Game of the Week: Clemson vs. Alabama
This team firmly believes it's primed for a breakthrough. Players were given shirts with the words "History makers" on the back, and there are plenty of reasons to believe why this team could, indeed, make history. But that's not to say there aren't a few reasons why they couldn't be history.
Clemson has come painstakingly close the last three seasons to delivering its first conference title since 1991, including last season, when an overtime loss to Boston College kept the Tigers out of the ACC title game. But psychological hurdles aren't the only potential issues.
The defense, despite returning seven players from a unit that was No. 9 in the nation in total defense, has its questions with an all new linebacking corps. The most "experienced" LBs of the bunch -- junior
Saban has said eight to 10 freshmen will play prominently against the Tigers but it's Jones, who will become the first 'Bama receiver to start his first collegiate game, that gets all the attention. It's only been augmented by
Alabama returns nine starters on offense, including an experienced line anchored by massive left tackle
Jones could give the Tide the immediate punch it needs in the receiving corps. Many believe he's the team's best pass-catcher.
If he lives up to a tenth of his hype -- which includes radio personality
Things haven't been as bad under Bowden. He's 3-5 in Atlanta in nine seasons at Clemson, though his last victory came in the 2003 Peach Bowl against Tennessee. The Tigers came up short twice last season, falling to the Yellow Jackets and Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in overtime.
Historically, the Tigers haven't fared much better against Alabama. The Tide have won 11 straight meetings, including 56-0 in their last clash, which came in 1975. But unless one of those fans sporting
"They present a lot of problems with their movement and different sets and formations ... you have to pick your poison with them.
"With [Spiller], they work to line him up in different places, so you try to go out and defend him and try to stop him from getting the ball. But when they get [Spiller and Davis] on the field, it presents a lot of matchup problems.
"We gave up big plays in the passing game. Harper puts the ball on the money. You put all your eggs into one basket to defend the run and they wind up hurting you throwing the ball.
"They've got speed. It's not just Davis and Spiller, it's down to the wide receivers and they've got a nice group of tight ends."