On Saturday, both Clemson and South Carolina must halt their preparation for each other in order to play fruitless games against FCS opponents. The Tigers (9-1, 7-1 ACC) face The Citadel (5-6, 4-4 Southern), a mediocre FCS team, who should offer little resistance to Chad Morris’ offense and provide little challenge to Brent Venables’ defense.
Honestly, I hate these games, especially at this point in the season. Sure, it’s great when Appalachian State upends Michigan, but one thing that gets lost in translation is the quality of FCS team one plays. The likes of Appalachian, North Dakota State, and Eastern Washington consistently compete for national championships at the lesser division and, thus, it’s reasonable to give them a shot at the big boys. The Citadel, on the other hand, has not made the playoffs since 1992.
I understand that there are financial benefits; Clemson gets an extra home game and The Citadel receives a handsome sum for playing the role of the Washington Generals. That said, as a fan, I wish they would do away these types of games.
Well, now that I got that off my chest, let’s highlight three things to watch. Clemson just needs to show up and play Clemson football, so I really don’t see any true “keys” to victory.
1) Tajh Boyd’s final home game
Yes, it’s quarterback Tajh Boyd’s last game in Memorial Stadium. Expect Boyd to go out with a bang against the overmatched Bulldogs. You can make an argument that Boyd is not only the greatest signal-caller in Clemson history, but the ACC at large (more on this next week). Boyd ranks first in conference history in touchdown passes (97), first in passing efficiency (153.42), and second in passing yards (11,013).
The Citadel allows 202 passing yards against per game, which ranks 36 in the FCS; however, they’ve never seen anything like Boyd, Sammy Watkins, and the rest of the Tigers’ passing attack.
This should be a fun send off for Boyd, the rest of the “Dandy Dozen,” and (probably) Watkins.
2) No injuries, please!
You would hate to see anyone get hurt in this quasi-scrimmage. Boyd banged up his shoulder against Georgia Tech, and, obviously, the Tigers cannot afford to lose their leader before going to Columbia.
Moreover, The Citadel runs a triple-option attack similar to Georgia Tech. The defense should expect some cut blocks, which can be dangerous. Of course, I expect the Tigers to pounce on them early and the reserves should see significant action in the second half. This brings me to my final point…
3) A glimpse of the future
Another benefit of playing a FCS team is that it should give some of the younger players a chance to see the field. As a fan, it will be fun to get a look at who will be key contributors for Dabo Swinney’s 2014 squad.
Be sure to check out WR Mike Williams. The freshman has a world of talent and will likely be Clemson’s number one playmaker as early as next year. I’d also like to see the other freshman wide out, Germone Hopper, show off his skills. I loved his high school film and expect him to be an explosive weapon in the future.
Defensively, watch the freshman safeties Jayron Kearse and Korrin Wiggins. The two have combined for 5 interceptions this season and could add to the total Saturday. The 6’4” Kearse is a physical specimen, while Wiggins is one of the more cerebral players you’ll find.
Lastly, we should get to see plenty of Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly at quarterback. Stoudt looked solid against Georgia Tech. Let’s see who can get an early leg up in the inevitable offseason quarterback competition. Keep in mind that star recruit Deshaun Watson will enroll for the spring semester and add to the competition.
It’s hard to say how the game will go, but I expect Clemson to force a large lead early in the game and finish strong as they display their depth. I’ll say 63-9 Tigers.