The eighth-ranked Clemson Tigers are one of the nation's most surprising and impressive teams through five weeks, and they hope to remain unbeaten this weekend when the Boston College Eagles come to town for an ACC duel.
Not much has gone right for Boston College thus far, as it has posted only one victory in five games, and that win came over an FCS opponent. The Eagles have been competitive in three of the four defeats, including last weekend's 27-19 setback to Wake Forest in front of a disappointed home crowd. This weekend's tilt begins a stretch of three straight on the road for Frank Spaziani's club.
"We're close, but we're far away," said Spaziani after the loss to Wake Forest. We're working hard and we've got to keep figuring out how to work through the problem. We've got to get everyone on the practice field consistently and coach them, try to put them in spots where they can make a play."
Leading Clemson is Dabo Swinney, who has guided his Tigers to five wins in as many games. They have beaten three ranked opponents in as many weeks in Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech, and last weekend's 23-3 victory over the Hokies in Blacksburg certainly opened some eyes.
"There is not anybody other than these 115 players and this staff that believed we would be 5-0," Swinney said. "But, you know what? That's all that matters. The thing I told our team, and they have bought into it, is that if you are going to change Clemson you have to change it from the inside out."
The all-time series between the Tigers and Eagles is deadlocked at 9-9-2, but Boston College holds a 4-2 edge since joining the ACC in 2005.
Against Wake Forest last week, Boston College finished with a mediocre 336 total yards and managed only one offensive touchdown. Chase Rettig struggled under center, completing only 23-of-47 pass attempts for 188 yards. While Rettig did throw a touchdown pass, he was intercepted in the clash as well, one of the team's two turnovers. One a positive note, tailback Montel Harris ran for 108 yards, setting the school's all-time rushing record. Harris currently has 3,735 yards, breaking the mark held by Derrick Knight.
"I love Montel and he is deserving of every individual accolade that he gets," said Spaziani. "We're certainly very happy for him. I know he has worked hard to get it and hopefully he can get some more."
Through five games, the Eagles are scoring a modest 20.6 ppg and gaining only 329.8 total ypg. Harris and Andre Williams are both capable ball carries, and the ground game will certainly be helped if the passing attack improves. Rettig has five touchdowns with four interceptions and a .521 completion percentage, numbers that won't scare anyone.
Defensively, BC allowed 392 yards to Wake Forest and surrendered three touchdowns, including a pair of rushing scores. The Eagles failed to notch a single sack and came up with only one takeaway.
The Eagles are surrendering 23.6 ppg and 403.2 total ypg, and of the 13 touchdowns that have been surrendered to opposing offenses, 10 have been of the rushing variety. BC permits foes to make good on 44 percent of their third-down conversion attempts, and just four sacks have been posted thus far.
That Boston College defense will certainly have its hands full with Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who has emerged as a darkhorse candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Boyd has completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 1,459 yards with 14 touchdowns and only two interceptions, and he has run for a pair of scores as well. Sammy Watkins paces the receivers with 31 catches for 471 yards and six touchdowns, and he will undoubtedly earn all ACC honors if he continues at the torrid pace he is on. Andre Ellington is the top ground gainer for Clemson (411 yds), helping the team average 466.8 ypg and 34.8 ppg.
The Tigers are allowing 20.6 ppg and 376.0 total ypg, so there is some room for improvement on the defensive side of the ball despite the success to date. Clemson is yielding 4.5 yards per rushing attempt and 13.6 yards per pass completion, suggesting that the mild weakness exists against both means of attack.
Boyd and the offense managed three touchdowns last week against Virginia Tech, and the Tiger defense turned in a tremendous performance. The unit held the Hokies to a mere three points and 258 total yards in the clash.
"Virginia Tech is a smash mouth team," Clemson DE Andre Branch said. "We felt like as a defense that nobody can just line up and run against us... We knew they were going to run the ball, but at the same time it was on us to stop that."