There were plenty of positive signs in Clemson's 49-10 win over Wofford. Deshaun Watson, back from December ACL surgery, was on target and looked healthy. The offensive line pushed around the smaller Terriers in both the run game and in pass protection. The defensive front was stingy against Wofford's option attack. And freshmen contributed in many ways.
The only real negative was the injury to wide receiver Mike Williams. Fortunately, Dabo Swinney and company seem to have some answers to fill the void left by Williams.
The Tigers will now face off with Appalachian State. The Mountaineers piled up 663 yards of total offense in a 49-0 destruction of Howard. App State returns nearly everyone from last year’s team that went 7-5 in its first FBS season.
Appalachian State at Clemson
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN3
Spread: Clemson -17.5
Three Things To Watch
1. The Freshman Receivers
It is true that Charone Peake and Germone Hopper will play a considerable amount of time. But Clemson fans are extremely excited to see how freshmen Ray-Ray McCloud and Deon Cain develop as the season progresses. The two combined for 11 catches and 116 yards last week. Neither has the size and strength of the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Williams, with McCloud being tiny (5-10, 180) in comparison. But both of the newcomers have plenty of speed to complement star receiver Artavis Scott.
2. Offensive Line, Part Two
This unit performed very well against Wofford but the competition should be a little tougher in this game. The Mountaineers were No. 45 in the nation in rushing defense last year and held an obviously over-matched Howard squad to just 36 yards on the ground. Appalachian State does not have an ACC-caliber defensive front, but it does have solid veteran defenders that will provide a stiffer challenge than Wofford.
3. Pass Coverage... Finally
Because Wofford runs the triple option, the Clemson defensive backs were rarely tested in pass coverage. That will change this week. While the Mountaineers like to run more than they throw, they do have a viable aerial attack. Quarterback Taylor Lamb passed for 2,381 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. We saw a lot of Jayron Kearse, T.J. Green, and the other Clemson defensive backs last week in run support. This week we’ll see them defending passes as well.
This coming Thursday night, Clemson opens the ACC schedule with a game at Louisville. In terms of being prepared for the Cardinals, playing Appalachian State is perfect. The Mountaineers will provide more push-back than Wofford could and it will force Clemson to work a little harder. However, with a big game on the road just five days later, it could be easy to overlook a team that is in its second FBS season. Clemson has to be wary of falling into that trap against a very experienced opponent. I think that there will be some sluggishness early on, perhaps even the entire first half. But Watson, Scott, and all that athleticism on both sides of the ball will be too much for the Mountaineers.
Prediction: Clemson 38, Appalachian State 17
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.