College Park, MD (SportsNetwork.com) - Looking to put their humbling loss to Florida State in the rearview mirror, the now ninth-ranked Clemson Tigers invade College Park this weekend for an ACC showdown against the Maryland Terrapins.
It was supposed to be a watershed moment last weekend for the ACC, as Death Valley served as the backdrop for the first-ever top-five matchup there. However, with sloppy play in the first half, the hometown Tigers buried themselves in a hole they could not dig out of, falling to the Seminoles 51-14.
Dabo Swinney expressed his dismay following the loss.
"When you spot a team that good 17 points, it's a huge uphill challenge," Swinney said. "We never could swing the momentum back in our favor, and turnovers were a huge part of that."
With the loss, Clemson is now 6-1 on the season and a game behind FSU (in the loss column) in the ACC Atlantic Division.
Randy Edsall's Terrapins are sporting a 5-2 overall record, but league play has been much tougher. Maryland is 1-2 in ACC play and has also felt the sting of a lopsided loss to Florida State (63-0). More recently, the team struggled at Wake Forest last weekend, dropping a 34-10 decision to the Demon Deacons.
Clemson holds a 33-26-2 edge in a series that has played continuously since 1952. It marks the longest active continuous rivalry against an ACC foe for either school. The Tigers have won the last three meetings, including last season's 45-10 rout in Death Valley.
There haven't been many games like the one Tahj Boyd played last week, as Clemson's All-American signal caller struggled mightily against the Seminoles. Despite the poor performance, Clemson is still generating a hefty 487.6 yards of total offense, with Boyd the centerpiece of it all.
Even after a dreadful outing, Boyd is still completing well over 60 percent of his passes in 2013, for 1,939 yards with a 4:1 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions (16:4). It has definitely helped that All-American wideout Sammy Watkins has returned to his freshman form. The now junior leads Clemson in receptions (44), receiving yards (650) and TD catches (5). The team lacks a true workhorse back like in years past, but tailback Roderick McDowell (5.0 ypc) has been solid in spots.
Boyd took full responsibility for the team's loss to FSU.
"I just didn't perform the way I was capable," Boyd said. "As a leader, it's my job to go out and lead and perform, and I just didn't do that tonight. There were a couple moments that I would like to have back, but you just have to keep on working."
Just when the Tigers started to catch up in terms of defensive production, as game like last week's comes around and puts things in a little better perspective. The Tigers' numbers defensively are still quite good, despite allowing FSU to march up and down the field, as they are yielding 376.3 yards per game. With 27 sacks on the season, the pass rush has been a big reason for the success.
Leading the way in that regard is defensive end Vic Beasley (19 tackles), who paces the team in both TFL (12.0) and sacks (9.0). Linebackers Stephone Anthony (71 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks) and Spencer Shuey (70 tackles, 4.0 TFL) are sideline-to-sideline contributors.
Much like the Tigers, the Terrapins' offensive numbers overall convey a much different story than a few isolated games in conference play. Maryland is still generating a healthy 439.9 yards per game.
Senior QB C.J. Brown has been inconsistent. He has completed 63.5 percent of his throws this season, for 1,262 yards, with seven TDs and three INTs, but he was pulled last week after returning from a concussion, making way for sophomore Caleb Rowe (51.8 percent completion percentage), who has also had his ups and downs this season. To make matters worse, the passing game will be missing star wideout Stefon Diggs (83.9 ypg, 34 catches, for 587 yards and three TDs) and Deon Long going forward, as both left the game with leg injuries against Wake Forest.
Edsall addressed the injuries after the game.
"It's not good. Deon broke his tibia and fibula, both bones in the lower leg. He's got to go home tonight and probably have surgery later tonight when we get home. Stefon fractured his fibula so there will probably be surgery sometime this week for him."
Maryland's defense has played to mixed reviews this season, but the Terps do enter this contest allowing just 354.4 yards per game, while racking up 19 sacks and 13 takeaways.
The team is led by its linebacker corps. Junior L.A. Goree paces the team with 46 tackles, 4.0 TFL, one sack and one forced fumble. Senior Marcus Whitfield (28 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks) is a playmaker upfield, while junior Cole Farrand (44 tackles, 3.5 TFL, one forced fumble) rounds out the trio.