Roy Martin: Utah State vs Clemson Preview

by - Correspondent -
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I love college football, especially this time of year when the weather is getting cooler and the leaves are starting to change. I try to take in as many games as I can. From the time College Gameday airs, until the final seconds of the late night West Coast game, I am usually at a game or watching one on TV.

Maybe I am a little warped for wanting to watch as much football as I do. Be it an Oklahoma/USC national championship game or two unheard of Division II teams in a Thursday night battle on a local cable network, I am interested.

That being said, I think I’ve only seen Utah State once. And I did not even realize it until I visited their website and saw the uniforms.

If any Clemson fan tells you they are pretty familiar with the Aggies, there are only three possible explanations: they have a serious football problem, they are from somewhere out West, or they are lying.

I do not know a thing about Utah State other than what I have read in press releases from both schools. For example, did you know their local little league team, the Logan Mitey Mites, are undefeated this season? Talk about a comprehensive press release…

For those of you who have not done much reading, the Aggies spread the field on offense, run a 3-4 on defense, and have the nation’s leading punt returner. They are much like Clemson in that they give up a ton of rushing yards and gain very few.

They have also had some problems with turnovers. Quarterback Travis Cox committed six in their last contest.

As for Clemson, unfamiliarity with a presumably weaker opponent should not be an excuse for taking this game lightly. This is an extremely important game.

There are a lot of busted egos in Tigertown right now. One of the best ways to rebuild some confidence is to have a big victory regardless of the opponent.

Consider this game a bike ride with training wheels. If things go smoothly, this team can build a little confidence and get ready for a tough finish to the season. If they fall a couple of times, the bike may go to the garage and the season is as good as done.

So, the real question is how Tommy Bowden plans on attacking. Will the offense use this game as a chance to work on the running game or will they go to the air in hopes of scoring a ton of points?

I honestly do not know what is more important.

I would think scoring a ton of points would do more to boost the confidence of the offense, but I cannot say that for sure. If those guys truly understand all that is going on, then they know how important it could be to establish some type of ground threat.

One good thing is they face their second consecutive 3-4 defense. Because so many teams in the college ranks run a 4-3, it is sometimes difficult to prepare for the change. The offense should also be well rested after having played only 101 game snaps in the last two games with a week off in between.

Defensively, Clemson has tackled as poorly as any major college team in the country. Facing a spread offense has to be a sobering thought because open field tackling play an even bigger role. If Clemson whiffs like they have done much of the year, the Aggies will have some big plays all day long because the support is not there.

Likewise, this is an opportunity for the defense to attack and get something going. Leroy Hill should think he is on the track team by the end of the game. He needs to blitz, blitz, and blitz some more. Nothing gets a defense more fired up than a big hit on a sack.

Some success by Hill early on can really get things going in the right direction. Besides, the coaches should not want to sit back and wait on Utah State to make a mistake. Teams that spread the field can eat you alive with the dinks and dunks if you do not come after them.

And speaking of defensive pressure, this is a game where the front four could get things rolling. They have yet to register a sack this season, which is never a good thing five games into a season. Corey Groover seems to be getting over his early season ankle injury and is starting to blossom. This week is a chance for him to prove he is ready to step up.

This is a hard game to gauge because Clemson has played so poorly and Utah State is an unknown. Even though Clemson is expected to win this one easily, a blowout is far from a guarantee if they do not play up to their ability.

No one understands the importance of this game more than the coaches and the players. That type of pressure can serve as a motivating factor or it can cause them to be uptight as they search for perfection.

A perfect game is desired but it is not needed to pull out a victory or even get things headed in the right direction. As has been the case all season, the Tigers just need to execute and do the little things. Whereas equal or superior talent by the opponents may have played a role in the four losses and the mistakes that occurred in each game, that should not be the case this week.

There is absolutely no excuse for dropped passes, missed blocks, and poor tackling. This week will give the fans and coaches a good idea of whether the players are ready to step up and execute the game plans.

They have proven they can be successful when they make plays. That was evident early on against Virginia and Florida State. Some blamed the offense while others blamed the defense. The truth is that both were guilty.

On the surface it would appear the offense has left the defense on the field a lot this year, and that is a valid argument. However, one must consider the defense’s inability to get off the field. It is hard for the offense to find a rhythm when they are sitting on the sideline for five to eight minutes watching the opponent have their way with the defense.

Never has a game against an inferior opponent placed so much weight on the shoulders of a Clemson team. How they handle it will be a very telling sign. Call me crazy but I think there is enough leadership from within to make the most of this opportunity. Clemson wins 38-14

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