Bulldog owners, beware. After last week's loss to Georgia, fans can rest assured that the Clemson Tigers are ready to prove themselves on their home turf this Saturday. Although the Tigers’ reputation may have taken a bit of a beating on the AP Poll this week, dropping from No. 3 to No. 6, their determination to prove themselves in the rest of the regular season remains just as solid. Following Saturday’s disappointment, head coach Dabo Swinney said, “We’ve got to do a better job as coaches to make sure we put them in position to be successful.”
So, what went wrong on Saturday that fans can expect to see touched upon against S.C. State? To begin with, the offensive line allowed quarterback DJ Uiagalelei to be sacked seven times against Georgia, which alludes to some necessary tightening up. However, this can also be attributed to Georgia’s ruthless front seven composed of some of the most elite players in the nation. S.C. State’s zero combined sacks in the 2020 season cannot even be compared to UGA’s squad, meaning there are no worries for the Tigers that we will face a repeat of last week.
There is also something to be said for the pressure Uiagalelei is under to continue the almost-unblemished legacy of Trevor Lawrence. Swinney believes the experience against Georgia will force Uiagalelei to grow up a little quicker, perhaps catapulting him into the mindset of a more mature quarterback. Additionally, the Tigers can rest easy upon the return of wide receiver Justyn Ross, who missed the entirety of the 2020 season due to a spinal cord injury. Ross can be expected to be a major playmaker for the rest of the year.
Furthermore, the Bulldogs only completed four games in their 2020-2021 season, two of which were against the same team, Delaware State. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Corey Fields has a career total of 17 touchdown passes and a 50% completion rate. The majority of returning players for the Bulldogs are sophomores who have yet to play in a game outside of the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference. However, what they may lack in the experience and skill necessary to overpower the Tigers, the Bulldogs sure make up for in humility. Head coach Buddy Pough said, “All of the pressure is on them. None of it is on us.” At least these Bulldogs have their expectations reasonably placed.
Tigers, last weekend was rough. There’s no denying that a pick-six like the one by Georgia defensive back Christopher Smith last Saturday hurts the pride of a powerhouse team like Clemson, but it is important to keep perspective and use those encounters as motivation. The S.C. State Bulldogs stand no chance against the defensive line and the rocket arm of Uiagalelei backed by wide receivers Justyn Ross, Ajou Ajou and Joseph Ngata. In all of its 81,500-person glory, Death Valley will for sure register on a seismographic scale this Saturday.