Clemson went on the road and beat a team that was 4-2 by 35 points and actually fell a spot in the AP Poll. The Tigers (7-0, 5-0 ACC) keep winning, most of the time convincingly, and they continue to get jumped by other programs. In some ways, maybe it makes sense.
But we all know that in the long run it really doesn't matter. If the Tigers win each of their next five games and then claim the ACC championship in early December, they will be in the College Football Playoff. That's what's important.
The next step in this process is knocking off a suddenly revived Boston College team. Things looked bleak for the Eagles (4-3, 2-2) when they lost to Kansas at home in Week 3 and then struggled with woeful Rutgers eight days later. After losing close battles to Wake Forest and Louisville, Boston College got back on track by running over NC State last Saturday. Now, despite a brutal year-end schedule, bowl eligibility is back in play.
Clemson is 17-9-2 against Boston College and has won eight in a row in the series.
Boston College at Clemson
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Clemson -34
When Boston College Has the Ball
There is no mystery here. The Eagles will hand the ball off to AJ Dillon. And when they are not doing that, they will give it to David Bailey. With backup quarterback Dennis Grosel now leading the offense, head coach Steve Addazio has to lean on his two explosive running backs even more. That plan worked wonders last week against NC State.
The Wolfpack came to Chestnut Hill with the ACC’s top rush defense, one that had given up just 66 yards per game on the ground. The Pack also knew that the Eagles would have a limited passing attack and that they needed to stop BC's run game. That didn’t happen. The BC offensive line opened up massive holes, and the Eagles churned up 429 yards on the ground.
The strategy for Boston College will remain the same, but there’s one little problem. While NC State may have had impressive rush defense numbers, the Wolfpack are not Clemson. The Tigers are unbeaten this year in large part due to their stellar defense, and if an opponent is one-dimensional, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables knows how to shut that aspect down. The middle of the line, led by Tyler Davis and Jordan Williams, will not get pushed around like the Pack did last week, and the second-level defenders, led by Isaiah Simmons, will be there to clean things up.
But really, running the ball is BC’s only hope. If the Eagles are forced to throw too often, the Tigers will have a field day disrupting the Eagles' young quarterback.
When Clemson Has the Ball
This should be a very intriguing matchup for several reasons. First, the bugaboo for Clemson so far this season has been turnovers, specifically the eight interceptions thrown by quarterback Trevor Lawrence. This Saturday night, Lawrence will be going against a team that is first in the ACC in turnover margin and has picked off nine passes on the season. A large part of BC’s defensive gameplan has to be to force the Tigers into mistakes. Interestingly, the Eagles are last in the league and 120th nationally in sacks, so the turnovers come by creating confusion rather than pressure.
When something isn’t open downfield, Lawrence needs to have available check-down options and connect with them when the situation dictates. But if Clemson is patient, the home runs will come. No school in the ACC has allowed more plays of over 10 yards, 20 yards, 50 yards and 70 yards than Boston College. The Eagles have been especially vulnerable in the passing game, which plays right into Clemson’s hands with Lawrence throwing to Justyn Ross, Tee Higgins, and the other dynamic Tiger receivers.
The Eagles, however, are not immune to giving up big plays on the ground, and Travis Etienne and the Clemson running game is starting to hum. After rushing for 127 yards against Florida State, Etienne went for 192 on just 14 carries at Louisville. BC defenders have to keep the Tiger receivers in front of them, and that should give Etienne a chance at another huge game.
Boston College should be feeling very good about itself after the convincing win over NC State. But this will be vastly different. The Tigers have a good enough secondary that they can match up man-to-man on the Eagle receivers, load the box, and stop the run. Or at least slow it down enough. BC’s only hope defensively is for Clemson to make several mistakes and give away possessions. While that’s possible, it’s a plan based more on hope than anything else. Clemson will take care of the ball and score plenty of points to win going away.
Prediction: Clemson 49, Boston College 13
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.