Strong defense and special teams, plus a conservative offense that takes advantage of its opportunities. It has been TCU's formula for success the past decade, as well as Clemson's identity so far this season.
The Horned Frogs are 53-1 under coach Gary Patterson when opponents score 17 points or less, 37-1 the past five years when they don't lose the turnover battle and 6-9 when they lose the turnover battle. Not tough to pinpoint a few keys to this outcome.
In the zone
Clemson has five offensive touchdowns, two more than special teams, and have settled for seven field goals in eight red-zone trips.
Dabo Swinney hinted at being more aggressive in the red zone, but he also does not figure to want to put the game on the shoulders of quarterback Kyle Parker, who showed signs of his inexperience last week.
Serve and protect
Focus centered this week on TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes and how Clemson could contain Hughes, with or without gimpy tackle Chris Hairston.
Yet the Horned Frogs are not a one-man defense. They have led the country in total defense three of the past nine seasons and lead the nation in sacks with 11.
TCU incorporates a methodical offense designed to not lose the game, replete with a power run approach and lots of high-percentage throws. The Tigers will have to keep an eye on misdirection intended to capitalize on their speed and aggressiveness.
Nonetheless, as much debate has been spent on whether Clemson can hold TCU's defense, the Horned Frogs likewise have to muster something against a Kevin Steele defense that has been impressive in its own right.
Running back C.J. Spiller reiterates week after week that his turf toe will not be an issue, yet it has clearly nagged him at various points in the first three games.
Spiller has scored a touchdown at least 60 yards long in every game, so keeping him feeling OK and available for special teams is imperative for Clemson's field position and big-strike threat.
Five questions with Jacoby Ford
Ford, a senior receiver from Royal Palm Beach, Fla., is tied for third in the ACC in catches (14) and fourth in receiving yards per game (77.0).
Did you know such a thing as a horned frog existed?
No. I haven't seen a horned frog before. I've seen a bullfrog. I assume it's probably a big frog, though.
Has it been scary or funny to see guys wearing masks for fear of the swine flu?
It looks funny, but it's really a serious manner. We've had a few outbreaks on campus, so everybody's taking precautions and just trying not to get sick.
You were supposed to be playing Idaho this week before that fell through. Rather get an easy win at this stage or play a top-15 opponent?
We're always looking for a challenge. If we got to play a ranked team every week, we'd probably do it. Knowing Coach Swinney, he'd get the best game possible, and I don't blame him at all. That's something we take pride in.
Have a story that shows the increased attention to special teams?
I just think we've taken more pride in it. We know how special we can be. And coach (Andre') Powell has done a great job. I really think we bought into the system.
Is five offensive touchdowns in three games a concern?
I do think the offense is still growing together and we do still have to play better. With the stipulations of the game last week, we could get conservative and run the ball. But as far as our identity, I think you saw a good glimpse of that in the comeback against Georgia Tech that second half. That's how dominant and explosive this offense can be. And if we play with that intensity week in and week out, we'll be alright.
GAME WITHIN A GAME
TCU QB Andy Dalton vs. Clemson S DeAndre McDaniel
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior avoids mistakes and gets wins. He ranks third in school history among winning quarterbacks and needs 24 yards to move into second place in career yardage (he has 5,099).
How he'll win:
Dalton nickel-and-dimes defenses to death, working play-action off TCU's running game. McDaniel has done his damage by tricking opposing QBs into believing Clemson did not have help over the top, but the Horned Frogs seldom take shots deep, perhaps minimizing McDaniel's impact.
73.3 - Dalton's completion percentage this season
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior has validated coaches who say safety is his natural position, providing a ball-hawking presence since moving from linebacker. McDaniel leads the team in tackles (29), ranks third nationally in interceptions (four) and needs one more pick to tie the school record for interceptions in consecutive games.
How he'll win:
McDaniel has found a way to put his imprint on all three games through forced turnovers, jarring hits or collecting tackles. If the Tigers can pressure the quarterback as frequently as they did last week, odds favor McDaniel getting a crack at a hastily thrown ball somewhere along the line.
Key number: 37.5
Clemson's completion percentage allowed, tops in the country
TCU: DE Ross Forrest (arm) is out.
Clemson: T Chris Hairston (sprained MCL) is questionable.
Clemson's C.J. Spiller needs two kickoff return yards to reach 1,500 for his career and 12 receiving yards to reach 1,000 receiving yards for his career. When he reaches those two levels he will join former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush of Southern California as the only players in college football history to accumulate at least 2,500 yards rushing, 1,000 yards receiving, 1,500 yards in kickoff returns and 500 yards in punt returns.
Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel is third in the nation with four interceptions. He had an interception, a pass deflection, a sack and seven tackles last week against Boston College. He has at least one interception in each of Clemson's first three games. An interception against TCU will tie the Clemson record of four consecutive games with an interception.
Just the facts
SERIES RECORD: Clemson leads 2-1; Clemson beat TCU in the first Bluebonnet Bowl in 1959 in the first meeting.
LAST MEETING: The Tigers won the most recent game in the series 3-0 in 1965 at Clemson.