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Tigers tangle with Terrapins in ACC showdown

The eighth-ranked Clemson Tigers hit the road this weekend, as they invade College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins in ACC action at Byrd Stadium.

Dabo Swinney's Tigers have been one of the real surprise teams in the ACC this year and with each passing week, they move closer and closer to an Atlantic Division crown. Clemson ran a three-week gauntlet against powerhouses Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech and came out unscathed, making last weekend's 36-14 win over Boston College at home seem anti-climatic. The victory moved the Tigers to 6-0 for the first time since 2000.

Swinney knows the team hasn't achieved anything yet.

"It's not going to be any easier for us this second half of the season, and it hasn't been easy ever, but this team is resilient and this crowd was great. But we're ready to take this show on the road."

Randy Edsall's Terrapins will take their shot at the Tigers this weekend as part of their Homecoming festivities. The Terrapins are just 2-3 on the season and have dropped three of their last four games, including a tough, 21-16 setback at nationally-ranked Georgia Tech this past weekend.

Clemson holds a 31-26-2 series advantage. These two teams have met every year since 1952, the longest active continuous rivalry against ACC foes for both programs.

The main reason for Clemson's rise into the top-10 is an offense that has been unstoppable for the most part. The team employs a balanced attack that churns out 472.3 yards of total offense, with 174.7 coming on the ground and 297.7 through the air.

There is no secret to the success on the offensive side of the ball, as quarterback Tahj Boyd has thrown his name into the Heisman race with his play thus far. The sophomore signal-caller had to leave the Boston College game with a hip injury, but is listed as probable for this contest. Boyd has completed over 61 percent of his passes thus far, for 1,742 yards, with 15 TDs and just two INTs.

Coach Edsall is aware of the talent that Boyd brings to the Clemson offense.

"He is very athletic and a good thrower. Watching him on film he gets rid of the ball very quickly and gets it to the people that he is supposed to. I am very impressed with what I have seen out of him on film. He can run the ball, throws the ball well and plays at a high level."

True freshman WR Sammy Watkins has made an immediate impact in Death Valley and is one of the top freshmen in the nation. He already has 38 receptions on the year, for 623 yards and six TDs. Tailback Andre Ellington has provided the bulk of the ground work, averaging 88.0 yards per game on 4.6 yards per carry.

Clemson's defense this season lacks the All-American talent it had a year ago, but that has given others a chance to shine. Defensive end Andre Branch is one of the best at his position in the ACC. He currently leads the Tigers in tackles (40), TFLs (10) and sacks (6). Branch has shown the ability to dominate a game, as evidenced by his six TFL, four sack performance at Virginia Tech.

The Terrapins weren't able to get past the Yellow Jackets last weekend, but there were some positives to take from the game, especially on the offensive side of the football. The team rushed for a season-high 246 yards in the setback, led by C.J. Brown, who went off for a career-high 124 yards. Davin Meggett added 86 yards to the cause. Quarterback Danny O'Brien has struggled at times this season and was actually replaced by Brown in the second quarter of the Tech game.

On the season, O'Brien has thrown for just 930 yards with four TDs and six INTs. Expect to see plenty of Brown under center the rest of the way as well, as he brings a different set of skills to the position. Meggett leads the way on the ground (413 yards, two TDs), while Kevin Dorsey is the top receiving threat (28 catches, 352 yards, two TDs).

Edsall doesn't view the quarterback situation as a negative.

"We are very fortunate that we have two outstanding quarterbacks here. The thing is that it's great to have our depth at the quarterback position. We would like to have that at every position. We are going to evaluate the quarterback position just like we do everywhere else. We will evaluate it and then come Saturday night we will make a determination as to who will be our starter this week. That might help us from a standpoint of Clemson not knowing who to prepare for."

The Maryland defense has done a nice job against the pass (210.8 ypg), but has struggled a great deal against the run (196.4 ypg). The unit is highlighted by captains Kenny Tate and Joe Vellano. Tate has made the move to linebacker this season after All-American caliber play at the safety position. A 2010 All-ACC First-Teamer, Tate is averaging nearly nine tackles per game in 2011, although he missed the Tech game due to injury. Vellano (7.6 tackles per game) is one of the most active interior linemen in the league, coming off the Tech game where he posted 20 tackles.