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Clemson Tigers vs. Boston College Eagles Prediction and Preview

Clemson Tigers vs. Boston College Eagles Prediction and Preview

Clemson Tigers vs. Boston College Eagles Prediction and Preview

Clemson travels north with its undefeated record and No. 2 ranking in the CFB Playoff for a primetime showdown against Boston College. With a win on Saturday night, coach Dabo Swinney’s team would move closer to its fourth consecutive bid to the CFB Playoff and clinch the ACC’s Atlantic Division title. But with an upset victory, the Eagles would move into the driver’s seat for the top spot in the Atlantic.

Boston College finished 2017 by winning five out of its last seven games and has carried that momentum into ’18. Coach Steve Addazio’s team started 3-0 thanks to wins over UMass, Holy Cross and Wake Forest but stumbled 30-13 in a road loss to Purdue on Sept. 22. The Eagles rebounded to knock off Temple but lost a week later against NC State. Boston College has reeled off three consecutive victories, including matchups against Miami and Virginia Tech. Addazio’s offense is built around one of the ACC’s top offensive lines and running back AJ Dillon, while the defense is holding opponents to 24.1 points a game.

As mentioned above, Clemson is on the cusp of its fourth consecutive ACC title and trip to the CFB Playoff. Additionally, with a win on Saturday night, the Tigers will hit 10 victories, giving the program eight consecutive years of double-digit wins. Swinney’s team ranks among college football’s best on both sides of the ball, starting with a deep and talented defensive front. The insertion of quarterback Trevor Lawrence has also added more big-play ability for Clemson’s offense in the passing game. For the most part, the Tigers have dominated on the scoreboard this season. Clemson won by two against Texas A&M and by four against Syracuse. However, none of the other seven victories featured a margin of victory closer than 28 points.

Clemson holds a 16-9-2 series edge over Boston College. The Eagles have lost seven in a row to the Tigers. Boston College’s last victory over Clemson took place in 2010.

Clemson at Boston College

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Clemson -20

Three Things to Watch

1. Boston College’s Offensive Line and RB AJ Dillon

If you like a good battle in the line scrimmage, then this matchup will be a must-see event on Saturday night. Boston College’s offensive line is one of the best in the nation, while Clemson’s defensive front entered 2018 ranked as the No. 1 unit by Athlon Sports.

Boston College’s line has allowed only 14 sacks and is clearing the way for rushers to average 4.5 yards a carry this fall. Clemson will counter with a deep and talented line, which includes All-America candidates Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence on the interior, followed by Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant off the edge. The Tigers are only giving up 90.4 rushing yards a game and just 2.2 yards a carry. Additionally, Clemson’s front has no problem creating havoc. This unit has generated 32 sacks and 89 tackles for a loss.

Boston College running back AJ Dillon is one of the best in college football, recording 897 yards and eight touchdowns through seven appearances. The sophomore suffered an ankle injury in late September and missed two contests before returning on Oct. 26 against Miami. Dillon recorded 149 yards and a score versus the Hurricanes and ran for 96 yards and a touchdown against Virginia Tech last Saturday. However, Dillon was injured in the victory, leaving some uncertainty regarding his status for Saturday night. If Dillon can’t go or is limited, Addazio and coordinator Scot Loeffler would turn to Ben Glines (376 yards) or Travis Levy (177) as the top option at running back.

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Even if Dillon plays, the Eagles will need a steady effort out of quarterback Anthony Brown. The sophomore has passed for 1,567 yards and 16 touchdowns to just five picks this season. However, with Clemson likely to stack the box, can Brown consistently deliver enough passes downfield to keep the defense off balance?

Which side will win out in this battle on Saturday night? Can Clemson’s defensive front stuff the run on early downs to force Boston College into obvious third-and-long situations? Or can the Eagles use tempo and throws on early downs to keep the Tigers off balance?

Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 11

2. Clemson’s Passing Attack

Considering the success of Kelly Bryant last season, switching from Bryant to Trevor Lawrence wasn’t an easy decision for coach Dabo Swinney and co-coordinators Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott. However, Lawrence brings a different dimension to the offense, allowing the Tigers to open up the downfield passing game. The true freshman has completed 65.4 percent of his throws for 1,549 yards and 18 touchdowns to just three picks. He also leads all ACC quarterbacks with nine throws of 40 yards or more and six of 50-plus this season.

Hunter Renfrow is the steady senior for Clemson’s receiving corps, but Tee Higgins (35 catches), Amari Rodgers (33) and Justyn Ross (22) allow this offense to score from anywhere on the field with big plays downfield. Boston College’s secondary ranks third in the ACC in pass efficiency defense and has allowed only 12 touchdowns this season. Additionally, the pass defense is bolstered by a standout group in the trenches and at linebacker. The Eagles have generated 28 sacks (ranked second in the ACC), limit offenses to just 4.9 yards a play and rank fifth in the conference in scoring defense (24.1 ppg). End Zach Allen (and All-America candidate) has 12.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks, while fellow end Wyatt Ray is also having a good 2018 campaign (10.5 TFL and nine sacks). Cornerbacks Hamp Cheevers and Taj-Amir Torres have combined for seven picks, with the steady play of safeties Will Harris and Lukas Denis rounding out the starting unit in the secondary.

In order for Boston College to win on Saturday night, it has to win the battle up front on defense. The Eagles have to generate pressure against a Clemson offensive line that’s allowed only 12 sacks in 2018. Additionally, when Lawrence connects with his receivers, limiting the yards after catch will be crucial.

3. Clemson RB Travis Etienne

This game features the ACC’s top two running backs, with both players expected to challenge for All-America honors at the end of 2018. While Dillon’s status is uncertain due to injury, Etienne needs just two yards on Saturday night to reach 1,000. The sophomore has rushed for 998 yards and 15 touchdowns this year, averaging a whopping 8.6 yards per rush.

Etienne is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, but Boston College’s defense has been tough against the run. The Eagles are allowing only 3.7 yards per rush and rank seventh in the ACC in this department. As mentioned with Lawrence and his receivers, limiting the big plays here will be important for Boston College’s upset bid. Can the Eagles win the one-on-one battles with Clemson’s offensive line and tackle Etienne in the backfield to prevent him from getting into space to make big plays? Or will the sophomore break free for a couple big runs and easily exceed 100 yards on the night?

Final Analysis

Despite three consecutive ACC titles (and likely a fourth on the way), Clemson has lost a game in each of those seasons. In 2016, the Tigers lost at home to Pitt. Last fall, the Tigers lost on the road at Syracuse. While a loss in conference play wouldn't be a surprise, it’s hard to see Clemson dropping this game. However, the formula for a Boston College victory is pretty simple. Is Dillon healthy enough to take a full load of snaps and control the clock for Addazio’s team? If not, the Eagles will face an even bigger uphill battle to a win. The Tigers simply have too much firepower, and the defense will do enough against Dillon and the Boston College ground game to help Swinney's team pull away in the second half.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Clemson

Prediction: Clemson 34, Boston College 17