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.


  1. Dawgs 42 - Clem 28

  2. Uga 38-17. Murray throws picks as a result of doing too much, not being confused. He is a well prepared Qb. Clemson isnt so evenly matched with Uga, teams play in two totally different conferences. Better competition every week. We'll see.

    1. First games are tough because both teams are well prepared, but both have also had the summer to add a few new wrinkles the other isn't prepared to handle. The key will be executing assignments and in-game adjustments more than anything else.

      As for the conferences, last year the two schedules were nearly identical. Both had Auburn, GT, & USC, and both did the same against those teams. Even the other teams (UF/FSU & LSU/BAMA) are similar. Outside of that, there wasn't any meat on either schedule.

      Go Tigers!


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