Clemson University

Clemson vs. Boston College: Five burning questions ... and a prediction

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney previews Boston College

Tigers can clinch ACC Atlantic with win at BC
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Tigers can clinch ACC Atlantic with win at BC

No. 2 Clemson (9-0, 6-0 ACC) will play at No. 17 Boston College (7-2, 4-1) on Saturday at 8 p.m. in a game that will be televised by ABC.

Here are our top five questions heading into the game:

Is Boston College ready for the moment?

Saturday’s top 20 showdown with College GameDay in town is nothing new for Clemson. The Tigers have played away from home with College GameDay appearing at the site four times since the start of last season and are 4-0 in those matchups. Clemson’s roster is filled with veteran players who have played in big games and excelled, while Boston College is making a rare appearance in the national spotlight. It will be interesting to see how Steve Addazio’s squad handles the pressure that comes with being the marquee national game with the ACC Atlantic on the line.

How healthy is AJ Dillon?

The Boston College star running back and ACC Preseason Player of the Year has been limited for most of the season with an ankle injury. Addazio said earlier this week that Dillon “is a day-to-day guy. He’s done a fabulous job of managing his injury, and we just kind of get through the week, and each week we hope we gain on it a little bit.” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney expects Dillon to play and be tough to handle, as he has been when he has played this year. The sophomore is No. 4 nationally in yards per game with 128. He has played in seven of BC’s nines games. “He’ll play,” Swinney said. “He has some nice plays, some tough yards. He does some of the stuff where you may not go ‘Wow.’ But he’s pounding people. He’s a sledgehammer in there. I don’t doubt that he’ll be ready to go.” If Dillon is limited it will severely hurt BC’s quest for an upset.

Which Anthony Brown will show up?

Boston College’s quarterback looked like an All-American against Wake Forest when he passed for more than 300 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-34 victory, but he was awful the following week against Purdue, finishing with 96 passing yards and four interceptions in a 30-13 loss. Clemson leads the nation in yards per rush allowed, giving up 2.2 yards per carry. The Tigers will stuff the box and try to make Brown beat them with his arm. The sophomore has been a game manager this year, throwing for one touchdown in each of the past four games. If the Tigers can slow down Boston College’s run game and make Brown have to make plays through the air, BC will need the Wake Forest version of Brown to show up and not the Purdue one.

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Does BC have the athletes to keep up?

The Boston College coaching staff has done a great job of developing players, which is why the Eagles are in a position to contend for the ACC Atlantic title. With that said, there is a huge talent gap in the athletes Clemson recruits and the ones Boston College recruits. The Tigers have numerous five-star prospects and have finished in the top 20 in recruiting rankings each of the past four years. BC has finished No. 71, No. 67, No. 78 and No. 60 during that time, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. At some point in a game like this, overall talent could take over.

Can Clemson’s offense be slowed down?

Over the past four games, all against ACC teams, Clemson’s offense is averaging 60 points per game. Freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence has developed great chemistry with his receivers, and the running backs, led by Travis Etienne, have been impressive as well. Clemson’s offensive line has not allowed a sack in each of the past two games, and the Tigers rushed for 492 yards last week against Louisville. Boston College ranks No. 7 in the ACC in rushing defense and No. 7 in the ACC in passing defense and will have to have its best game of the year to have a chance to pull off the upset.

Prediction: The Clemson offense has had some slow starts this season and playing on the road, at night, with a freshman quarterback, it would not be a surprise to see that happen again. Steve Addazio’s team is physical and mentally tough and will be ready to give Clemson a fight. I expect the Eagles to hang around for a half, but ultimately Clemson has too many playmakers and too much talent on both sides of the ball. Clemson pulls away late for a comfortable win and clinches the ACC Atlantic in the process.

Pick: Clemson 42, Boston College 17