Clemson will face Georgia Southern in a nonconference matchup on Saturday. Here are five storylines to watch, as well as a prediction for the game.
1. The weather
Hurricane Florence is making its way through the Carolinas and is bringing lots of rain and wind with it. It is unknown what the conditions will be like at game time and what kind of impact the storm might have on the play of the game. At the least it may be hard for some fans to get to and from the game, and traffic could be impacted.
“We’ve had a number of times where we wouldn’t have, maybe, the full complement of folks out on the highway helping people get in, but our fan base has been fantastic,” Clemson AD Dan Radakovich said on the Sirius XM ACC Radio show hosted by Mark Packer and Wes Durham on Thursday morning. “When we tell them, ‘Patience is needed today because of these other issues that you know are going on around you,’ they heed that advice. When we ask them to come early because of certain situations, they heed that advice.”
2. Can Clemson’s defense bounce back?
The Tigers struggled in the second half of last week’s win at Texas A&M as the Aggies recorded 359 yards of total offense in the final two quarters. Clemson’s front four played well, but its safeties and linebackers got lost in coverage at times and got caught peeking in the backfield too often. Georgia Southern presents a different challenge with its triple option offense, but the Eagles will still try to capitalize on some of the mental mistakes the Tigers showed that they are vulnerable to last week.
3. How will QBs perform?
Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence each made big plays against the Aggies, but they also were too inconsistent, according to Tigers coach Dabo Swinney. Bryant started and finished the game, but Lawrence made some impressive throws and started the second half. Clemson remains committed to playing two quarterbacks unless one is able to separate. Both Bryant and Lawrence will have another opportunity to show why they deserve more playing time on Saturday.
4. Offensive rhythm
Clemson’s offense was constantly in third-and-long situations against the Aggies, which is why the Tigers finished with only 59 offensive plays as opposed to the 80 range they usually wind up in. Clemson needs to do a better job of getting positive yards on first and second down and staying on track in order to sustain longer drives and get more playmakers involved. Clemson running backs combined for only 16 touches against Texas A&M.
5. More option
Clemson will face three option teams in the first four weeks as the Tigers opened the season against Furman and play at Georgia Tech next week. The Eagles have an impressive quarterback running their option attack in Shai Werts, who was recruited by Clemson as an athlete. The redshirt sophomore leads the Eagles in rushing with 246 yards and four touchdowns while averaging nearly seven yards per carry. He has also passed for 183 yards and two touchdowns with no picks.
As Swinney said earlier this week, Georgia Southern is a proud program with impressive tradition. After a down year last year with only two wins, the Eagles are 2-0 to start 2018. Georgia Southern has played in some tough environments in recent years, playing at Auburn last season, at Georgia Tech and Ole Miss in 2016 and at West Virginia and at Georgia in 2015. The Eagles took Georgia to overtime that season. While Georgia Southern won’t be intimidated, it also doesn’t have the talent or depth to play with Clemson for four quarters, and this is a bad spot for the Eagles. Brent Venables has the full attention of his defense after last week’s disappointing performance.
Score prediction: Clemson 38, Georgia Southern 10
Who: Georgia Southern (2-0) at No. 2 Clemson (2-0)
When: Noon Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium (81,500), Clemson
Radio: 93.1 FM in Columbia area
Satellite radio: Sirius 108/XM 194