Thursday, October 31, 2013

game preview: Clemson

Date/Time: Saturday, November 2; 3:30


Record against the Tigers: 8-37-1

Last meeting: Clem. 34, UVA 21; 11/21/09, Clemson

Last weekend: GT 35, UVA 25; Clem. 40, Md. 27

Line: Clemson by 18

Injury report:


OUT - OL George Adeosun, CB Maurice Canady, CB Demetrious Nicholson, TE Mario Nixon, DT Brent Urban, S Wil Wahee



PROBABLE - OG Conner Davis, K Ian Frye


OUT - DB MacKensie Alexander, OL Patrick DeStefano, DT Kevin Dodd, RB Tyshon Dye,  LB Kellen Jones, WR Charone Peake, CB Garry Peters, DT Carlos Watkins



PROBABLE - RB Zac Brooks

What were you doing in 1999?  I'd guess your life was a lot different back then.  Three presidential terms have come and gone since then, and then some.  According to my high school yearbook, the Sega Dreamcast came out then.  This was 14 years ago.  I bring this up because the next time Clemson visits Charlottesville will be 14 years from now: 2027.  That's when V for Vendetta takes place FFS.  This is the brave new, stupid ACC.

Of course, Clemson might be a poor example of a team we should play more often, given the sound thrashing they're about to lay on our football team.  This week will put a merciful end to the season, afte which point the team will perhaps be playing for nothing more than to save their coach's job.

-- UVA run offense vs. Clemson run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 144 carries, 614 yards, 4.3 ypc, 9 TDs
Khalek Shepherd: 38 carries, 248 yards, 6.5 ypc, 1 TD

UVA offense:
162.63 yards/game, 3.86 yards/attempt
92nd of 125 (national), 11th of 14 (ACC)

Clemson defense:
144.13 yards/game, 3.79 yards/attempt
41st of 125 (national), 7th of 14 (ACC)

The likely return of Conner Davis is a small piece of good news for a running game that proved mostly impotent against Georgia Tech.  UVA has tried a lot of combinations, but this one, with Davis at LG and Whitmire at RG, has proven to be, on balance, the best of an unpalatable array of choices.

The drawback is that Luke Bowanko's snap issues are returning.  Part of the reason he makes a better guard than center is because of his erratic shotgun snaps, which tend to be high and throw off the timing of the read-option as well as just plain regular runs out of the pistol.  When your main back is Kevin Parks, whose acceleration isn't top-level stuff, it makes everything run a tick slow, and that in turn just piles up the issues on an offensive line that has a tough time as it is with holding blocks for long enough.

Adding to the difficulties is that bane of the UVA offense, a quality defensive tackle.  For Clemson it's Grady Jarrett.  They also have a pair of excellent linebackers in Spencer Shuey and Stephone Anthony, the two leading tacklers.  Two-thirds of the way through the season and they already have 78 and 80 tackles, respectively.  I'm less impressed by SLB Quandon Christian, and I think UVA would have more success running to that side than the other.  But Clemson's defensive line is more than good enough to cover any weaknesses among the linebackers - not that there are many.

Other than an inexplicable meltdown against Syracuse and the opening game against Georgia, teams haven't been real successful running the ball against Clemson.  It's unlikely ours is the team to break that trend.  I don't think Parks will manage more than 60 yards, and the rest of the running attack will fall in place behind.

-- UVA pass offense vs. Clemson pass defense

David Watford: 191/314, 60.8%; 1,715 yards, 7 TDs, 9 INTs; 5.46 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Jake McGee: 31 rec., 265 yards, 2 TDs
Kevin Parks: 29 rec., 285 yards, 1 TD

UVA offense:
219.9 yards/game, 5.3 yards/attempt
124th of 125 (national), 14th of 14 (ACC)

Clemson defense:
230.6 yards/game, 7.4 yards/attempt
81st of 125 (national), 11th of 14 (ACC)

Why is Clemson looking upwards in the Atlantic Conference race?  Because of the 444 yards they gave up to Jameis Winston.  David Watford isn't Winston and has nothing close to the surrounding talent, but this remains the weaker point of Clemson's defense.

Actually, it doesn't mean they're not dangerous, though.  Clemson's 29 sacks are tops in the country, and their 13 picks are tied for 8th.  Cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and Darius Robinson have three picks apiece, and speed-rushing DE Vic Beasley has ten sacks.  GT's Jeremiah Attaochu abused right tackle Eric Smith, sometimes simply by juking him without ever being engaged in a block, and Smith will have his hands full again; no doubt Clemson paid attention to the film and won't bother lining up Beasley across from Morgan Moses.

Clemson, though, is also prone to allowing the big play.  They sit near the bottom of the national rankings in this regard.  That means if UVA is even going to keep this thing close(ish), Tim Smith needs to repeat his performance of last week.  Having Jake McGee back will be a big plus, but Watford needs multiple options to stretch the field or there just won't be any point to this at all.  It's Smith who has emerged as a downfield threat - not in terms of the one big lightning strike, but he can create 20, 25-yard plays.  Consistency is a problem, of course, as he's yet to really do anything two games in a row this year.

Watford is likely to have a tough time with this pass rush.  Consider it experience for the VT game.  Clemson averages more than 3.5 sacks a game, so predicting three, as I was planning on doing, starts to look pretty weak; let's say four.  I think Watford can continue to top 200 yards and the Hoos should be able to move the ball in fits and starts, but expecting a repeat of last week would be too much.

-- Clemson run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Roderick McDowell: 119 carries, 607 yards, 5.1 ypc, 2 TDs
Zac Brooks: 47 carries, 234 yards, 5.0 ypc, 2 TDs

Clemson offense:
175.88 yards/game, 3.94 yards/attempt
87th of 125 (national), 9th of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
182.0 yards/game, 4.56 yards/attempt
84th of 125 (national), 13th of 14 (ACC)

Tailback Roderick McDowell is a decent back, but let's face it, even as the starter he's essentially Tajh Boyd's change of pace.   A great deal of the Clemson run game is the read-option run between Boyd and McDowell, and Boyd has 72 carries for 334 yards once you take away sacks.

In that sense it's a good deal for us that the defense has been seeing the read-option in practice.  The basics of defending it are to do one of two things: have your defensive tackle kick some ass while the DE pops out to take the QB (but there's no Urban) or crash the DE to take the RB and "scrape" the linebacker outside.  I have, however, no idea what Jon Tenuta is doing with linebackers these days, given the strange appearance of this week's depth chart.

One thing seems sure: Max Valles as anything other than a situational pass-rusher seems like a bad idea.  Valles is inexperienced and it showed badly against GT; against the read-option I'd rather stick with the experienced and trustworthy Romero and Coley.  And if Tenuta blitzes up the middle, that's great except that Boyd will probably just keep and head outside for a big gain.

Clemson will get their yards here; they've been pretty successful all season without being spectacular.  Steady is the word, as the run game gets its share of room just from teams hanging back, understandably scared of the pass.  I'm not too worried about there being a big play here, but there's no reason the Tigers shouldn't just continue to be able to do what they do, which is pick up five yards whenever they want to.

-- Clemson pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Tajh Boyd: 168/263, 63.9%; 2,243 yards, 17 TDs, 5 INTs; 8.53 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Sammy Watkins: 58 rec., 813 yards, 5 TDs
Adam Humphries: 30 rec., 368 yards, 2 TDs

Clemson offense:
319.6 yards/game, 8.1 yards/attempt
36th of 125 (national), 7th of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
211.8 yards/game, 6.6 yards/attempt
39th of 125 (national), 7th of 14 (ACC)

No Nicholson, no Canady, going against Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd.  There's no need to overthink this.

-- Favorability ratings

UVA run offense: 2.5
UVA pass offense: 3.5
UVA run defense: 3.5
UVA pass defense: 1

Average: 2.63

-- Outlook

For the cliff notes, just reread the pass defense segment.  I cannot think of a single reason this should go well.  It's possible to look at UVA and see a team scrapping for a win and continuing to improve but tragically coming up short each time.  It's also possible to see a reeling, injury-riddled, often undisciplined team with unsolvable weaknesses, going up against a legitimate top-ten team in the country.  The improvement might just result in one win, maybe against Carolina or VT's putrid offense.  For now, Tivo will come in handy should I want to see any play in particular; I'll be watching Michigan-MSU.

-- Prediction summary

-- Kevin Parks fails to reach 60 yards on the ground.

-- David Watford passes for over 200 yards.

-- Watford is sacked at least four times.

-- Sammy Watkins needs 187 yards to reach 1,000 for the season.  He'll get them all Saturday.

Final score: Clemson 51, UVA 17

-- Rest of the ACC

Virginia Tech @ Boston College - 12:00 - Any team that plays a decently disciplined defense against VT is an upset risk - and BC does.

North Carolina @ NC State - 12:30 - UNC is 2-5, and could easily finish the regular season 7-5.

Wake Forest @ Syracuse - 12:30 - A likely Bowl Eligibility Bowl in the Atlantic.

Pittsburgh @ Georgia Tech - 7:00 - GT can clinch a postseason trip.

Miami @ Florida State - 8:00 - Possible preview of the ACCCG.

Byes: Maryland, Duke

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So ... we suck, and our HC is getting paid too much to likely get the can this year. The only thing left to hope for is somehow squeezing a victory out in the final 3 games.

Next year ... is a long way's away, but it's the only football thing to look forward to. The defense should be good. We really need another good edge rusher, but if we get Brathwaite back to go with Dean, that should be a very good interior push, and Harold should get even better. Moore should be fine taking over Snyder's spot, and here's hoping Corney develops. The linebacking trio looks solid, and there's depth, and the secondary will be a talented, veteran group. We should be able to bring Blanding/Brown along as key bench players.

Offensively, the skill spots are ... well, I don't know. RB is fine, and TE is fine. Sure, you wish for a better all-around TE, but we've got enough ability there for the college game. WR ... I don't know what to think about that group. Keeon Johnson should not be our top WR. I blame a lot on the QB play, but certainly, a lot also falls on the WR's.

We obviously need better QB play, but whether or not Watford is that guy, I'm not sure. What I'd like to see is Fairchild go to some more power running, play-action stuff to see if that will help. Of course, we need to establish the run first. The OL seems to have gotten better as the season progressed, but we have a big gaping issue at LT with no heir apparent that's played enough to feel comfortable with.