Miami at Clemson prediction

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Showdown at high noon in Death Valley.

Head coach Randy Shannon brings his University of Miami Hurricanes to Clemson’s Death Valley early Saturday afternoon for an early-season ACC matchup. If history is repeated, this one will be a slugfest that goes right down to the wire. In 2009, the Tigers pulled out a 40-37 victory in overtime in Miami, and the Canes will be looking to return the favor. Both teams are talented, have good quarterbacks, great defensive lines and playmakers. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes just might be the victor.

For Miami, this is a chance to prove the program is headed in the right direction and can consider itself back among the elite in the nation. For Clemson, this is about reclaiming the Valley; this about putting the rest of the ACC Atlantic Division on notice that the route to Charlotte runs through Clemson; and gaining some national respect.

Miami at Clemson

When Miami Has the Ball

Miami quarterback Jacory Harris completed 21-of-32 passes for 248 yards and a pair of touchdowns at Pitt eight days ago. Travis Benjamin led the receivers with six grabs for 96 yards and a touchdown, while Damien Berry ran 21 times for 87 yards and a touchdown. Harris has completed 64 percent of his passes for 690 yards and six touchdowns, but he has also been intercepted six times. Leonard Hankerson has made 16 catches for 241 yards and three touchdowns. The Key: Harris’ interceptions. The Tigers need to get consistent pressure on Harris and force him into quick throws and mistakes. The right side of the Miami offensive line, which is average at best, was porous against Pitt. That just happens to be the side that Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers lines up, so it will be interesting to see what happens if Bowers becomes a force. The Hurricanes could be forced to keep a RB in to chip on Bowers, which takes the RB [or fullback for that matter] out of the pass pattern. If they have to keep a TE in to help, that also lessens Harris’ targets. However, one of the staples of the Miami pass offense is the “stutter-and-go”, a pattern that burned Clemson twice at Auburn. Miami is talented on offense, but Clemson’s defensive line is better than the Hurricane offensive line.



When Clemson Has the Ball

The Canes have only surrendered 39 points through three games, including six total points in the first and fourth quarters combined. Opponents are generating a mere 252.0 ypg, including 120.3 ypg on the ground at a clip of 2.9 yards per attempt. The Tigers have been able to rush the football consistently, getting 273 yards on the ground from Andre Ellington in the first three games, but Miami’s defensive line is good – really good. The Key: Clemson has to get a breakout game from one of the wide receivers in order to be run the football. Tight end Dwayne Allen will get his touches, but if Miami thinks Clemson’s wideouts can’t beat their corners 1-on-1, it will allow the Canes to sneak the safeties up in run support, and you can’t expect Clemson’s five offensive linemen to block eight defenders. WR Jaron Brown has shown a glimpse of his potential, but now’s the time to realize it. If Clemson can prove they have a weapon on the outside, it will free up the running lanes and Clemson can keep the ball out of the hands of Harris and the Miami offense.


Special Teams

Clemson’s special teams have been solid in 2010. Marcus Gilchrist is the Tigers’ return threat on both punts and kickoffs. He is averaging 18.3 yards per punt return and 23.3 on kick returns. Punter Dawson Zimmerman has had his moments, and is averaging an impressive 46.1 yards per punt while
Clemson ranks eighth nationally in net punting (42.35). Freshman kicker Chandler Catanzaro has missed only one kick through games – but it was a big one in overtime at Auburn. The Canes have two dangerous return men in Travis Benjamin (punts) and Lamar Miller (kickoffs) as both rank among the nation’s elite through the first month of the season. Miller ranks second nationally in kick return average (37.75) while Benjamin ranks fourth (24.50). Miami has All-ACC kicker Matt Bosher, and he has made 103 consecutive PATs. Bosher is 35-for-41 in field goals in his career, but has already missed two this season. He also led the ACC in punting a year ago.



Randy Shannon is in his fourth season as Miami’s head coach and owns an overall record of 23-18. Dabo Swinney is 15-9 in two years as Clemson’s head coach. Mark Whipple, the Miami offensive coordinator, has a solid reputation in the business, while the defensive coordinator is former Clemson coach John Lovett. Shannon has had plenty of talent at Miami, but his teams have appeared undisciplined in key moments. Swinney has infused a physical style back at Clemson, which he promised to do, and a win over a ranked Miami team would provide momentum for his program. Both coaches are looking to get their programs to a high level.



The old adage says “if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.” And there is no doubt that the Canes are one of the most, if not THE most, talented teams in the ACC. Two weeks ago, Clemson had a chance to make a statement with a win over Auburn, and they won the game everywhere but on the scoreboard. It seems silly to call the first ACC game of the year a must-win, and a loss definitely doesn’t mean Clemson’s ACC title hopes are dashed. But let’s face it, this is the fifth week of the season, and a loss means the Tigers have wins over North Texas and Presbyterian. A win gives them a win over a ranked opponent, a good start to conference play, and begins the process of reclaiming Death Valley as the place opponents don’t want to play. Will the 12th man, the Clemson crowd, help push the Tigers to a win? SPOT THE BALL and let’s find out.



David's previous picks - Actual score




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