Posted on November 28, 2017, by Travis Pulver
What do you do for an encore after overcoming the mighty and feared Alabama Crimson Tide to win the national championship? Easy– you win it again, but with different players. That’s the realty the Clemson Tigers faced this season. Now that the regular season is over, it is safe to say one thing:
So far, so good.
Their defense has reloaded and is having another stellar year under the guidance of defensive coordinator Brent Venables. While Kelly Bryant is no Deshaun Watson, he isn’t doing half bad. The only problem is the team is not prepared to play without him. Anyone that watched the Syracuse game (which the Tigers lost) will tell you that.
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But Bryant appears to be healthy at the moment and ready to play. He’s only thrown a pair of interceptions since the loss to Syracuse. His offense has scored at least 24 points in each game since including a 61-point explosion against the Citadel. His head coach, Dabo Swiney, says all the right things when asked about him (ESPN):
“Nobody had more pressure on him coming into this season than Kelly Bryant, and he’s led this team to 11-1, state championship, division championship and hopefully an ACC championship.”
Miami looked like a team that could knock Clemson off its high horse after they demolished Notre Dame a couple of weeks ago. But then they followed that game up with a narrow win over Virginia and a loss to Pitt last week. That’s a lot of baggage to be carrying around going into the biggest game of the season.
Some will say that baggage will drive them to play better. But what it will actually do is sink their spirits the first time something goes wrong. With an offense that is just ‘good’ on its best days, they can’t afford to have any let-downs.
That is, they can’t afford any letdowns if they want to win and get back in the national championship picture.
So—who’s going to win?
On paper, Clemson is better in just about every way. Their offense generates more yards/game (457.9 to 422.9). They have a better running game (214.7 yards/game to 164.7 yards/game), and they score more points/game (35.2 to 31.9). About the only thing Miami does better is pass the ball, but they are only marginally better (258.2 yards/game to 243.3 yards/game).
But Miami doesn’t win by outscoring opponents. No, they win by scoring enough and playing good defense—which they do. However, the Miami defense is the ‘bend but don’t break’ type. They allow a decent amount of yards/game (362.4; 152.4 rushing and 210 passing), but they stop people by taking the ball away (turnover margin of 1.55; best in the country).
If the Hurricanes are going to win, that will be how they do it. They will need to force a few turnovers, and the Miami offense is going to have to capitalize on each one. However, getting those turnovers will be easier said than done. Bryant has only thrown six picks all season, and Clemson has lost just six fumbles.
Miami is good enough to keep this one competitive, but they are not good enough to stop Clemson for an entire game. The Tigers are too good on offense in comparison to Miami’s defense. The only hope for the Hurricanes is to cause a few turnovers, get out to an early lead, and make the Clemson offense one-dimensional.
But don’t expect it to happen. Clemson is a 9.5 point favorite. They’ll win by at least ten and play in the CFB Playoffs yet again.