Virginia at Clemson: Five Things to Watch For on Saturday
Clemson comes out of a bye week looking to continue their march towards a sixth consecutive ACC Championship as they welcome Bronco Mendenhall and Virginia to town for a primetime affair in Death Valley.
The Cavaliers come into this one hoping for a better result than they got when the two teams faced off in Charlotte last December with the ACC Championship on the line, a game Clemson won 62-17.
Like last season, the Tigers once again come into this one as huge favorites, and today All Clemson takes a look at five things to keep an eye on as the No. 1 Tigers look for their third consecutive win:
1. Clemson Secondary: The Tigers secondary might just be the biggest question mark on the team at this point in the season. However, we have yet to really see it at full strength as Mario Goodrich has yet to suit up and Derion Kendrick missed the opener for disciplinary reasons and then didn't play a whole lot against The Citadel. Both are expected to be on the field this weekend and it couldn't come at a better time. The Cavaliers feature some big, physical receivers and the Tigers can ill afford busts on the back end this weekend.
2. Frank Ladson: The sophomore receiver had a breakout game two weeks ago against The Citadel, and if the Tigers are to be a legitimate national title contender, one or two of the young wideouts need to step up and consistently make plays down the field. Trevor Lawrence needs a dependable target on the outside, and Ladson could be that guy.
3. Ball Security: The Cavaliers play an aggressive style of defense, are well-coached and fundamentally sound. They thrive off of forcing turnovers, as evidenced by the seven they forced in their 38-20 season-opening win over Duke. Virginia picked off former Clemson quarterback Chase Brice four times, had five interceptions in all, and forced two fumbles against the Blue Devils. The Tigers must play clean football on offense and take care of the ball or else they could find themselves in a closer game than most expect.
4. Clemson Front Four: This will be the defensive line's biggest challenge to date, as Virginia has one of the most experienced, and biggest, offensive lines in the ACC. Clemson is expecting to get both Justin Foster and Tyler Davis back this week adding more depth to an extremely talented defensive front. The Tigers need to be able to consistently put pressure on Brennan Armstrong and force him into some bad decisions. Plus, a dominant pass rush can mask any deficiencies on the back end of the defense.
5. Tigers Backup Offensive Linemen: Two games in and the second string offensive line is still a work in progress. While there have been some bright spots, most notably freshman Walter Parks, overall the group still has some work to do. It will be interesting to see how much progress they have made over the past two weeks.
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