Tag Archives: Clemson at Duke preview

BDN Clemson at Duke Preview

QB Sean Renfree is listed as probable against Clemson after a concussion last week. - BDN Photo

Clemson at Duke
7:00 PM ET
Saturday, November 3
Durham, North Carolina


Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

Duke: 6-3 (3-2 ACC), lost at FSU, 48-7
Clemson: 7-1 (4-1 ACC), defeated WF 10/25, 42-13



PROBABLE: QB Sean Renfree (head)
DOUBTFUL: DE Kenny Anunike (lower body), RB Juwan Thompson (upper body)
OUT: CB Jared Boyd (leg), S Brandon Braxton (lower body), LB Kelby Brown (leg), TE Braxton Deaver (leg), S Anthony Young-Wiseman (leg)
OUT FOR SEASON: TE Jack Farrell (leg), WR Blair Holliday, DE Allen Jackson (shoulder), S Corbin McCarthy (shoulder), S Taylor Sowell (leg)


PROBABLE: DB Bashaud Breeland (abdominal strain), DB Garry Peters (back)
OUT FOR SEASON: DB Martin Jenkins (Hernia), QB Tony McNeal (ACL), LB Justin Parker (groin), DB Darius Robinson (ankle), DB Jerrodd Williams (broken leg)


After a setback against Florida State, Duke has to get back to playing winning football on Saturday. With three ACC wins already on the year, the Blue Devils have proven they can compete in the conference. On Saturday, they have a chance to prove they can compete with the elite in the conference. For Duke to have a chance to win, it starts with their defense, which will likely be without DE Kenny Anunike. The Tigers have the most skill position talent of any team the Blue Devils have faced this year, and it will be a huge test on an individual level. Ross Cockrell, Lee Butler, and Tony Foster have to find a way to contain Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. No team has found a way to stop this offense, so it will be a matter of keeping them in check. As crazy as it sounds, if the defense can hold Clemson to just 4 or 5 touchdowns, the Blue Devils will have a chance. Clemson's defense has given up its fair share of big plays, and with Sean Renfree probable to play on Saturday, there should be plenty of opportunities for the Blue Devil receivers downfield. Against this defense, Duke should easily be able to put up 4 or 5 touchdowns of their own. In particular, Duke will have to control time of possession and field position; a strong ground game and an error-free kicking game will be essential. For Duke to pull off the upset, they have to keep the score close enough to make a big play late in the 4th quarter to win the game.


Explosive plays have been the kryptonite for this Duke defense, and Clemson has the weapons to make big plays. Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, and Andre Ellington are all elite talent, and the Duke defense will have their hands full trying to keep them from breaking open big scoring plays. If Clemson can open up a big lead early, the pressure will be on Duke's offense to keep up. Clemson has to bring their "A" game and play with intensity for a full 60 minutes if they hope to win on Saturday, but they do have the superior athletes. The defense will look to be opportunistic, and hold Duke to field goals rather than touchdowns. A big lead for the Tigers will make the Duke offense one-dimensional, and lead to more possessions and points for Clemson.


The Blue Devils are undefeated at home, and are hungry to bounce back after a poor showing in Tallahassee. Despite the elite athletes on Clemson's offense, their defense is suspect, and Duke should be able to score points. Duke should have the advantage in the kicking game, and that will play a huge part in the Blue Devils' upset. When a top 10 team loses to an unranked opponent, it's called Clemsoning. Duke 34, Clemson 31

BDN Know the Opponent: Clemson Tigers

It's November prime-time football in Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday night as Duke hosts the Clemson Tigers. Both the Blue Devils and Tigers remain in contention for ACC Division titles, and a win on Saturday night in Durham will only solidify that position. Thanks to the unbalanced ACC schedule, Duke and Clemson have not faced each other since 2008. To give us the inside look at this year's Clemson team, BDN welcomes in Greg Wallace of the Anderson Independent Mail. Greg is among the best at covering the Clemson beat, and his work can be found online at OrangeandWhite.com, as well as his Twitter page.

Under Head Coach Dabo Swinney, Clemson entered the 2012 season with big expectations. The Tigers sit at 7-1, with their lone loss coming against Atlantic Division rival Florida State. Riding a four-game winning streak after their loss, what is your assessment of the Tigers' season so far? What are the expectations for this team among the very loyal Clemson fan base?

Before the season, I projected Clemson at 10-2, so this group is right on track. After winning the program’s first ACC title in 20 seasons, some fans won’t be satisfied without another title this season, but unless Florida State slips up again, that won’t happen. Still, there’s reason to be excited, given that 63 of Clemson’s 85 scholarship players are freshmen and sophomores. Junior DeAndre Hopkins has joined Sammy Watkins as one of the nation’s top receivers, and junior quarterback Tajh Boyd has reduced his mistakes and improved his efficiency.

Brent Venables’ defense struggled through the first half of the season but has shown signs of improvement recently. If Clemson can finish the regular season unblemished, including a win over rival South Carolina, the Tigers would surpass 2011’s 10-4 record and be in the conversation for another BCS-level bowl. That’d be reason to be excited.

Led by Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, and Andre Ellington, Clemson's offense ranks 2nd in the ACC and 10th in the country. Their lowest point total of the season came in their opener against Auburn with 26 points. With this amount of talent at the skill positions, there may not be a way to stop the Clemson offense, but have opposing defense had any success in slowing it down? What advice would you give to an opposing defensive coordinator?

In the second half of last season, defenses started dropping eight defenders and making Boyd find an open man. He forced too many balls, throwing nine interceptions against nine touchdowns in the final six games. This season, a slimmer, smarter Boyd has been more of a factor in the run game which has improved his overall efficiency.

Florida State used press man coverage effectively against Watkins and Hopkins, but Clemson still put up 37 points – the Tigers have scored at least 37 points in their last seven games, the first ACC team to do that since Florida State in 1995. Stopping the Tigers’ offense is very difficult; Boyd had an off day against Virginia Tech after the Hokies sacked him twice in the first three plays, throwing him off his rhythm. But often, it has been a matter of opposing defenses picking their poison.

Clemson's defense has struggled under new coordinator Brent Venables; the Tigers give up an average of 421 yards to opponents, including 183 yards on the ground. What has been the source of the defense's lack of success so far this year? Who are the primary playmakers for the Tiger defense?

The Tigers allowed an average of 523 yards of total offense and 37 points to their first three ACC foes, but they improved significantly over the past two weeks, holding Virginia Tech and Wake Forest to an average of 348 yards and 15 points. Their fundamentals and defensive line pressure have improved – Clemson had seven sacks in its first six games, and has seven in its last two. They’re far from world-beaters – the secondary has struggled with tackling and is injury riddled, with juniors Martin Jenkins and Darius Robinson out with injuries and sophomore Bashaud Breeland slowed by an abdominal strain. And the defensive line needs more than the two sacks its lone upperclassman, senior defensive end Malliciah Goodman, has provided.

Senior “Will” linebacker Jonathan Willard has emerged as the top playmaker, with a team-leading 62 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

With the unbalanced schedule, Duke and Clemson haven't faced each other since 2008, which was Coach Cutcliffe's first year in Durham. How do the Tigers coaches and players feel they match up against Duke? How do you expect the game to unfold on Saturday in Durham?

Clemson’s coaches and players have been highly complementary of Duke, especially since the Blue Devils are bowl-eligible for the first time since 1994. I think everyone expects a far more raucous atmosphere than the one Clemson saw in 2007, when the Tigers coasted to a 47-10 rout. While last week’s 48-7 loss at Florida State might be an anomaly, I expect Clemson to be able to move the ball freely on the Blue Devils. If Clemson’s defense can build on the last two weeks – especially if Sean Renfree is unable to play – it could be a long night for Duke. I expect the Blue Devils to be competitive early on, but Clemson should pull away in the second half for its eighth win of 2012.