Instead of discussing keys to victory this week, keys to improvement seem more appropriate. Even after last week's performance there is no reason to think Clemson will lose.
Do not get me wrong; Furman is an excellent I-AA opponent. They have knocked off big time opponents in the past and given others - including Clemson - quite a scare.
Ask Jack Crowe how dangerous a top notch Southern Conference opponent can be when you are on the hot seat. He was 3-8 and 6-6 his first two years at Arkansas after taking over for Ken Hatfield. He opened the 1992 campaign with a loss to The Citadel and was canned the next day.
Terry Don Phillips will not be put in a position to make such a call. The Tigers will win.
Bowden and his bunch do need to take this game very seriously. Likewise, they must settle the outcome early so they can work on becoming a better team.
1. Experience - They need to get some youngsters on the field early and often. Marion Dukes, Brandon Pilgrim, Dustin Fry, and Roman Fry may be able to help what ails the offensive line. To say the o-line needs drastic improvement is a huge understatement. This is the perfect opportunity for these young guys to show what they can do.
Anthony Waters has to get a lot of action this week. The linebacker corps needs some reinforcement, and he at least looks the part. He was on the field some last week, but needs to see some sustained playing time in order to show whether or not he is a player.
Quite possibly, the player fans should want to see the most is back up quarterback Chansi Stuckey. First off, the chances of Charlie Whitehurst getting hurt if he is on the sideline cheering on his teammates are pretty slim.
Secondly, Stuckey needs the experience more than anyone. The quarterback position is the only one on the offense or defense that does not have a back up with more than three plays of actual game experience.
2. Running Game - All the talk during the off-season and nothing to show for it thus far. Was Georgias defense that good or is Clemson's o-line that bad?
It looks like the answer may be a little of both.
None of the five starters should feel safe in regards to their position on the depth chart. After watching the television replay, it appears Cedric Johnson is the only one to have anything close to a decent game.
There was no consistency. Too many times it seemed like four men would have solid blocks while the fifth would whiff. The running backs had to fight just to get back to the line of scrimmage.
This may be the best game to experiment with position changes and/or personnel changes. Putting the five best linemen on the field does not ensure the best group of linemen is out there. Ron West needs to find the group that works together the best as a unit.
3. Intensity - Fans say the players do not show enough emotion. Players say the fans could do a better job of showing their support.
Both sides are right. The problem is that the players have not given the fans much to cheer about recently.
The quality of opponent should not matter. The number of fans in the stands should be of no consequence. Who gives the pregame speech and how fiery it is does not mean much after that first hit. The level of intensity rests solely on the shoulders of the players.
They should be out there having fun. After all, it is a great way to escape the daily grind of classes, practices, meetings, etc. A player has 60 minutes each week to reap the rewards of all the hard work that has been required of them.
Given that football requires a year around commitment and there are only 12 regular season games, a player should be excited as hell to be on the field for a mere 720 minutes each fall. Think about it; that is just one 12-hour day.
What is more is that playing time is not guaranteed. That is why intensity is so important. The cliché is old and worn out, but every player should make the most of every play.
This week is the time for some leaders to step up and show their teammates what intensity is all about. This team needs to show some fire and emotion if it wants to get back on the winning track. The defense needs to fly to the ball and punish folks. The linemen, wide receivers, and running backs need to be looking for someone to lay out every second until the whistle blows.
The more intense they are the better they will play. Better play means more wins. More wins lead to more fun for everyone. College football is about having fun.
The crowd will be sparse and the opponent should not cause too much trouble. This is the type of game that usually results in a bad case of boredom for a lot of fans.
This game, however, needs to be different.
It is an opportunity for the Tigers to work on becoming better players and a better team. Improvement in every aspect of the game should be the main priority against the Paladins. They need to make this one fun to watch.
Everyone needs to get in on the action and show that they want to win and will not let the Georgia debacle get them down. The focus on the running game will continue and plenty of young talent should see the field.
The Tigers win 38-7.
AUTHOR'S NOTE:I stated in my previous article that there was an obvious instance of face guarding on the throwback to Whitehurst. It has since some to my attention that no such call exists in the college game. I apologize for failing to do the proper research before making such a statement. It is a mistake that should not have been made.