) have been well documented. Al Groh seemingly has things turned around and headed back in the right direction this year. In each of the last two meetings, Groh has found a way to one-up Bowden. Who can forget the incredible halfback pass call on the game-winning drive two years ago in Death Valley?

ADVANTAGE - Virginia



BOTTOM LINE

While recent history suggests this game will be close, the Cavs should again prove to be the better football team. They seem to have everything moving in the right direction. Clemson's direction seems to differ from week to week. It's beginning to look an awful lot like 2002.



THE PICK

Virginia 31, Clemson 17


Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.

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