The 10th-ranked Clemson Tigers continue their quest for a second straight ACC title, as they welcome the Maryland Terrapins to Death Valley for a conference showdown at Memorial Stadium this weekend.
Dabo Swinney's Tigers took advantage of Florida State's bye week and crept into a first-place tie with the Seminoles in the Atlantic Division with last week's 56-20 rout of Duke in Durham. With the win, Clemson moved to 8-1 overall and a 5-1 mark in-conference.
Swinney has been pleased at how his team has developed.
"Overall we continue to respond and play as a team." said Swinney following the win in Durham. "It feels great to get a fourth win away from home."
Randy Edsall has certainly had his hands full in 2012, as finding someone to lineup under center has become a full-time job. Maryland has lost four signal- callers this season and actually had a converted linebacker start at quarterback in last weekend's 33-13 loss to Georgia Tech. The loss dropped Maryland to 4-5 overall and 2-3 in league play.
Edsall knew his team was facing a stiff challenge against Tech.
"We knew it was going to be tough going into the game," Edsall said. "We also knew that we were going to have to play great on defense to keep it a very low-scoring game. We weren't able to do that."
Clemson leads the all-time series 32-26-2. These two teams have met every year since 1952, the longest active continuous rivalry for either school in ACC play.
Maryland's struggles under center are well documented this year, culminating in true freshman Shawn Petty getting the start last weekend against the Yellow Jackets. Petty completed just 50 percent of his passes, for 115 yards, although he did throw two TD passes. Still, he was guilty of one interception and two fumbles in the game.
The team's only real offensive weapon is freshman Stefon Diggs, who is having a big year in his first in College Park, leading the team in receptions (43), receiving yards (721) and TD catches (6).
While the offense has failed to find an identity, the Maryland defense has been one of the nation's best, limiting foes to just 301.7 yards per game (11th nationally).
However, the unit suffered a crucial injury of its own against Georgia Tech, as leading tackler Demetrius Hartsfield (78 tackles, 7.0 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, one INT and two fumble recoveries) tore an ACL and is done for the year. The Terrapins must rally now behind players like defensive lineman Joe Vellano (53 tackles, 14.0 TFLs, 6.0 sacks) and linebacker Darin Drakeford (44 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 6.0 sacks).
The Tigers will present all kinds of problems for the Maryland defense this week, as Clemson is one of the nation's most productive squads, averaging a hefty 42.7 ppg (seventh nationally), while churning out 522.4 yards per game (ninth nationally).
Tajh Boyd is the conductor of the offense, completing 67.8 percent of his throws thus far, for 2,680 yards, with 25 touchdown passes. It definitely helps to have one of the nation's premier receiving duos at his disposal, with DeAndre Hopkins (62 receptions, 1,037 yards, 13 TDs) and Sammy Watkins (38 receptions, 501 yards, two TDs) running wild downfield.
The ground game isn't as potent as the pass game, but tailback Andre Ellington (780 yards, 5.2 ypc, seven TDs) has been solid in creating offensive balance.
The Clemson defense is a step or two behind the offense and has struggled with consistency, allowing a generous 412.3 yards of total offense per game. The team has had real problems stuffing the run (172.3 ypg).
The linebacking corps highlights the defensive effort, with Jonathan Willard (66 tackles, 7.0 TFLs), Stephone Anthony (64 tackles) and Spencer Shuey (61 tackles) being the top three tacklers on the team.