Coming out of their shell
Maryland has losses to California, Rutgers and Middle Tennessee and needed overtime to beat James Madison. Not too good.
But the Terps have accumulated their share of bad early-season losses the past couple of years, only to pull an upset later in the year. No team knows this more than Clemson, whose seasons bottomed out in 2006 and 2008 following home losses to Maryland.
The Tigers should overwhelm the Terps. Whether they capitalize on Maryland's latest slow start could be another story.
It's no secret why Maryland has stunk. It is last in the ACC in scoring defense (38.2 points per game), defense (411.5 yards), turnovers (13) and sacks allowed (14), plus has had problems with penalties.
Clemson's defense has teed off on teams that do not run the option, which does not bode well for a Terps offense that has stuck with the I-formation. Tigers defensive coordinator Kevin Steele wants more red-zone stops, but Maryland has to get there first.
Different shades of red
Speaking of red, this should be the game for Clemson's offense to gain confidence in its red-zone production. While the Tigers have one touchdown the last nine quarters, the Terps have surrendered nine rushing touchdowns - eight more than Clemson.
Running back C.J. Spiller and receiver Jacoby Ford have accounted for 55.7 percent of Clemson's offense and 45.5 percent of the touches. That is both by design and default, as the Tigers have yet to uncover anyone consistent enough worth getting the ball to.
They will figure to require more weapons as the season progresses, and this game might yield the opportunity to develop potential contributors such as tight end Dwayne Allen, running back Andre Ellington and wide receiver Jaron Brown.
Quarterback Kyle Parker is never going to be the league's most efficiency passer, nor would Clemson want him to. But in failing to complete 50 percent of his passes in any of their four games, the Tigers are striving to reach a happy medium.
Mechanical issues have led Parker to misfire behind some receivers, and coaches hope he will improve his decision-making and accuracy in the red zone, where he has completed 3 of 13 passes.
Five questions with Thomas Austin, Austin, a senior left guard from Camden, majored in political science.
As much as you're into politics, have you ever done the tourist thing around Washington D.C.?
Yeah. I used to live in Manassas, which is about 30 minutes south of D.C. We went up a lot. And my wife's sister lives up there. So the last two Januarys we've gone there. It's definitely a neat town, and politics really dominates the culture.
What have you found to be the most memorable site to visit?
I think the monuments are neat - the Vietnam War monument, World War II monument. Just to see all those names of the people who died protecting our freedom is very sombering. But it's very special as well.
If you had the chance to meet President Obama, what would you ask or discuss?
That's a heavy question. Right now I think the question dominating everything is the health care plan. Do we think that's going to pass? What steps is he making to walk across the aisle with both Democrats and Republicans in making the joint effort? You know, there has to be compromise from both sides. Hopefully it will happen soon.
Up 17-6 at the half against Maryland last year, the team collapses in the second half and the season spirals. I'm guessing that's been brought up this week?
It was a good synopsis of our season last year. We had a good opportunity to win and the ability to win, but for whatever reason let the victory get away from us.
One thing that's encouraging is we are 2-2, but we haven't lost badly. We've shown up every week. I think the mentality is different. We expect to win and we're going to work hard enough to win.
C.J. Spiller said you are an elite team. Do you agree?
I think we have the ability to. We have the talent and staff to be an elite program. It begins with practicing like you deserve to win and knowing what it takes in preparation to win. Then it takes winning the big ballgames. That's what we need to do to take the next step. Until we beat the TCU's, we're a good program, not an elite, great program.
GAME WITHIN A GAME
Maryland WR Torrey Smith vs. Clemson CBs Chris Chancellor, Crezdon Butler
About Smith: The 6-foot-1, 200-pound sophomore from Colonial Beach, Va., has replaced NFL first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey as Maryland's deep threat. Smith leads the ACC at 96.5 yards per game, averaging a 21.4 yards per catch - fourth nationally.
How he'll win: The Terps love to dink-and-dunk with quick throws designed to neutralize their offensive line deficiencies. That sets up double moves to spring Smith on go routes, which are the kind of thing Clemson's man defense could be susceptible to if the corners start creeping up to jump the short routes.
Key number: 119 - Smith's receiving yards per game the past three contests
About Chancellor and Butler: The senior duo has been a fixture in Clemson's defensive backfield for three years, with the 5-foot-9 Chancellor notching his 32nd consecutive start today, and the 6-foot Butler getting his 30th. Butler has 10 career interceptions and Chancellor nine, making the Tigers one of two programs (with Oregon) that has two players among the nation's top 15 active players in career interceptions.
How they'll win: | Butler and Chancellor stick to their respective sides of the field, so formation and ball placement will dictate which one covers Smith. They are both good cover corners in their own right, but their job could be made much easier if Clemson's defensive front has its way with the Maryland line.
Key number: 2 Non-deflected quarterback passes of 30 yards or longer Clemson has allowed
Clemson: Questionable - T Chris Hairston (sprained MCL), DT Miguel Chavis (back).
Maryland: Out - P Travis Baltz (foot), CB Nolan Carroll (leg).