Game Time: Clemson vs. Kent St. prediction
|Friday, September 1, 2017, 1:01 PM- -|
Football is back. Finally.
Fifth-ranked Clemson opens the 2017 season Saturday with a home game against Kent St., and the Tigers open as heavy favorites over a squad that finished 3-9 last season. Clemson won the National Championship with a thrilling 35-31 victory over Alabama in the title game at Raymond James Stadium.
Here are some quick notes:
Clemson must replace 78 percent of its offense from 2016, 128th of the 130 teams that will play college football in 2017. Only North Carolina and UAB (who didn’t play in 2016) must replace more total offense. The Tigers must replace All-American and Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson, first round choice and 1000-yard receiver Mike Williams, 1000-yard rusher Wayne Gallman and two-time Mackey finalist Jordan Leggett.
Plus, the Tigers must replace three All-Americans on defense in Cordrea Tankersley, Ben Boulware and Carlos Watkins. Clemson entered fall camp with just six scholarship seniors. However, there are 52 lettermen returning and a corps of 27 juniors who are 28-2 in their career at Clemson.
Kent St. alums
Former South Carolina head coach Lou Holtz and current Alabama head coach Nick Saban both graduated from Kent St.
Kent State, please
The following note appears in the Kent St. game notes:
KENT STATE, PLEASE Kent State University respectfully requests that the institution and its intercollegiate athletics teams be referred to as “Kent State” or “KSU” in shortened reference, as opposed to “Kent.” Thank you.
On to the game.
KENT ST. (0-0) AT NO. 5 CLEMSON (0-0)
WHEN/WHERE:SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2017 Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
Kickoff: 12:02 p.m. 2016 National Championship Celebration
TV: ESPN (Beth Mowins, Anthony Becht, Rocky Boiman)
CLEMSON RADIO NETWORK: (Don Munson,Rodney Williams, Sideline: Reggie Merriweather)
Satellite Radio Sirius Ch. 113, XM Ch. 193
TIGER WALK: 9:50 AM
WHEN KENT ST. HAS THE BALL
Kent State returns a quarterback who spent most of the first half of last season as an all-purpose player. But, when Nick Holley moved to the signal caller position he responded with a strong performance against Akron, rushing for 117 yards and throwing for 285. For the year, Holley threw for 868 yards and rushed for 920. However, he was just a 49 percent passer (72-146) on the season. Tailback Justin Rankin rushed for 511 yards as a freshman despite battling through some injuries, and he also led the team in catches (28) and receiving yards (335). Senior wide receiver Kris White is back after suffering a season-ending leg injury in last year’s opener, while Kent State is also expecting junior college transfer wideout Donte Ross to make an instant impact.
The Golden Flashes ranked 123rd in total offense last season, averaging 309.7 yards per game. Against a loaded Clemson defense, Holley has to be able to throw the ball and open up the passing lanes. The Golden Flashes will make a few plays in the running game, but not a lot.
WHEN CLEMSON HAS THE BALL
Six of the top seven tacklers for Kent St. from last season have moved on, but eight players who started the final game of 2016 return. The defense was strong against the pass, allowing under 200 yards per game, and has a pair of former All-MAC cornerbacks returning in seniors Jerrell Foster and Demetrius Monday. Foster had 11 passes broken up and three interceptions. The top six defensive backs are all seniors and juniors and will present a challenge for Clemson first game starter Kelly Bryant.
However, Bryant has options all over the field. The running backs – C.J. Fuller, Tavien Feaster, Adam Choice and Travis Etienne will all get their chances early. Bryant is a threat to run with the football, but the guess here is that the coaching staff will limit Bryant’s touches, hoping to save a wrinkle or two for Auburn.
Bryant also has plenty of weapons in the passing game, and that includes tight end Milan Richard. The offense will put up points but has to avoid the turnovers that plagued the offense early last season.
Clemson returns the steady Greg Huegel at placekicker, while Will Spiers earned a scholarship and the starting job at punter in fall camp. Ray-Ray McCloud gets the first crack at punt return, but will be on a short leash. The player we all want to see at kickoff return – Cornell Powell – will also get his chances.
Kent St. punter Derek Adams is one of only seven sophomore punters on the Ray Guy Watch List. Junior kicker Shane Hynes had just five touchbacks in 53 attempts last season but did hit 15-of-22 field goals.
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
• Junior defensive end Christian Wilkins was an AFCA All-America First Team selection last year and
a Nagurski Trophy finalist.
• Sophomore Clelin Ferrell is ranked as the No. 5 defensive end in the nation by Lindy’s. Ferrell was named defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl as a freshman.
• Junior linebacker Kendall Joseph made 124 tackles last season, including 13.5 tackles for loss.
selections last season.
• Junior receiver Hunter Renfrow is coming off a career-high 10 catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns in the national title game.
• Junior receiver Deon Cain has made 72 career catches for 1,031 yards and 14 touchdowns.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
It might take a drive or two for Bryant and the offense to settle in, but once they do they won’t look back. I don’t think the Tigers will score as many points as some people might think because they want to play a lot of players, including three quarterbacks, and some cohesion will be lost. I also don’t think Kent St. is going to be able to put up a lot of points.
FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 47, KENT ST. 6
Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 56-7 Clemson
Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 49-14 Clemson
Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 47-13 Clemson
Brandon Rink - Staff writer 52-3 Clemson
Daniel Shirley - Sports Editor, Macon Telegraph 51-10 Clemson
Pigskin Prophet - 55-10 Clemson