The coaches at both Maryland and Clemson think stopping the opponents’ rushing game will be the difference tomorrow.
There’s a decent chance a few defining plays in the passing game will be significant as well – assuming the weather holds up.
But here’s tomorrow’s game, by the numbers:
* Maryland rushing offense vs. Clemson rush defense: The Terps average 197.3 rushing yards and rank 26th nationally. The Tigers yield 113.5 rushing yards a game and rank 44th nationally.
Getting Da’Rel Scott back is going to help Maryland a ton. With Clemson’s linebacker corps a bit dubious at this point, the sophomore will certainly be in position for some huge plays if he can find a sliver of open space. Give Maryland the edge in this category.
* Maryland pass offense vs. Clemson pass defense: The Terps average 187 yards passing and rank 83rd nationally. The Tigers yield 208 yards a game and rank 68th nationally.
I’m not sure you can really read much into this just yet. Maryland’s had three games where it didn’t bother to feign interest in throwing the ball in the fourth quarter (nine passing attempts in the final quarter in the Terps’ victories). Clemson, meanwhile, easily handled a pair of I-AA teams and N.C. State and faced plenty of late passing. Maybe we’ll know more at this time tomorrow.
* Clemson rushing offense vs. Maryland rush defense: The Tigers average 151.8 yards rushing and rank 65th nationally. The Terps yield 112 yards a game and rank 43rd nationally.
Ralph Friedgen probably tacitly answered the key to this particular matchup earlier this week when he said Maryland has to keep Clemson’s tailbacks from bouncing outside. Keep them between the tackles, and this shouldn’t be a big problem. Let them near the perimeter, and both James Davis and C.J. Spiller could replicate their 100-yard games at Byrd Stadium last year.
This is an “it-is-what-it-is” situation. The more the Terps are forced to chase someone toward a sideline, the more trouble they’ll be in.
* Clemson pass offense vs. Maryland pass defense: The Tigers average 237.5 yards passing and rank 44th nationally. The Terps yield 279.3 yards and rank 109th nationally.
The players to really watch tomorrow are Clemson wideouts Aaron Kelly and Jacoby Ford. Kelly is a tall wideout, and Kevin Barnes is really the only Maryland cornerback left standing who is big enough to handle that assignment with any sort of regularity. Ford, meanwhile, is a burner whose healthy return this year makes the Tigers a much more difficult team to defend.
This will probably be the day Cullen Harper shakes off some of the criticism he’s received from restless Clemson fans. If he managed to win a lot of them back, it’s bad news for Maryland.