Clemson and The Citadel will meet up for the 39th time on Saturday
A week after facing first-year head coach Jeff Scott and his South Florida Bulls, The Citadel will battle Scott's former employer when they venture up to Clemson this Saturday. In what is scheduled to be a brief four-game fall season, the FCS Bulldogs started off 0-1 by falling to USF 27-6.
Clemson, on the other hand, got off to a quick start and coasted to a 37-13 victory over Wake Forest. It was their 30th consecutive regular-season win dating back to the loss at Syracuse on Oct. 13, 2017.
Clemson is 32-5-1 throughout the years against the Citadel, with the last Bulldog victory coming way back in 1931.
The Citadel at Clemson
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 19 at 4 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Clemson -47.5
When The Citadel Has the Ball
The Bulldogs run an option-based system that is similar to what is utilized at the service academies. Quarterback Brandon Rainey makes the offense go. Last year, Rainey ran for 900 yards and 17 touchdowns, but he also was a threat throwing the ball, completing 51 percent of his passes for 1,114 yards and 13 scores against just four interceptions. The Citadel likes to pound the ball with their option attack, then hit their opponent over the top with the pass.
However, it didn't work well against USF. The Bulldogs did gain 200 yards on the ground but that wasn't nearly enough, especially with Rainey struggling to complete just four of his 18 pass attempts. One-dimensional attacks by FCS programs aren't going to work against a Clemson defense dripping with talent and led by a coaching staff that has prepared for this type of style many times when facing Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech.
It was against a different type of running game, but the Tigers held Wake Forest to just 37 rushing yards on 34 carries this past Saturday night. Wake's limited offensive success came through the air and most of that was in the second half after Clemson had the game well in hand. This week, against an FCS opponent, the Tigers should be even more dominant.
When Clemson Has the Ball
USF ran for more than 300 yards on The Citadel last week, but it will be a whole different world for the Bulldogs this Saturday. Perhaps it will be Travis Etienne, who had 102 rushing yards against the Demon Deacons. Or maybe Trevor Lawrence will put the ball up early, trying to build off his 351-yard game at Wake. It won't matter, as Clemson will move the ball however they please.
The Tigers are bigger up front and the skill players are far more athletic than The Citadel defenders. By halftime, Darien Rencher, Demarckus Bowman, and Kobe Pace will be getting the bulk of the carries while D.J. Uiagelelei and Taisun Phommachanh will be quarterbacking the Clemson offense.
The Citadel does have some defenders that can make some plays. Willie Eubanks had a 12-tackle game in Tampa, with three of those stops coming behind the line of scrimmage, one of which was a sack. S.T. Faulkner and Marquise Blount also had multiple tackles for lost yardage in the game. But with apologies to The Citadel's first opponent, they are not Clemson.
Obviously, this is not a matter of whether Clemson will win, but by how much? The Citadel has very little to play for during this four-game season, but motivation isn't the big issue here. It's talent. The insane kind of talent that Clemson has in reserve and The Citadel can only dream about. Those talented Tiger backups will see plenty of action this week. Clemson will jump out to a huge lead right away and then will empty the bench for the rest of the day. In a season where everyone on the roster will be granted an extra year of eligibility, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney does not have to be careful analyzing who plays and who doesn't. The Tigers could name their score but will probably show some mercy in the second half and take their foot off the accelerator.
Prediction: Clemson 56, The Citadel 0
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— 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.