Posted on September 4, 2018, by Travis Pulver
Week One of the 2018 college football season is in the books. While we did learn a lot about a number of teams, we still don’t know nearly enough to make any judgment calls. With so many teams playing soft competition, it’s impossible to know if they are as good as they appeared or if they have issues of some kind.
That can certainly be said about Texas A&M and Clemson. Both teams played soft opponents (Northwestern State and Furman) Both teams won with ease (59-7; 48-7).
Clemson’s defense is supposed to be phenomenal and looked the part. But is it because they are phenomenal, or did they overwhelm a weak team? Kellen Mond seemed like a completely different guy. Is it because the competition was easy or because he is?
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Fans will have to wait until Saturday to find out.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had a tough decision on his hands heading into Week One. Does he go with the guy who got them to the playoffs last season and played well, Kelly Bryant? Or does he go with one of the most highly touted high school quarterbacks in recent history, Trevor Lawrence?
He ended up playing both and going with a rotation. Overall, both played well although Lawrence did have a few passes land short and some go high. But, to be fair, Bryant had a number of passes land short as well. Since neither did enough to take the job, he is planning on doing the same against the Aggies:
“We definitely will play both quarterbacks,” Swinney said. “There’s no doubt about that. Nothing happened [against Furman] to warrant not playing both those guys.”
But the key to the game is not going to be either quarterback or whether they can establish a running game. It is going to be the defensive front four; a group many think could go inside the first round of the draft next year.
They only recorded two sacks and three tackles for a loss against Furman. Furman only attempted nine passes, but they ran the ball 53 times. The Aggies are going to be more balanced and have much better running backs. Their offensive line isn’t too bad either.
Texas A&M Aggies
Jimbo Fisher had to like what he saw from his offense and defense in Week One. No matter how weak your opponent is, running for over 500 yards is something to be proud of. Kellen Mond was not asked to do too much, but he looked much more confident in the pocket. He appeared to be a lot calmer than he was last year and much more accurate with his throws.
His defense shut down the Northwestern State run game (21 yards) and did a good job against the pass as well (18-35 for 230 yards; 115 yards came on two pass plays late in the game).
But he knows Clemson is going to be much, much better than the Demons.
The offense has talent but is it elite talent that can hang with the No. 2 Tigers. Or is it just very good talent that will make the Aggies a middle of the road team? Mond is good, but still has a lot of growing to do. Trayveon Williams is an excellent back and has a good, veteran offensive line to run behind.
There are a few more questions on the defensive side of the ball, but new DC Mike Elko knows how to get the most out of who he has. He’ll be able to get the secondary to step up its game. With the linebackers he has, opponents are going to have a hard time running the ball as well.
So—who’s going to win?
It’s hard not to pick Clemson. The Tigers didn’t exactly do anything impressive against Furman, but sometimes it is hard to look awesome when your competition is weak. However, we do know how good their defensive front is. Texas A&M is going to have a hard time running against it. If the can’t run and the game is in Mond’s hands, the Aggies are going to be hard-pressed to pull off the upset.
The Prediction: Clemson will win, but the Aggies will keep it exciting and close; the Tigers will not cover the spread (-11).