What to watch for: Clemson

What to watch for: Clemson

The Cavaliers will host Clemson for the first time under Mike London this Saturday. What makes the eight-ranked Tigers tick on offense and defense?

Clemson Tigers (7-1, 5-1 ACC)

Game notes:

Overall, the series has been one-sided, with Clemson holding a 37-8-1 edge.

UVa has won three of the last six games though, including two of three at Scott Stadium

Clemson holds a 16-5 all-time advantage against UVa at Scott Stadium

The Tigers won the first 29 games in the series before UVa won in 1990. Since then, Virginia is 8-8-1 vs. Clemson

Game time:

Following Virginia's blowout loss to Oregon, a common theme amongst players and coaches was that the speed of Ducks would prepare the Cavaliers for the rest of the 2013 schedule. Up until now, UVa has not faced an offense anywhere near as explosive as Oregon, but that will change on Saturday as eighth-ranked, Clemson comes to Charlottesville for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff. While they are not on the same level as Oregon, the Tigers are armed with similar skillsets, and poses elite speed all over the field.

Clemson comes into Saturday's clash at Scott Stadium with a record of 7-1, with the lone blemish being a 51-14 drubbing at the hands of Florida State. The Orange and Purple started the season off with a bang, knocking off then-fifth-ranked Georgia, in Death Valley. Since the big win on Labor Day, the Tigers have pretty much done what has been expected of them, with the exception of the Florida State game.

Clemson found itself in unfamiliar territory last week against Maryland, coming off of a loss for the first time all season. It wasn't pretty, but the Tigers did what they had to do late to put Terrapins away. The boys from Death Valley come into this Saturday's game riding a seven-game winning streak away from home, the longest such stretch in almost 40 years.

Thanks to ACC expansion, the Cavaliers and Tigers have not met since 2009, and will not play again until 2020. The two teams will clash in Death Valley in seven years, and will not meet again in Charlottesville until at least 2025… Hard to label these two teams as "conference rivals." Let's take a closer look at the 2013 Clemson Tigers.

The Clemson offense:

Much of Clemson's recent success is due to third year offense coordinator, Chad Morris' hurry-up, spread scheme. Since arriving at the school in 2011, Morris has turned the Tigers into one of the highest scoring teams in all of college football. Morris helped lead the Orange and Purple to 101 school records (33 team, 68 individual) in 2012. This year, Clemson rank in the top 20 nationally in passing offense, passing efficiency, and first downs.

For the Tigers, it all starts with quarterback, Tajh Boyd on offense. The reigning ACC Player of the Year has started 35 consecutive games for Clemson, compiling a record of 28-7. This season, Boyd has thrown for over 2,200 yards and 17 touchdowns, while completing 63 percent of his passes. The fifth year senior can also make plays with his feet, and leads his team with six rushing TDs on the year. Boyd is only 16 yards away from rushing for 1,000 yards for his career, and is on pace to celebrate the milestone against the Cavaliers on Saturday. In case you've been living under a rock this week, Saturday will be a bit of a homecoming for the Clemson signal-caller. Boyd graduated from Phoebus High School in Hampton, Virginia, and is friends with several UVa players, including starting quarterback, David Watford.

A big reason for Boyd's success through the air has been due his dynamic receiving corps. Clemson's leading receiver from a year ago, DeAndre Hopkins now plays for the Houston Texans, but the Tigers have plenty of options at wideout, highlighted by junior, Sammy Watkins. Watkins announced himself immediately during freshman campaign, earning first team All-American honors as an all purpose player in 2011. This year, Watkins has hauled in 58 receptions for a whopping 813 yards, and five touchdowns. Last week against Maryland, Watkins broke a school record, by catching 14 passes for 163 yards. The former five-star prospect is only seven catches away from passing Hopkins as the school's all time leader in receptions.

While Watkins is the leader by far in catches and yardage, junior, Martavis Bryant is having a fine season as well, with 24 catches for 450 yards, and three touchdowns. Like Watkins, Bryant is big play threat, and is averaging 18.8 yards per catch. Fellow junior, Adam Humphries is second on the team in receptions, with 30 catches for 368 yards, and two scores. The Cavaliers will also need to be mindful of and Mike Williams on the outside.

Tight end, Stanton Seckinger has not been looked at a whole lot in the last two weeks, but has caught 13 passes for 156 yards, and two TDs this season. Freshman, Jordan Leggett has two scores from the tight end position as well, including one last week against Maryland. Hopkins' departure in the offseason left the Tigers without a tall redzone threat through the air, and both Seckinger, and Leggett fit the bill at 6-5, 210 pounds and 6-6, 235 pounds respectively.

Senior, Roderick McDowell is Clemson's leader in the running game, with 607 yards and two touchdowns, off of 119 carries. After posting 132 yards against Georgia, McDowell did not eclipse the century mark again until last week's win over Maryland. Against the Terps, the Sumpter, South Carolina native rushed for a career high, 161 yards, and scored his first two touchdowns of the season. McDowell averages five yards per attempt, but has only carried the ball more than 15 times in a game on three occasions this year. Boyd narrowly trails McDowell in carries, with 93 attempts, and is dangerous off of the read option. Fortunately for the Cavaliers, the defense sees read-option looks from Watford every day in practice, and has faced several of the nations top rushing QBs this season. Backup running backs, and D.J. Howard are not utilized very much, but may see a few touches on Saturday afternoon. Brooks has carried the ball 47 times for 234 yards, and two touchdowns, while Howard has turned in 146 yards and one touchdown, off of 38 carries so far this season.

The Clemson defense

While the Clemson offense has been as good as advertised, the defense has made tremendous strides, under second-year coordinator, Brent Venables. The Tigers are number one in the nation in sacks, with 29 on the year, number two in tackles for loss, and are tied for 11th in turnovers gained.

Excluding the loss to the Noles, the Clemson has done a nice job on defense, holding their opponents not named "Florida State" to an average of 17.7 points per game. Like most of Virginia's opponents, the Tigers line up in a 4-3, and have a tremendous front-seven.

Defensive end, Vic Beasley leads the nation with 10 sacks on the year, to go along with his 15 tackles for a loss. Regardless of what opposing offensive lines try to do, Beasley seems to be in on just about every play from scrimmage. The mere presence of the 6-3, 235 pound junior allows the rest of the defensive line to make plays, including starting defensive tackle, Grady Jarrett, who leads the front four, with 44 stops on the year. At the other defensive tackle spot, the Tigers list D.J. Reader, Josh Watson, and as co-starters. Lining up opposite Beasley at defensive end, is 6-5, 270 pound, Corey Crawford.

Clemson's top two tacklers are in the linebacker corps, led middle linebacker, Stephone Anthony. Anthony has reeled off four quarterback sacks, to go along with his team high, 80 total tackles. Weakside outside linebacker Spencer Shuey is the team's second leading tackler with 78 stops, and is 10th in the nation in fumble recoveries.. Fifth year senior, Quandon Christian starts opposite Sheuy at strong side outside linebacker.

The Clemson secondary is a mixed bag, with experience at corner, and several question marks at the safety position. Starting corners, , and Darius Robinson are both ballhawks, and have picked off three passes each in 2013. Breeland was suspended for the first half of the Maryland game, but ended up leading the Tigers in tackles, and forced a fumble that setup a key touchdown late.

If there is a weakness on this Clemson defense, it is at safety. Travis Blanks is listed ahead of freshman, Jayron Kearse on the depth chart, but Kearse came in and relieved Blanks last week, after the sophomore allowed a slant over the middle to turn into a big gain for the Terps. It will be interesting to see how short Blanks' leash is this week. Junior, Robert Smith is Clemson's other starter at safety.

The Clemson head coach

Fourth and half year head coach, Dabo Swinney has helped restore this once proud program through his elite recruit ability, and his unrivaled enthusiasm. After taking over midway through the 2008 season for fired head coach, Tommy Bowden, Swinney has led the Tigers to an overall record of 47-22, including the school's first ACC title in over 20 years in 2011. Things really took off for Swinney in 2011, when he brought in Morris and his high-octane offense. The 43 year-old Swinney is a 1992 graduate of Alabama, where he was a former walk-on receiver. Swinney served as an assistant for the Crimson Tide from 1996-2001, before becoming the wide receivers coach at Clemson.

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