The No. 1 Clemson Tigers (6-0, 5-0 ACC) host the Boston College Eagles (4-2, 3-2 ACC) at noon on Saturday and come in as 31.5 point favorites. With the loss of Lawrence it is now down to around 23.5.
Many could look at the spread and say this one won’t be worth watching but those that know football also know that the little oblong shaped ball can bounce weird ways and that can keep some teams in games that, on paper, they wouldn’t normally have a shot in.
Add in the fact that the Eagles have a new head coach in Jeff Hafley and some expect him to bring a little bitterness with him after the 29-23 win over Ohio State, where he was co-defensive coordinator, giving up an early 16 point lead. The fact that the last time Boston College played Clemson they lost 59-7 will also give this Eagles team extra motivation to come out and give the Tigers their best shot.
Let’s take a look at five things to keep an eye on this week:
- Covid Strikes The Face Of College Football: After getting the news that Trevor Lawrence tested positive for Covid-19 and will be out against the Eagles, most would expect that DJ Uiagalelei will get his first career start as a true freshman. How will he respond to this opportunity will be something to watch this Saturday. He has looked good in his appearances this season but there is a huge difference in coming into a game in the third or fourth quarter and coming in as a starter. Also seeing that he has been banged up since the Miami game with some tightness in his shoulder and more questions come into play. Remember, Taisun Phommachanh is still dealing with a broken hand that he suffered a few weeks back.
- Clemson’s Offensive Line Play: Last season Clemson averaged 6.4 yards a carry and to this point in the 2020 season they are averaging 4.6 yards a carry and ranks 40th in the nation in rushing yards a game. This can make a huge difference in a game. Yes, this group came into the season having to replace four of the five starters from a year ago but this line is going to have to get better at run blocking. This week they should also be able to pick up some yards on the ground since Boston College has been giving up 165.3 yards a game. Expect the offense to lean more on Travis Etienne with Lawrence out and expect BC to key on him and make Clemson one-dimensional.
- Next Man Up Defensively: Clemson already knows that they will be without James Skalski and he’s not only the Tigers starting middle linebacker, but also this defense’s heart and soul. When you add in the fact that defensive tackle Tyler Davis and linebacker Mike Jones Jr are both banged up and it is easy to see that this defense is really banged up. Davis is a huge part of this defensive line and it’s very noticeable when he isn’t in there. It is unlikely he makes it back this week. Dabo Swinney did state on Tuesday that he expects cornerback Derion Kendrick to be back this week. It will be interesting to see how the “next man up” motto works not only this week, but also against the likes of Notre Dame.
- Wide Receivers Need To Step Up: Who will it be? Somebody besides Amari Rodgers, who was added to the Biletnikoff Award watch list this week, has to separate themselves. Last week the outside receivers couldn’t get open. Someone has to establish themselves as a consistent outside threat. The loss of Justyn Ross has really been more evident than some expected. It will be interesting to see if Joseph Ngata can establish himself as he gets over an abdominal strain that has had him sidelined for some time this season and also if Frank Ladson Jr can correct the dropsies that he has been plagued with to this point in 2020.
- Can Special Teams Become More Special: This team has been dynamic on offense averaging 48.2 points a game and the young defense has held its own, even with the numerous injuries. The one weak spot this season has come on special teams. Clemson has had multiple blocked kicks this season. Three blocked field goal attempts against Miami and one blocked punt against Syracuse. This is one area that many are still going to be watching to see if they can shore up as they get deeper into the season and the playoffs.