Matt Connolly

Five storylines for Clemson-Furman ... and a prediction

Clemson will face Furman in its season opener on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. Here are five storylines to watch, as well as a prediction for the game.

1. Quarterbacks

The top storyline is obvious as we will get our first look at freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who was the No. 1 overall prospect for the class of 2018. Kelly Bryant will get the start on Saturday against Furman, but Clemson’s quarterback battle is far from settled with Bryant, Lawrence and redshirt freshman Chase Brice still battling for the job. Whichever quarterback performs the best could be the starter in Clemson’s first real test next week at Texas A&M.

2. Will Clemson record a shutout?

This has a chance to be the best defense Clemson has had under Brent Venables, which is saying something when you consider that the Tigers had the No. 1 defense in the country in 2014. Clemson returns eight starters on its defense, led by four All-Americans up front in Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant. The unit would love to start the season with a shutout.

3. First look at young playmakers on offense

While Lawrence is the most hyped freshman on Clemson’s offense there are plenty of other young playmakers that will be making their debuts. Receiver Justyn Ross is already on the two-deep depth chart, despite the Tigers having a deep group of receivers. Fellow receiver Derion Kendrick is also expected to contribute on offense and special teams. Running back Lyn-J Dixon was perhaps the surprise of training camp, and he will get his first opportunity to impress as well after arriving this summer.

4. Freshmen defenders

Clemson’s defense also has plenty of talented newcomers, including defensive ends Xavier Thomas and K.J. Henry and defensive backs Kyler McMichael and Mario Goodrich. Those four will likely see playing time on Saturday and should have an increased role as the season progresses.

5. Position battles

Quarterback isn’t the only position battle that is still ongoing. A.J. Terrell and Trayvon Mullen are expected to start at cornerback on Saturday, but Mark Fields is still in the mix for a starting spot moving forward. Garrett Williams and Milan Richard are still battling for the starting tight end job, while running backs Travis Etienne, Adam Choice, Tavien Feaster and Dixon are still battling for playing time.

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Clemson has too much talent for this game to be competitive for long. Bryant will play well and will keep his starting job for at least another week, but Lawrence and Brice will also impress against an overmatched Furman defense. The Tigers do a great job of being focused and not overlooking opponents, and while Clemson will not show much of its playbook before a tough game at Texas A&M the following week, the Tigers will be sharp and win easily. I do think Furman will get on the board with a big play late against Clemson’s inexperienced backup secondary.

Score prediction: Clemson 55, Furman 7

Game info

Who: Furman (0-0) at Clemson (0-0)

When: 12:20 p.m. Saturday

Where: Memorial Stadium (81,500), Clemson

TV: Raycom/ACC Network (varies by your location; WKTC/My Network TV/Spectrum channel 4 in Columbia)

Radio: 93.1 FM in Columbia area

Satellite radio: Sirius 111/XM 193