Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dawgs & Tigers: A Prediction

In our Keys to the Game, we laid out what Clemson needs to do to send the Dawgs whimpering back to the Athens. And while we gave you the five keys, we didn't let you know how they would play out.

So, on the eve of the game, here goes:

Key #1 - Smart Over Aggressive
Clemson fans saw both ends of the sprectrum during last year's USC game. Clemson came out, ran the ball well, converted 3rd downs, and moved the ball down the field for a TD. The next drive, they used the potential defensive adjustments to their advantage and went over the top for another TD.

But that was it. Never again did Clemson threaten the USC defense the way they did early. Against LSU, Clemson was much more patient, and in the end, the LSU defense was gassed, allowing Clemson to get back in the game - and then win it.

Against Georgia, expect the Clemson offensive scheme to fall somewhere in between. Morris won't make the same mistakes they made against USC; however, the Georgia defense will give Clemson better opportunities to strike down field, so long as the line can protection Boyd.

Look for Clemson to spend the first few series trying to find that balance, but when they do, watch out.

Advantage - Clemson

Stay Ahead of the Chains
The Clemson defense must keep Georgia in passing situations rather than allowing Richt and Company to dictate pace and play-calling. However, this is no easy task, especially with Marshall & Gurley in the backfield. The Clemson D-Line must occupy multiple blocks and minimize the available rushing lanes. Additionally, the Clemson linebackers need to keep everything in front of them and tackle on first contact.

To be honest, this one key is what keeps me up at night (separate from the 1 month old). How Clemson fares for this key will determine their success. Unfortunately, past history has not been kind to the Tigers, and until we see a difference on the field, it's hard to have too much faith.

Advantage - Georgia

Offensively, Clemson must keep themselves in short, manageable 3rd downs. For one, it keeps the entire playbook at their disposal, and two, any 3rd down failures result in giving the ball back to Georgia. The Clemson O-Line will have first down success against the Georgia defense, and Hot Rod McDowell may be a slight improvement over Ellington when it comes to getting the tough yards. However, Clemson will truly miss the hands and routes of Hopkins, the trustworthiness and blocking from Jaron Brown, and a coach on the field in Brandon Ford. How fast their replacements get acclimated will determine Clemson's success with keeping the chains moving. But the talent is too good here, and the Clemson offense is significantly better than the Georgia defense.

Advantage - Clemson

Win Special Teams
One thing Clemson never did last year was make great plays in the return game. Watkins never quite regained his Freshman form and the other returners were more security than field position changer. Against Georgia, Clemson could use some cheap points or better field position.

Also, of all the special teams players, Clemson has the best in Chandler Catanzaro, and his presence enough may provide sufficient security to keep Clemson from making a big mistake or turnover. However, after Catanzaro, both teams are fairly even.

Look for another solid, consistent day from Catanzaro, a firework or two from the return teams, but also some potential kick coverage issues.

Advantage - Even

Pressure & Confuse Murray
Against LSU, Clemson was able to get solid pressure from the down lineman (3 sacks). Additionally, they were able to bring linebackers at opportune times, which resulted in another 3 sacks.

Last year, Murray's two worst games were against USC & Florida. Against USC the pressure caused trouble, but against Florida, the defensive schemes and disguises caused confusion.

The question for Clemson will be if the D-lineman are able to get pressure without bringing additional bodies. Right now, I don't think it is, forcing Clemson to bring additional bodies to create pressure, which could result in Murray hitting some big plays.

Advantage - Georgia

Keep the Crowd Alive

Any stadium can be loud, but the challenge for Clemson fans will be to sustain that volume for 3+ hours. The offense will give Clemson plenty to cheer for, but as we've said before, decibels are created by defense. If the Clemson D can make some plays, Clemson may lay claim to both the "Death" Valley and "Deaf" Valley versions.

But let's be honest, Georgia has played, and won, in similar environments. They shouldn't be intimidated by what they experience. At least not the battle-tested starters. Those fresh faces in the secondary? Maybe, just maybe...

Advantage - Clemson

After summarizing the keys, Clemson has the overall advantage, albeit a slight one. Will that be enough to knock off a strong Georgia team hungry to own the state of South Carolina?

Unfortunately, I don't think it will be. The ability of Georgia to run the ball with Marshall and Gurley, along with the senior leadership of Murray, will propel Georgia to a narrow win. Clemson will play tough, and probably grab an early lead, but Georgia will fight back, grab a second half lead, and play keep away well enough to keep the Clemson offense on the sideline and out of rhythm.

Georgia 31
Clemson 27

Friday, August 30, 2013

Opening Weekend: Why the ACC is in a Can't Win Situation

If you listen closely enough, you can here the opening chants of S-E-C! S-E-C! ringing out from the bowels of Columbia, SC as South Carolina opened their season with a 17 point win over UNC.

And while USC fans, and their SEC brethren, ought to be proud of the Gamecock's showing, to what extent should the SEC celebrate? Should they go all out? Should this win even come as a surprise (USC was favored by nearly two touchdowns). Based on the Vegas spread (USC +12.5), most would consider a UNC win to be a significant upset, not the other way around. I understand the purpose of point spreads is not to predict a winner, but rather attempt to receive equal betting on both teams. But when a dude uses nearly 10,000 games featuring BCS teams to find correlations between point spreads and winning percentages, I think it's okay to compare point spreads for this weekend's games to predict the probable winning percentages for ACC vs SEC.

For instance, a 12.5 point favorite playing at home (like USC) wins 83.87% of their games. Should the ACC be penalized when historical data only gives UNC a 16% chance of winning? Would we hold the MAC or C-USA to the same standards?

Nationally, many folks are dubbing this weekend's ACC vs SEC battles as a chance for the ACC to show some muscle and prove they belong. Don't get me wrong, the ACC could use a few wins over the SEC to quiet the critics, but should we really use this weekend's games as the measuring stick?

The SEC will roll out what are arguably their three best teams (Ranked #1,#5,& #6), while the ACC only brings one horse to the race (#8 Clemson). The ACC's other two teams? More pony than thoroughbred (both teams are ARV's - Also Receiving Votes). The result is NCAA's #1/#1 team in Alabama facing a VT team picked to finish 2nd in their division; a division that sent a 6-6 team to the Championship game last year. Game 2 is #6 USC, a team picked to finish 2nd to UGA in the SEC East hosting a UNC team picked to finish 3rd in the ACC Coastal Division (see 6-6 reference above to reinforce point). Finally, #5 Georgia, the media's preseason pick to win the East faces Clemson, the media's pick to win the ACC.

Of the three games, only the Clemson v Georgia game should carry any real weight. The others? With Alabama favored by 20 and USC already coasting to a 17 point win, the games won't be overly competitive.

Why should the ACC be held responsible if two of their middle of the pack teams are unable to win against the SEC's best? What did the SEC actually prove?

To better illustrate the discrepancies, we will compare the current point spread against the resulting winning percentage to determine the probabilities of the ACC earning some national respect.

The three games between the ACC and the SEC:

    UNC at USC: USC favored by 12.5 at home
    VT & Bama: Bama favored by 20 on a neutral field
    UGA @ Clemson: UGA favored by 2 on the road
Already, Vegas expects the SEC to win all three games, two of which should not be even be close. If we compare the point spreads to historical winning percentages, we get the following:

USC has an 83.87% chance of winning, which they did
Alabama has a 94.34% chance of winning
UGA has 77.11% chance of winning

Using the above historical winning percentages and EXST301 from my college days, the SEC has a 99.8% chance of winning at least 1 game (which they've done), 94.7% chance of winning two games, and a 61.0% chance of all three.

Conversely, the ACC has a 39.0% chance of winning a single game (Go Tigers), a 5.3% chance of winning two games, and a 0.21% chance of winning all three games (which is no longer possible - shocker).

So, the ACC has a just over 2 in 5 chance to win a single game and a less than 4% chance to win the series, and yet, when the statistical probabilities play out (and the ACC doesn't win a game), the S-E-C! chants will only increase. And the fact that they were supposed to win won't matter as the world will still crown the SEC as gods and relegate the ACC to court jester.

Just listen - the masses are still chanting: S-E-C! S-E-C!

Note: The article was primarily written prior to USC's game; however, life prevented it from being completed. As such, I thought it best to update it the best I could to incorporate the results.

Reference location for winning probabilities:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

CLAWS vs PAWS - Week 1

Welcome to Week 1 of Claws vs Paws, where The Cock-a-booster and The TigerSwag will go head-to-head predicting the outcomes of each Clemson and South Carolina game. This week, we get started off with a bang as South Carolina welcomes North Carolina and Clemson welcomes Georgia.

Up first, Georgia (-2) at Clemson

Let's be honest, Clemson has not had the best success against Mark Richt. During his tenure at FSU, he and Weinke pulled off the greatest play-action pass ever executed, followed by his UGA team dismantling Tommy Bowden at the Valley in what many have deemed the hottest, worst home game ever.

But those games were with TB at the helm. Now he has as much influence over this game as I do. But will it matter? Will Dabo do better? Can Clemson score enough to win, or stop Georgia when it counts?

Both Clemson and Georgia enter this game fired up, and it would not surprise me to see penalty flags fly before the game starts. Look for Clemson to strike first, and for the crowd to stay energized. However, the Georgia offense takes a page from Spurrier's playbook and pounds the Clemson defense with Gurley and Marshall. Georgia draws even. Clemson answers, and both teams trade scores, with Georgia holding a slim lead at the half. Coming out of the half, Georgia extends their lead with a TD, and then stretches it to 2 scores with a field goal. Clemson responds, but is unable to fully close the gap. Clemson has one final opportunity, but they can't finish the drive. Georgia takes over, kills the clock, and leaves Death Valley with a 4 point win.

Georgia 31
Clemson 27

Clemson has followed a pretty predictable pattern in the last few years and I see no reason that will change in 2013. The unwarranted preseason hype in Orange-land is off the charts as usual and this opening game plays right into the formula. Clemson got a couple of early season wins over Auburn in recent years thanks to Auburn not being very good and that set the hype-o-meter a blazing. Both of those years ended for the Tiggers with embarrassing losses to the Gamecocks.

Georgia has a bunch of suspended players and their attention is largely on the visit from Carolina to Athens next week. Clemson on the other hand has their entire identity and program invested into winning this game. It is an absolute must-win game and it is in the Pickens County Cat House.

Too many intangibles breaking Clemson’s way so you have to go with the home team in this one.

Clemson 38
Georgia 27

"Watching UNC & USC in the "Battle of the "Carolinas" is a lot like politics: Bunch of people you can't stand claiming to represent you." - The TigerSwag
As Thursday afternoon rolls around, the nation's eyes will turn their gaze upon Columbia, South Carolina to welcome back college football. We'll get goosebumps as we're reminded of college football's pageantry, traditions, and fandom. Pom poms will wave, Neil Laurie will bust Cocky out of jail, and Northwestern High, I mean Miami, FL, I mean Rick Flair, I mean Elvis, I mean USC will enter W-B. The cameras will pan the crowd and we'll see nearly 80,000 tank tops, jorts, and mullets. ESPN and Jesse Palmer will go crazy, and the rest of the country will be reminded of why we hate the SEC.

And then UNC will enter the stadium and Clemson fans will be reminded of why we hate all things North Carolina.  This will cause us to take a deep breath, ask God for forgiveness, and silently proclaim: "Go Heels".

During the actual game, both teams come out sloppy, and the game turns into a defensive struggle, giving Pollack ample time to compare his career to Clowney's. The stalemate is eventually broken as USC returns a punt for a TD. Later, USC punches the ball in the endzone just before the half to go up two scores. USC maintains the double digit cushion through most of the 2nd half until UNC finally scores to cut the lead to single digits. UNC gets a needed defensive stop and the ball back with a chance to tie; however, Clowney summons the spirit of Medusa on Renner, who turns to stone out of fear. USC turns that turnover into 6, and the final score.

Carolina South 23
Carolina North 10

North Carolina comes into Columbia loose and confident and with nothing to lose. Carolina on the other hand has been hyped up to the brim with our highest preseason ranking ever. So yes, of course the visiting goats will come out and play well. Shocking. Meanwhile the Gamecocks will likely come out of the gates a little rusty as we did at Vanderbilt last year.

What it will mean is a bunch of squirming fannies in the bleachers early at Williams-Brice. The good news is that it won’t mean an upset loss, just a sluggish win. Connor Shaw doesn’t lose games he starts in Columbia and Thursday won’t change that.

The Gamecocks will survive a tough test and get ready for the trip to Athens. North Carolina’s wine-and-cheese crowd will head back to Chapel Hill the losers that gave it a good effort. Everyone wins.

Carolina South 20
Carolina North 13

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dawgs & Tigers: Clemson's Biggest Advantage

Trying to determine a team's greatest advantage is kind of like finding the least common denominator (little middle school math trip for you): you take a number and you break it down over and over again until it is only divisible by itself and one. In football, you take the offense and break it down into units, positions, strengths, weaknesses. You then do the same thing for the opposition's defense. In the end, you apply your LCD's to their LCD's until you find a mismatch you think you can exploit, and you set it aside. Next you do the whole process again with your defense and their offense. And you do it again for coaches, atmospheres, experiences, and any other intangible you think you can quantify.

For Clemson, this is a fairly simple process as we can exclude the defense from the analysis. Even if Clemson were to have a top flight defense, the Georgia offense is too good to find a distinct Clemson advantage, so we start with the Clemson offense versus the Georgia defense.

Clemson returns four of the five offensive linemen, but the one player lost was 1st team All-ACC and 2nd team All-American Dalton Freeman. Freeman made the calls and directed the line, and his void will not be easily filled. Compare that to the Georgia's D-line and their use of the 3-4, and it's hard to label the Clemson O-line as a major advantage. The experience will help, but breaking in a new center and playing against an unfamiliar scheme will lead to a learning curve. One that Clemson will need to overcome in short order.

In addition to breaking in a new center, Clemson will also be breaking in a new running back and tight end. For as long as many Clemson fans can remember, the running back and tight end positions have been worry free. From Merriweather to Davis to Spiller to Ellington for the backs to Palmer to Allen to Ford at TE position. This year, both will be manned by relative unknowns. McDowell has shown some nice flashes, but has never had to carry the offense, and the TE position will be handled by a Senior with minimal snaps. Considering this group plays an important part in pass protection, and when they release, will be covered by Georgia's stock of linebackers, Clemson may actually be at a disadvantage rather than an advantage.

As the analysis moves to the QB and WR position, the Clemson advantages begin to become apparent. Georgia will be working in a relatively new crop of DB's, which doesn't bode well for their immediate success. Boyd is back for his senior season with eyes towards both New York and Pasadena, and Watkins will be looking for redemption following a rather tumultuous sophomore season. If these two guys, along with the speed burner Bryant and new 3rd down man Peake, find a rhythm, Clemson will rack up some points.

But even when the Georgia defense has struggled, they have always rolled out major talent, especially at the corner position. This year's crop is certainly green, but still a typical Georgia secondary. Even with that talent, Clemson has a clear advantage. Look for Clemson to try to exploit that advantage by getting their speedy receivers the ball in space. Ultimately, Clemson hopes to break a few big plays from the receiver positions to draw the secondary in to tighter coverage, where eventually Boyd and Company go overtop and connect on longer routes. The big plays will be available, but it will be up to the O-line and backs to give Boyd enough time to let the play develop.

After breaking down the offense, the next logical place to turn is Special Teams. Clemson has a clear advantage at kicker with the Cat Man, and this advantage may only grow if Morgan is truly out for his BUI over the summer. But Clemson better hope their biggest advantage doesn't come from special teams, because if it does, it won't matter, as they'll need more than a field goal to win.

The remainder of Special Teams is a push, at best, seeing as Clemson will utilizing a new punter and kick-off specialist (and Clemson coverage teams have always been suspect).

As for coaching, Chad Morris has an advantage or Todd Grantham, if only in the emotional department. The remainder of the coaching comparisons are even, if not Georgia leans because of their experience in these types of games.

So, the Least Common Denominator for Clemson is the combination of the QB/WR against the Georgia secondary. But a Least Common Denominator cannot have two positions against the entire Georgia secondary. It must be broken down further.

To us, Georgia is most vulnerable in that empty space behind the linebackers and between the hash marks. In this area, the Clemson WRs should find space and an opportunity to make big plays. If Watkins or Bryant catch the ball in stride in this, one cut will turn the Georgia defenders around and lead to a cannon blast and the playing of Tiger Rag.

If Clemson can exploit this area, it will set them up for big plays and the chance for multiple scoring opportunities. And they may need every one.

CLAWS vs PAWS - Intro

Much like Vanilla Ice, Claws vs Paws is back for Round 2. This year, we will attempt to retain our title, all while adding some much needed humility to our Gamecock brethren.

For those of you that are new to Claws vs Paws, each week ourselves and our ugly sister (The Cock-a-Booster) will give you our keys to the game followed by our prediction (both winner and against the spread). Based upon our performance, we earn points using typical football scoring methods. Below is a quick scoring rundown:
  • (+7 - TD) for picking against the spread, regardless of whether the winner was correctly selected
  • (+3 - FG) for picking the winner, bringing the total available per game to +10 if both winner and spread picked correctly
  • (2 - SAF) for missing both the winner and the spread selection
  • Points will be accumulate throughout the year with the site having the most points following the regular season being declared the champion
This week's games:
  • UNC at USC (-12.5), Thursday 6:00 ESPN
  • UGA at Clemson (+2), Saturday 8:00 ABC
Check back later this week to see how both sites see the weekend's games going.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The ACC, SEC, Hospitals, & the DA

In gathering data for the previous article, I put together the following analogies about the SEC and ACC, comparing the SEC to a hospital and the ACC to the DA's office. There wasn't a smooth way to bring them into the article, and I hated to just toss them.

Anyway - hope they make some sense...

It is estimated that nearly 55% of all emergency room care will be uncompensated, yet Federal law requires hospitals provide a minimum level of care to everyone who walks in the door, regardless of legal status or the ability to pay. This leaves the hospital with two choices: absorb the debt or shut down. While many hospitals have closed their doors, the majority recoup the lost revenue by shifting costs to other services, overcharging for ordinary care, or considering the bad debt “charity”.

Now think of the SEC is like a hospital: Portions are very profitable and portions are charity. Because Alabama and LSU perform so well, they more than cover for the losses the rest of the league absorbs. So the SEC can play charity with teams like Kentucky and the Mississippis, knowing enough people want straight teeth (ironic isn't), good knees, and new hips.

Conversely, think of the ACC like the District Attorney's (DA's) office. People enter the DA’s office idealistic, with big dreams of putting away bad guys and making a difference. After a few years of poor pay, lousy work conditions, long hours, and too many bad guys still on the streets, the best attorneys become jaded and start looking elsewhere for better paying jobs. We saw this over the last few years with Clemson, Florida State, and others.

But the ugly truth of the DA’s office is it just another governmental department, and once you’re in, you’re in. Even after the best attorneys get plucked to better paying gigs, the lesser talents are still there, and rather than try work their way to the top, they become satisfied having a steady paycheck and seeing “attorney” written on the door.

So while both hospitals and the DA's office serve the greater good, there are ugly truths they both want to purge, but can't. And that's the same struggle football conferences like the ACC & SEC face, and as long as the greater good of both conferences receive all the attention, nothing will change.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Don't Blame Clemson - the Stats

In our previous article, we make the claim that Clemson should not be held responsible for the ACC's truggles against the SEC. If anything, the numbers would only be further skewed without Clemson's (& FSU's) participation. Below are a few of the facts as to why Clemson should be celebrated as the ACC standard bearer rather than those located in the Triangle area:
  • Clemson has played in the most ACC vs SEC games than any other school, with the second place school nearly 10 games behind
  • Only Georgia has more wins than Clemson in ACC vs SEC games
  • Clemson has a better winning percentage against the SEC than six of the current conference members (Arkansas, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Mississippi St, Kentucky, & Vanderbilt)
  • Clemson has a better winning percentage against the SEC than South Carolina has against the ACC
  • Clemson has the most points scored in any ACC vs SEC matchup since the SEC expanded in 1992
  • Clemson has the second largest margin of defeat (trailing only Alabama or Duke, which doesn't really count)

And a few other fun facts, just to mess with Gamecocks:

And my personal favorite:

Don't Blame Clemson (or FSU)

Group A and Group B have played competitive games over 150 times in the last 20+ years. Over those 150+ games, Group A wins approximately 60% of the time, followed by the lauding and celebrating of Group A. Meanwhile Group B is mocked for their lack of success.

"To the victor belong the spoils" Senator Marcy (NY)

If Group A were a team, then all members of Group A would celebrate the victory, drink the champagne, and smoke the cigars, for each member of Group A was part of a team, and a team needs each member to succeed. The team trains together, works together, plays together, and ultimately celebrates together.

But what if Group A weren't a team, but a corporation. How would the corporation celebrate a victory? Would they celebrate each of the group members (departments) and reward them all the same? Would each member drink the champagne and smoke the cigars, or would only the members directly responsible for the victory?

What if one member (department), say the denim shorts department, outperformed expectations by 20%, while another department, say the tank top department, underperformed by 20%? Would they both be rewarded? Should they? Should they all get raises just because at the end of the year, the ledger is written using black ink rather than red? Or should the highest achievers be rewarded, while the others be scrutinized?

This is the dilemma the SEC faces, as they are Group A. Each year, one member, or team, outperforms every other team. In fact, that one team outperforms the best departments from other corporations too. And it's not just a fluke or a lucky bounce. It has happened each of the last six years, too.

Conversely, Group B faces the opposite situation. While no one in the group should celebrate their performance, should every member be treated the same? Should we unilaterally knock every member even though some performed better than others? Should everyone be fired, or should we acknowledge those who exceeded expectations and chastise those who failed to meet them?

This is the dilemma the ACC faces. When compared collectively, Group B, or the ACC, falls short of the achievements of Group B, or the SEC, and few will argue this.

But if you move past the large ACC and SEC banners and begin to investigate each member based on individual performance rather than throwing every member into the same pot, a different dish may emerge. One with a different, more bitter flavor.

For instance, of the 150+ games, Clemson, Florida State, and Georgia Tech have accounted for nearly 100 of them, with the other 50+ games split between the other 9 institutions. Furthermore, Clemson and Florida State are a combined 31-34-1 (47.7%), or three games from being even, meaning the other 10 schools are a combined 30-59 (33.7%).

To further show the gap, Clemson and Florida State combine for over half of the ACC's wins against the SEC. Add in Georgia Tech's 11 wins and these three schools combine for over 2/3 of the league's wins.

Conversely, in the SEC, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt have accounted for nearly 70% of the SEC's games against the ACC, with the other 30% split amongst the other 8 schools. Among these four schools, Georgia (25-5) and Vanderbilt (14-8) combine to hold 26 of the SEC's 32 more wins over the ACC. Add in Alabama at +6 and these three schools are a combined +32 over the ACC, or exactly the same as the ACC and SEC overall, meaning the other 9 schools (including past BCS champs Florida, Tennessee, and LSU) are even against the ACC.

So while the ACC can’t compare to the success of the SEC, let’s not treat every member of the ACC the same. Don’t point to Florida State and Clemson as being second rate citizens because of their conference affiliation. Just take a look at their records against the SEC. I have a feeling Arkansas, South Carolina, the Mississippis, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky would love to have the success against their conference mates that Clemson and Florida State have experienced over the past 20+ years, seeing as Clemson and Florida State both have better records against SEC teams than those schools do.

Just imagine if Clemson had the chance to play Arkansas, Vandy, & Kentucky every year the way every other SEC team does...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dawgs & Tigers: 5 Keys for a Clemson Win

The difference between a good season and a great season can come down to just 1-2 plays. Outside of the 1981 season, Clemson has found ways to miss out on those 1-2 plays, resulting in games of what could have been, so much so it became the mantra of Tommy Bodwen's tenure.

Lately, Clemson has been better at completing those plays, but as games against FSU & USC showed us, there is still work to be done. After seeing Clemson overcome some major obstacles against LSU, fans are hoping 2013 is that magical year where everything comes together.

But for 2013 to be the year many think it could be, it must be strong at the start (UGA), in the middle (FSU), and in the end (USC). So, here are 5 Keys to Clemson starting 2013 off on the right foot:

Smart Over Aggressive
The Georgia secondary is young, but like any Georgia team, it is very talented, meaninh it is more than capable of making plays and frustrating Boyd, Watkins, and Company. However, because of their inexperience, there will be opportunities for big plays. Chad Morris needs to be patient and allow those big plays to develop, rather than forcing the issue.

After Boyd and Watkins connected against USC, Clemson seemed to fall into the trap of looking for the homerun rather than being patient, working the ball down the field, and wearing the USC defense out. The result slower developing plays, which allowed the USC D-Line to pursue Boyd without worrying about quick hitters.

While Georgia's D-Line may not be as talented as USC's, it is talented enough that it can cause problems for this Clemson offense. As such, Clemson needs to be smart in their play-calling so that when the big play opportunities are there, they can cash in.

Stay Ahead of the Chains
One staple of a Mark Richt offense is the play-action pass. In fact, Richt has burned Clemson more than once with it. In 2000, while Richt was OC at Florida State, Weinke executed the most beautiful PA pass, resulting in a 98-yard touchdown. Three years later, David Greene and Fred Gibson hooked up to put Georgia up 7-0, en route to a 30-0 win, in what many Clemson fans consider the hottest day ever at Death Valley.

For Clemson to slow down the PA pass, they must keep Georgia in obvious passing situations. Giving the Georgia offense options makes their offense function at its highest level, and when the Georgia offense is rolling, it can't be stopped, especially by a talented, but inexperienced secondary.

Conversely, even though Clemson was Top 5 in 3rd down efficiency, the offense still works at its best when it is running plays. Clemson can't be forced into multiple 3rd & longs and hope to find continued success.

Win Special Teams
In a game where the scoreboard will be lit up, and 4th downs few, the team that performs best on special teams usually walks away a winner.

Clemson boasts one of the top field goal kickers in college football in Catanzaro, but brings few other known's to the table as they will break in a new punt unit and kickoff man. Add to that Clemson's struggle covering kicks.

On the other sideline, Georgia will be breaking in a new kicker as their proposed starter earned a rare, but not so coveted BUI (Boating while Under the Influence). While the remainder of the special teams units are thought to be the same as last year, first game jitters by a new kicker could be costly.

But more concerning for Clemson fans than Morgan's BUI is Richt's propensity for fakes and trickery on special teams. If Clemson earns a few defensive stops, losing the ball due to trick plays could do some serious emotional damage and changes in momentum.

Pressure & Confuse Murray
Last season, Aaron Murray's worst two performances came against USC and Florida. Combined, he completed only 42% of his passes for 259 yards, with four interceptions against only one touchdown. The reason: defensive pressure and confusion. During the Florida game, Murray threw interceptions on three straight possession. The pressure wasn't intense, but it was enough to force errant throws and poor decisions. To his credit, later in the Florida game, he was able to complete 4 out of 5 passes (3 as PA passes) for a touchdown to give Georgia the win.

Clemson will need to create similar pressure and confusion. We saw flashes against LSU, but it will need to be more consistent from more angles. Also, Georgia will take some deep shots against the Clemson secondary, and even the smallest amount of pressure may force a throw too early or slightly offline, preventing the big play.

Keep the Crowd Alive
Build up for this game is the highest it's been since Bowden Bowl I, when #1 FSU and a recently reinstated Peter Warrick came to town. In that game, Clemson was a huge underdog, but used the energy of the stadium to build an early lead. Eventually, the talent and depth of FSU took over (along with Bowden's inexperience as a coach), and FSU remained undefeated en route to a National Championship.

This year, the hype is similar, if not greater, and the teams are more evenly matched. The Georgia offense uses the old Brad Scott approach where they see the defense and make offensive adjustments. This will give the Clemson contingent plenty of time to get amped up and loud. If Clemson can make enough plays, especially on defense, this crowd will stay energized and will be there to provide energy and motivation. On the other hand, the problem with much ballyhooed events is they rarely live up to the hype, and if this Clemson-Georgia game goes anything like the 2003 version, this crowd will quickly grow restless.

Ultimately, the crowd can't control the outcome of the game, but it can provide energy and motivation to a group of 18-21 year olds, and sometimes that extra bit of energy is enough to put a team over the top. Hopefully, this will be the case on the last day of August.

Because these two teams are so evenly matched, just 1 play could swing the game in either direction. Hopefully, Clemson can make more plays and pull out a win. To do so, will mean 3-4 of these keys fall their way.

If Clemson fails to do these things, let the SEC chants roll as it could be a terrible remake of an already bad 2003 movie.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Wanted: Clean Clowney Autograph

Repeated warnings from Coach Spurrier and the University went unheeded as thousands of people descended upon the USC practice fields for the opportunity to get a Jadeveon Clowney autograph.

As University officials interviewed those in attendance, it turned out the sudden rush for Clowney's autograph was based on a number of factors.

First, after listening to Coach Spurrier's interview with ESPN four or five times, they realized Clowney can't say no. And there's no better person to ask a favor than one who can't say no.

Secondly, the crowds feared that due to value of the SEC and the troubles of Johnny Manziel, the NCAA may soon ban the practice of grown men in jorts getting autographs from 20 year olds.

And lastly, the crowds figured if a helmet with a misspelled word could sell for over $150, just imagine how much an autograph with proper spelling and grammar could fetch them. They realized getting a clean autograph would be a long shot, but if they could get just one, the payoff would be huge.

Unfortunately, University officials stepped in before the crowds got too out of control; however, a few of the early arrivals were able to get Clowney's autograph, though no word on whether any of the autographs are without error.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Review of Predictions

 As the calendar turned from 2012 to 2013, we put together 13 predictions for 2013, with each focused on one of the three major sports. Tallying the scores for basketball and baseball leaves us just 1-4 (1 remaining), with the only win being notched for something Clemson did NOT accomplish: Omaha. As football season beckons, it’s time to revisit the remaining 7 predictions, and re-predict whether our original predictions will come through.

Prediction 1 – The End of the Chad
Predicting Chad Morris to leave before the end of 2013 is like a swing pass: an easy toss to get yourself in rhythm. In 2012, Morris tested the head coaching waters, speaking with such schools as NC State (reportedly) and Texas Tech (confirmed). In the end, he returned to Tiger Town motivated to make the Clemson offense better, and faster, than ever. If he succeeds, and Clemson fans hope he does, he will most certainly move on to be his own boss.

Chance of coming true? 9.5/10

Prediction 2 – The End of Nuk Hopkins
While predicting Chad to head for greener pastures pretty easy, predicting Nuk to forego his senior year was a little harder. As the new year dawned, both Tajh Boyd and Nuk Hopkins were waiting to hear from the NFL regarding their draft paperwork. Both were expected to receive solid, but not spectacular grades. And when the prevailing thought is 1st round or return, the thought was maybe both would come back to campus.

On the 9th day of 2013, Tajh decided to return to Clemson for his senior season. The next day, Hopkins went the other route and declared his intentions to enter the draft. A few months later, Hopkins was selected in the 1st round by the Texans.

Chance of coming true? BOOM

Prediction 3 - The Return of Sammy
This prediction is not that Sammy returns for his senior season, but that he returns to his freshman form. Last year was tough for Watkins and he never seemed to get in rhythm. Most of it was his own doing, but the rest just part of being an athlete.

Leading up to the LSU game, all indications were Sammy would be a primary focus of the offense. Two plays later he was writhing in pain. For this season to be special, and for this prediction to ring true, Clemson needs Watkins to be fully healthy, fully in sync with Boyd, and fully focused on being the best. If those three things fall in place, both Clemson and Watkins could rewrite the record books.

Chance of coming true? 7/10 (no guarantees with anyone)

Prediction 4 - The Return of Linebacker U

Gamblers will tell you "Never bet with your heart, only your head". For this prediction, I should have listened. While the Clemson defense will be better in 2013 (not much of a reach here), we were expecting the linebacking corps to be stocked. The returning starters, Parker and Townsend, along with the transfer of Kellen Jones and the recruitment of Ben Boulware and Dorian O'Daniel would elevate this unit to one of the teams strengths. After seven months to ponder this prediction, and watching Townsend transfer and Parker retire, I don't foresee it coming true. At least not to the level that people would start throwing around Linebacker U claims.

Even at their best, this unit won't bring the fear of those Penn State teams, or of Clemson's pseudo Linebacker U claims of the late '80s and '90s.

Next year? That's a different story...

Chance of coming true? 2/10 (better than Lloyd & Harry)

Prediction 5 - Someone will be Invited to New York for the Heisman Presentation
Clemson has never had someone invited to attend the Heisman ceremony. For years, this team was too focused on defense to garner anyone the national attention needed to sway voters. When Bowden arrived, so did the offensive accolades. However, those Clemson teams weren't strong enough to propel Dantzler or Spiller to NYC.

This year, that is not the case. Clemson starts in the Top 10, opens with a nationally televised Top 10 matchup, and has 2 other potential Top 10 matchups. Because of Boyd's great 2012, he comes into the season atop a few Heisman polls. Because he already has the national attention, he only needs to replicate his 2012. If he can do this, or come close, he would be strongly considered. If Watkins is able to be explosive like his freshman year and consistent like Hopkins last year, then he too would be strongly considered. Ultimately, how these guys perform in the three marquee games (UGA, FSU, USC) will determine their fate. Assuming they play well in 2 out of 3 of those games, they'll both be in solid position to wear another slick bowtie.

Chance of coming true? 6/10

Prediction 6 - No Bowl Game
Usually, when no bowl game is predicted, it is because of the potential for a bad season or pending NCAA sanctions. With Clemson's talent, they are not at risk of the former and Dabo has continued the work Bowden started to prevent the latter. As such, this prediction calls for Clemson's next bowl game to be in 2014, not 2013. What makes this sticky is the ACC only has one bowl game on New Year's Day or later, their ACC Champion slot in a BCS bowl.

This whole prediction hinges on the FSU game. Considering they haven't won in the Valley since 2001, Clemson has the upper hand.

Chance of coming true? 6/10

Prediction 7 - Hosting College Gameday
When this prediction was first penned, ESPN's College Gameday had not confirmed their opening weekend locale. Clemson-Georgia was known to have a strong chance, but so did Alabama-VT and LSU-TCU. If Clemson lost out on the Georgia game, their only other opportunity would be when FSU rolls to town.

Just today, ESPN says they will announce the Gameday location while on the Clemson campus. Coincidence? I think not...

Chance of coming true? 9.9/10

If we go 5-7 with these predictions, then 2013 could be one of the most enjoyable season Clemson fans have ever experienced. If we get a sixth prediction correct, then Clemson would be in line to have a special season. If all seven fall, then the 10 SEC teams without their own rings will need to find someone else to brag about.

What are your thoughts? How many predictions will come true? Let us know in the comments and by voting in our poll.

Go Tigers!