Friday, August 31, 2012

CLAWS vs. PAWS Scoreboard Update after one game...

After Game 1 - UCS v Vandy
Last night, Carolina South defeated Vanderbilt 17-13.  The point spread was UCS by 7.  The Cock-A-Booster picked USC to win but not cover the 7 points.  His prediction was 26-20.

The TigerSwag predicted a UCS win but thought they would win by more than 7 points.  His prediction was 21-13.

So, after one game, the Cock-A-Booster received 3 points for picking the right team to win and 7 points for picking the game against the spread.  The TigerSwag only received 3 points for picking the right team.  He did not receive 7 points because his missed his pick against the spread.

So, at halftime for week 1, the score is COCK-A-BOOSTER 10 and TIGERSWAG 3.

We still have the Clemson/AU game to go tomorrow night.  The spread is Clemson by 3.5.  The Cock-A-Booster has taken the points and predicted an AU upset - AU 27-23.  The TigerSwag has gone with the favored Clemson Tigers.  He also thinks they will cover the 3.5 point spread - CLEMSON 27-20.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

CLAWS vs. PAWS - Week 1

Weekend of August 30 - September 1, 2012

Clemson vs. Auburn
(Clemson is favored by 3.5 points)


Sometime later this week Clemson will take a familiar route down I-85 to Atlanta's Georgia Dome.  Between games against the 10th Street Trade School and Peach Bowls, Clemson has plenty of experience playing in the Big City.  However, familiarity has not bred success as they have not won a game in Atlanta since dual wins in 2003, including a 39-3 thrashing of said Trade School and a 27-14 thumping of Tennessee in the Peach Bowl.  In that span, they have lost a Peach Bowl, kick-off game to Bama, and four games to some players who aren't even able to sing their own fight song.

How will that effect Saturday night's game against Auburn?  Ultimately, it won’t.  It may feel that way early on as I expect Auburn to come out fired up, ready to show the world last year was a blip on the radar.  Meanwhile, Clemson starts the game still trying to shake the Orange Bowl, feeling like they need to score 71 to win.  Additionally, Clemson’s young offensive line has trouble getting their calls while the Auburn defensive line shows their potential.  The result, Auburn jumps out to an early double digit lead.  Following the initial onslaught, Clemson exhales, begins to find a rhythm, and starts putting points on the board.  The defense plays their scheme and has some success rattling Auburn’s young quarterback.  Both teams go into the half within three of each other.

Clemson comes out in the third quarter and begins to establish themselves as they take the lead.  The defensive success continues and they stretch it to two touchdowns.  Auburn makes a late charge and has the ball with a chance to win or tie, but the defense holds and the offense is able to bleed the clock.  The result?  Clemson starts the year 1-0 and has a few weeks to prepare for a huge match-up in Tallahassee.

TigerSwag’s prediction?  Take Clemson and their experienced playmakers against a young, but talented Auburn team.

Clemson 27, Auburn 20


In my 40+ years on this earth, I can always tell when Clemson has themselves ripe to be knocked down.  This weekend “should” be one of those situations.  The upstate cats are very thin on both lines of scrimmage but have the luxury of ignoring that due to some very impressive skill position talent and the presence of some dangerous playmakers.   The Pickens fan base is completely delusional and has yet to understand that being the best team in the ACC is equivalent to being the sexiest man at Comic-Con.

A Clemson chum of mine and I were discussing this matchup recently and he talked about how much this game reminded him of the Clemson-Alabama game at the dome a few years ago in Atlanta.  I agree with that assessment for the most part, although I don’t think this Auburn team is nearly as good as that Alabama team was.  Auburn is going to focus on running the ball and controlling the line while Clemson is going to try and “big-play” their way to a win.  My instinct says most of the time who controls the trenches wins games.  So despite some gaping holes in War Eagle country too, I give them the edge to pull this one out.

Auburn 27, Clemson 23
South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt
(South Carolina is Favored by 7 Points)


Many factors are workings against UCS for their season opener.  The pressure, the injuries, the unknown, and an upstart Vandy program.  But when things all appear lined up for a major upset, you run.  Run away from the upset and put your money on the favorite.  And in this case, I REALLY want to proclaim a Vandy win.  But I can’t.  UCS is good and Vandy is not quite there yet.

I expect a close game.  UCS finds a way to get on the board first and use their defense to put Vandy in a choke hold.  They eventually wear them down and leave town with a victory.

TigerSwag’s prediction?  Vegas has this game right with a 7 number, which means you could play either side and have a chance.  In this case, with all signs pointing toward the upset, you run to UCS and pray they are ready to play.

UCS 21, Vandy 13


If the Gamecocks had not already gone through this scenario before in Nashville, I would be likely to call for the upset on Thursday night.  South Carolina and Spurrier got plucked a few years ago in Music City and are wide awake this time.  James Franklin will have the Commodores ready and the atmosphere will be one of the best ever witnessed at Vanderbilt.  I tip my cap to him and know they will come out and hit the Gamecocks square in the mouth. 

If you’re Vandy, you have to harness that early explosion of energy and momentum and build a lead.  If Carolina survives the initial frenzy and keeps their heads about them, then we will win the game.  I would say Vandy needs to be up by at least a touchdown at halftime.  The Gamecocks and Lattimore will get better as the night goes along.  USC’s talent and depth should be the determining factor in the 4th quarter and I think they will.  Vandy will impress everyone coast to coast, make a great show of it, and give Carolina everything it wants and more.  Then we will survive and earn a very tough opening SEC win.
USC 21, Clemson 13

Read more from the Cock-a-Booster at (
and The TigerSwag at (

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tigers v Tigers - Prediction

Sometime later this week Clemson will take a familiar route down I-85 to Atlanta's Georgia Dome.  Between games against the 10th Street Trade School and Peach Bowls, Clemson has plenty of experience playing in the Big City.*

However, familiarity has not bred success as they have not won a game in Atlanta since dual wins in 2003, including a 39-3 thrashing of said Trade School and a 27-14 thumping of Tennessee in the Peach Bowl.  In that span, they have lost a Peach Bowl, kick-off game to Bama, and four games to some players who aren't even able to sing their own fight song.

How will that effect Saturday night's game against Auburn?  It won't.

Those games have no bearing on this game.  And while the Clemson fans are familiar with Atlanta, the players are not.  Other than a trip or two to Bobby Dodd, none of these players have even played in the Georgia Dome.  Neither has this coaching staff.

So while these players are not familiar with the Dome, they are familiar with Auburn, having played each of the last two years.

And that's what really matters.

So when Clemson enters the Dome against their multi-mascoted step-brothers from Auburn, they won't be concerned with the surroundings or stage as much as their opponents.  And that's a good thing.

*The tradition of the $2 bills first got its start in Atlanta in 1977 in response to the Trade School not wanting to travel to the Promised Land.  The series had a short hiatus, but when it returned, the first game was in Clemson and the teams have alternated venues ever since.

To figure out which team has the best chance of winning, let's look at a few key factors that may play out Saturday night:

Coaching Staff
Typically, when you compare a Championship coach with Dabo, the Championship coach wins.  The lone exception - Gene Chizik.

Most of the credit for Chizik's ring goes to Gus Malzahn, Cam Newton, and the Bag Man, not him.  This is his chance to change that as he has a new OC and DC.

I like the DC hire, but know little about the OC other than he coached Tebow (not exactly a ringing endorsement).

On Dabo's side is Chad Morris and Brent Venables.  Morris is a Malzahn disciple who may soon overtake the master.  Venables has a great reputation from Oklahoma, but is somewhat starting from scratch.

Edge - Clemson, only because The TigerSwag expects Chizik to spend most of the 4th quarter picking his own gum off the bottom of his shoe, not realizing it won't disappear in the Dome turf.

7 on 7 – Offense
Clemson could compete against the nation's best in this category with Boyd, Watkins, Hopkins, & Ellignton.  However, Watkins is not eligible and won't travel with the team.  And regardless of who the tight end is, he will be no Dwayne Allen.

For Auburn, it's nearly the opposite.  Their most known quantity is tight end Philip L (going to treat him like Coach K - just easier that way).  But just because their skill players names aren't known, doesn't mean there isn't talent.  The backs are quick and explosive, especially Tre Mason, while the receivers are quick and experienced.  The main question will be whether Frazier can be stable and consistent enough to produce points, especially in clutch situations.

Edge - Clemson, even without Watkins, because of Boyd, Hopkins, & Ellington - and Morris' coaching.

7 on 7 – Defense
Welcome to the tallest midget contest.  Not saying there isn't talent, it's just that this group is a huge question mark for both squads. 

Clemson must replace Sensabaugh and Jenkins, but does have Breeland & Meeks returning.  Also, Clemson returns potential All-American Stephone Anthony and upstart Lateek Townsend.  And if Steward gets fully healthy, watch out.

For Auburn, the good news is they return every member of last year's secondary.  The bad news?  They return every member from last year's secondary.  They will need vast improvement, but I'm afraid VanGorder's blitz-happy scheme will leave them on islands more than they need to be.  At linebacker, the upside is great, but experience may cost them, especially with what VanGorder will ask them to do.

Edge - I would consider the defensive backs a wash, but because of Clemson's talent and potential at linebacker, and Venables scheme for them, they get the edge.

Big Nasties – Offense
Auburn is young on the offensive line, but experienced.  Three of their projected starters played significant snaps last year.  And they are high on the two redshirt freshman.  There are no major stars here, but they've taken their lumps and are looking for a big year.**

On Clemson's side, they return two starters, including All-ACC center Dalton Freeman.  Also of major importance is the return of Thompson at left tackle.  So, while the two key positions return, the other three will be new - and have less than 100 snaps of experience, combined.

Edge - While Clemson returns two key positions, and is bringing some increased nasty in Tyler Shatley, the experience - and potential - of Auburn's young line wins.

**Since this was originally written, starting center Reese Dismukes has been suspended for public intoxication.  The extent of his suspension is not known.  Depending on the length, this category may go to push.  Unless he was joined by the remainder of Auburn's line, this category will never swing Clemson's way.

Big Nasties – Defense
For years, Clemson’s defensive big nasties have been the anchor of the defense, and how the D-Line played, so did the defense.  Last year was the exception as the D-Line played fairly well while the remainder of the D, not so well.  Things will swing back to normal this year as Clemson’s D-Line will tell the tale of the game - and their season.  It is young, inexperienced, but uber-talented.  The key will be finding someone to replace the loss of Andre Branch on the end and Brandon Thompson in the middle.  If Clemson can find a big body for the middle and a quick pass rusher on the end, they’ll be okay.  If not, pray for the 7 on 7 Offense.

For Auburn, their defensive line struggled last year.  But they were young and undersized.  Now they’re a bit older and a bit bigger and a bit more experienced.  And I expect them to play well.  They have talent on both the inside and outside – and if you focus on one too much, the other will burn you.  They haven’t made the headlines of LSU or UCS, but they have the opportunity to be in that group if they stay healthy and play to their potential.

Edge – Auburn due to their experience and potential to be great.

Special Teams
Both teams offer fantastic kick return units, though Clemson may miss not having Watkins; however, the rule change may negate this part of the game anyway.  As a result, I expect plenty of touchbacks as both kickers have big legs.

Last year, the Auburn punting unit became one of its best offensive weapons by pinning opponents inside the 20 an amazing 33 times.  Clemson’s punting was effective, but not great.  The punting edge goes to Auburn, especially with Clemson breaking in a new punter.

The final piece of the special teams unit is the field goal squad.  The Cat Man become one of the nation’s most dependable kickers nailing 22-27, including a game winner against Wake that sent Clemson to the ACC Championship Game.  Auburn's kicker, Mr. Parkey has potential, but has yet to show it.  He could easily bounce back this year the way Catanzaro did last year, but until he proves it, Clemson leads here.

Edge – Push, though the Cat Man may give Clemson the edge if it comes down to needing a late three.

Auburn comes out fired up, ready to show the world last year was a blip on the radar.  The new coordinators want to prove themselves, and it shows.  On the other side, Clemson hasn’t quite shaken the Orange Bowl and feels like they need to score 71 to win, and the pressure shows.  Clemson’s young offensive line has trouble getting their calls and the Auburn defensive line shows their potential.  The result, Auburn jumps out to an early double digit lead.

Following the initial onslaught, Clemson exhales, begins to find a rhythm, and starts putting points on the board.  The defense relaxes, plays their scheme, and has some success rattling Auburn’s young quarterback.  Both teams go into the half within three of each other.

Clemson comes out in the third quarter and begins to establish themselves as they take the lead.  The defensive success continues and they stretch it to two touchdowns.  Auburn makes a late charge and has the ball with a chance to win or tie, but the defense holds and the offense is able to bleed the clock.

The result?  Clemson starts the year 1-0 and has a few weeks to prepare for a huge matchup in Tallahassee.

And because of these keys, The TigerSwag says take Clemson, buy the hook, lay the 2.5 and stay away from the O/U.

And see if Dabo goes viral - again:

Coming this week and every week - CLAWS vs. PAWS...

The Tiger Swag AND The Cock-A-Booster are joining forces this season for a fun new feature called CLAWS vs. PAWS. We will garner their prediction powers and expert game analysis and post their weekly game choices for the CLEMSON and USC games on both blogs. As the season progresses, we will keep a prediction scoreboard and see who comes out on top after the bowl games are complete.

Here is how the scoring will work...

The Tiger Swag and The Cock-A-Booster will each predict both the Clemson and USC games for the upcoming weekend. They will pick an outright winner along with picking against the spread.

Each time they pick a winner vs. the spread they get a TOUCHDOWN (7 pts). If they just pick the winner but miss the spread they only get a FIELD GOAL (3 pts). If they miss the pick all together the other team gets a SAFETY (2 points).

So, stay tuned for the first week of CLAWS vs. PAWS...

Coming up later this week... CLAWS vs. PAWS - Week 1!
(we will use Monday's USA TODAY Sheridan Lines:

USC vs. Vanderbilt (USC favored by 7)
Clemson vs. Auburn (CLEMSON favored by 3.5)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Season Predictions

Hope springs eternal – or at least for two more weeks. This time of year, everyone is undefeated, including perennial pre-season national champion South Carolina, where next year may finally be this year.

But what about us? What will this year bring for the orange and purple? Can Clemson emulate last year’s start – or will they replicate the ending? Will the offense be better – or have a sophomore slump? Can Venables fix the D, or will the Civil students continue to make comparisons nerdy puns about football and sieves? Can Clemson end the run against USC – or will evil continue to reign?

The questions for this year are many. It will only take a few right answers to have a magical season – one that exceeds last year. But it will only take a few wrong answers to send Clemson back to the land of mediocrity – and Dabo to the hotseat.

And while we can’t answer every question, we can answer some. Here is TigerSwag’s attempt to answer five looming questions hanging over this year’s team.

Can the Offense duplicate last year’s success?
When Dabo went out and snagged Chad Morris from Tulsa, many thought he was crazy. He hired a 1st year coordinator at a mid-major and handed him the reigns to the Clemson offense. But to Dabo's credit, well actually Morris', Clemson's offense improved drastically. In fact, it became the basis of an ACC Championship. And the improvements were noticed on paper too, as the Clemson offense improved from 84th to 27th in points per game and 88th to 26th in yards per game.

But is this offense sustainable? Can it take us to the next level? I'm by no means a doubter, just a guy with a decent memory. Because if we go back just 5-6 years, we see a similar production increase due to a new Offensive Coordinator. That mastermind? Rob Spence. In his first year at Clemson, the offense went from 109th in yards per game and 90th in points per game to 51st and 61st, respectively. The following year? Top 16 in both categories. But two years later, when Dabo took over for Bowden, his first personnel decision was to let Spence go.

But the history lesson aside, this Clemson offense is impressive. Four of the five top skill positions return, including the best 1-2 receiver tandem in the country. But how effective this offense is won't depend on the skill positions, but on the big boys. The real question for this offense is how the revamped offensive line performs. If these guys are solid, then Clemson can easily exceed last year's success and challenge the best defenses in the country. If they struggle, or the injury bug bites, then Clemson fans will have to exorcise two demons - turnovers and visions of Will Proctor running for his life.

Personally, I look for ALL-ACC member Dalton Freeman to have a big year and move up the draft boards, Tyler Shatley to bring some nasty, and Brandon Thompson to be solid in protecting Boyd's blindside. But this is a young group. Three of the projected starters have never started a game and all three have combined for less than 100 snaps. That does not bode well when your first game is in the Georgia Dome against a blitz happy Brian VanGorder.

How much better will the Defense be?
This question is worded this way because it couldn't be much worse - at least statistically. Last year this group was feast or famine. Against Virginia Tech - amazing. Everyone else - Meh to Ugh.

The Good News? But Kevin Steele is out and Brent Venables is in.

The Bad News? Most of the pass rush is gone (Branch, Thompson, Moore, & Brown) as is a starting corner in Sensabaugh.

The Good News? All the linebackers return, including 5* backer Tony Steward from an ACL injury, and a focused 4* in Lateek Townsend.

But similar to the offense, how the line performs will tell the tale as to how the defense performs. The ends have a ton of speed and potential in guys like Goodman, Crawford, Beasley, & Barnes, but the center of the line is young and inexperienced. If a few of these guys can step up and help replace a guy like Brandon Thompson, then the defense can make major gains. If they struggle and the center of the line is exposed, then the defense will become the offense's biggest fans, hoping they can once again save their bacon.

I expect we'll see a more fundamentally sound defense - and one that produces more turnovers, but overall, I'm not convinced the defense will be that much better.

At least not yet.

Is a return trip to Charlotte in the cards?
The schedule opens with a bang as Clemson takes on Auburn in Atlanta. While Clemson has the better team, many of the questions raised above need to be answered - and, unfortunately, it will be on the job training. Throw in Clemson's record in Atlanta and the suspension of Sammy Watkins, and this game is scary.

But the best news Clemson fans received all winter was Auburn's hiring of Scot Loefler as their Offensive Coordinator. Not because he's a bad coach (he actually looks quite impressive), but because he appears to be scrapping the hurry-up, no-huddle (which has historically killed Clemson) for more of a pro-style offense, which favors Clemson's strengths.

If Clemson can get through the Auburn game, then the schedule takes a break until they head to Florida State. This early season battle may wind up being a showdown for the Atlantic Division Title, and the advantage goes to FSU being at home.

A road game at Boston College shouldn't be too much trouble, but Clemson never plays well against BC, especially in Boston. The Tigers then get back to back Techs, both at home, with Georgia Tech first followed by the Open Date and Virginia Tech.

At this point, the schedule eases up a good bit with Wake, Duke, & Maryland - all should be wins. Then NC State and USC come to Death Valley to complete the season.

The Clemson win tally should start with six (Ball State, Furman, BC, Wake, Duke, & Maryland) and go up from there. If you split the six toss-ups, then Clemson finishes 9-3 with a chance to get to 10 wins again in a bowl game, but no return trip. The Tigers will need some help from FSU to overcome the early season loss in Tallahassee - and I don't see them getting it.

What’s the best Clemson fans can hope for?
This team has no ceiling. The offensive skill players return and the defense will have a new attitude. The biggest test will come from FSU on the road, but Clemson has played well there the last three trips, with a win in 2006. If they can emulate 2006 and win this game, the schedule lends itself to something magical. The remaining road games are tame while both Techs, NC State, & USC all come to Death Valley.

If this team beats FSU, can it handle the pressure of playing for great things? They got a taste of the milk and honey last year, only to end up with a bitter aftertaste.

The best case scenario is this team learns from last year, fights through some close wins, ends USC's meager winning streak and heads to Charlotte with dreams of a shot for the National Title.

What’s the worst Clemson fans should brace for?
While this team has no ceiling, it does have a floor - albeit one surrounded by mediocrity. If the offensive line struggles to jell, the defensive line can't get pressure, and a few key injuries occur, this team may be playing USC just to become bowl eligible.

For instance, all six toss-up games could easily go against Clemson. And worse, USC could cruise through the SEC East and treat Clemson like an appetizer before heading to Atlanta.

Or maybe Clemson overachieved last year.

Or maybe Ron Cherry referees every game and Terry Don Phillips chooses not to retire.

This team could very well compete for a National Championship or it could easily be home for the holidays. And much like politics, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

And this team will exemplify the middle.

I expect their record to be somewhere between the floor of 6-6 and the ceiling of 12-0. I expect the offense to operate somewhere between setting records and returning to mediocrity. I expect the defense to operate somewhere between holding Virginia Tech to 13 points over 8 quarters and giving up 70 to West Virginia in just 4.

And after the ups and downs Clemson has been through the last 10+ years, a ride in the middle may just be what we need.

Because as USC fans say, "Wait til Next Year"!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Worst Ever - Part III (Final)

The debate of “The Worst Ever” has raged on long enough and it’s time to bring it to a close. I’m not sure there is a definitive winner, or in this case loser, as shown by the 50-50 breakdown of votes in our poll. But we set out to find a loser, so one needs to be chosen.

To determine the worst loss for Clemson and Carolina, we used four criteria: Stakes, Stage, Score, & Opponent. We will once again use those four tests to determine who wins.


In this case, the stakes for the two games are nearly incomparable. For Clemson, they were playing in a BCS Bowl game viewed by over 5 million people, with very little TV competition opposing them.

For USC, they were playing their rival on the same day as Michigan-Ohio State, USC-UCLA, the Iron Bowl, and the Apple Cup. That game was just one of many involving rivals.

But to Clemson’s credit, their game was a glorified exhibition, with nothing more at stake than pride for both teams. But for USC, a win would make them bowl eligible, give them extra practice, put Bowden’s future in jeopardy, and give them wins against their rival in two of the last three games.

Both teams lost – on the scoreboard, their pride, and their respect. But Clemson’s loss followed an ACC Championship while USC’s kept them home for the holidays.

Score: USC 1 – Clemson 0


As mentioned above, Clemson’s game was on a much bigger stage. They were playing in their first BSC Bowl Game, their first Orange Bowl since their National Championship, and representing the ACC as their champ for the first time in over 20 years. The game was on ESPN, showcased by their NFL Monday Night Football crew, and witnessed by over 5 million people.

The national media enjoyed the jokes at Clemson’s expense and every preseason scouting report lists the defense as a major question mark.

For USC, they were playing at home with a chance to go bowling. The game was televised – on the Deuce, but only viewed by those with a vested interest, which ended up being in USC's favor.

Score: Clemson 1 – USC 1


Comparing the scores, or in this case, which team fared the worst, is the ole tallest midget in the room contest. One team lost by 37. The other 46. One team gave up 70. The other 63. One team gave up the most points in bowl history. The other the most points in rivalry history.

Both are bad – real bad.

Score: Clemson 1 – USC 1


Clemson was facing the co-Big East Champ in West Virginia, which means they were on par with Cincinnati & Louisville. Clemson was the undisputed ACC Champ with 10 wins, including four over ranked teams. And coming into this game, Clemson was favored by 3.

USC was 5-6 and playing against a bowl eligible Clemson team with seven wins, including a recent upset of #3 FSU. The FSU win was followed by a trouncing of Duke, and following this game, Clemson would go on to defeat a Top 10 Tennessee team in the Peach Bowl to cap “The Finish”. Despite Clemson having the better record, the recent wins, and the historical advantage, USC was still a slight home favorite.

Clemson ran into the one type of team they can’t defend while USC ran into a Clemson team with momentum for the first time in three years.

Score: Clemson 2 – USC 2


So how do you compare the ACC Champs getting rolled by the co-Big East Champs to a 5-6 USC team getting beat by a fragile Clemson team?

You can’t. You can’t compare the two and come up with a logical argument where all parties agree.

USC fans will always have the Orange Bowl as fodder for Clemson fans just as Clemson fans can always keep 63-17 in their back pockets for USC fans.

For me, right now, the Orange Bowl hurts worse. It is still the most recent, the number 70 resonates nationwide, and the grand stage is hard to swallow.

However, with the success of the recruiting class, freshman reporting, and the beginning of fall practice, the pain is slowly washing away. And as it washes away, it becomes just a piece of the puzzle that is the history of Clemson football.

And another of those pieces is “The Finish”, anchored by the 63-17 thrashing of USC.

In the near future, the Orange Bowl will turn into a lost battle while 63-17 will be the war that Clemson won.

And until USC fans can pull to the shoulder of I-95 and take a photo like this, they will always have the worse loss.