The Clemson Tigers are set to host an exciting game against the No. 7 Miami Hurricanes tonight at 7:30. Memorial Stadium has not seen a top ten matchup since the year 2016, when Louisville and their Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson came to the upstate. That game was an electrifying thriller and it propelled Clemson to win a national championship.
This Miami team has some similarities that Louisville had as well, mostly at quarterback. The Hurricanes quarterback, D’Eriq King, is no Lamar Jackson by any means, but he can keep defensive coordinators up at night, just as Jackson did. King brings a different dynamic to the game with his ability to run the ball so effectively. On the ground, King is averaging about five and a half yards after contact and 15 yards a scramble. King averages 245.3 yards passing per game, and is 63 for 94 on completions. His ability to throw the ball accurately combined with his talent at running the ball, has allowed him to accumulate 736 yards, and score six touchdowns so far this season.
Besides King, there are a number of Miami players that Clemson needs to watch out for on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Miami has a three headed monster at running back with Donald Chaney Jr., Cam’Ron Harris, and Jaylan Knighton. Chaney, a freshman from the Sunshine State, is averaging 4.4 yards a carry. Harris, a junior also from the Sunshine State, is the power back of the three. He is averaging 8.2 yards a carry, with five touchdowns on the season Harris is the straw that stirs the drink, as he is the key to Miami’s ground attack. Expect Miami to try to wear down that Clemson front so that Jaylan Knighton can get a big gain on ground. Jaylan Knighton, a freshman also from the Sunshine State, is averaging 5.3 yards on the ground, but he is a bigger threat through the air. Against Louisville, Knighton broke the game wide open with a 75 yard receiving touchdown off a wheel route out of the backfield. Harris may be the powerback, but Knighton is the difference maker in that offense. Another weapon that Miami has is tight end with Brevin Jordan.If not for Florida tight end Kyle Pitts setting the world on fire this season, Brevin Jordan would be looked at as maybe the best tight end in the country. Jordan has 15 catches on the year for 212 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jordan gives King a big target down the field that could cause some trouble for the Clemson defense.
Miami’s defense has a ton of talent as well and enters the game giving up 377 total yards per game. Bubba Bolden, Jaelan Phillips, and Zach McCloud lead the Hurricanes defense into Death Valley. Safety Bubba Bolden has 17 tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles, and one interception. Bolden is a versatile safety who can lineup anywhere on the field and change the game. Defensive end Jaelan Phillips, the former number one recruit, comes in with just eight tackles on the year, but he faces double teams on about every snap. That allows Quincy Rocheto dominate, as he has ten tackles and two sacks on the year. This Miami front could cause some problems for the Clemson offensive line. Zach McCloud anchors down the Hurricane front seven. McCloud has a solid stat line so far, with 16 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Clemson’s offensive line will need to locate McCloud early and often Saturday, so that the Tigers can effectively run the ball.
There are a ton of matchups to watch Saturday, such as Jaelan Phillips vs Jackson Carman, or Brevin Jordan vs Mike Jones Jr. But the matchup that will decide the game on Saturday is not between players. The matchup to watch is Miami Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee versus Clemson Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables. Lashlee is a new addition to Miami this year, as he was hired by Head Coach Manny Diaz after the firing of Dan Enos last year. Lashlee is a disciple of Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn. In Lashlee’s words, his offense is more of a power spread mixed in with some air raid concepts. Lashlee is an aggressive play caller, as he looks to set the run early and then take some shots down the field to keep the defense honest. Lashlee has a plethora of weapons at his disposal. Clemson Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables is a mad scientist. Venables will deploy multiple formation looks and personnel packages to confuse the Miami offense.
Expect this game is going to come down to the fourth quarter, and for Clemson to pull away late and continue their ACC dominance. Trevor Lawrence will make some key throws on third downs to keep the chains moving and make a few plays on the ground to extend drives. The game will finish with Clemson beating Miami 35 to 17.