CLEMSON — Clemson fans have wondered all year if their team had sidelined the deep pass in its playbook. The Tigers (6-0) got their high flying aerial show going against Boston College’s defense last weekend, and will take it on the road and try to weather the Hurricanes (4-2) in Miami.
The Hurricanes have done this year what tropical storms tend to do when they head north: fizzled out. Unfortunately for Clemson, Miami has played well at home and did look solid against Florida State.
The Hurricanes will present a very different challenge for the Tigers this week, though. For the past decade or more, Miami has struggled to find any real home advantage as their fans avoid Sun Life Stadium like the plague.
For an aggressive team like Clemson, that means playing in front of a small crowd that won’t respond the way they’re used to crowds responding.
While the crowd, or lack thereof, might present a problem for Clemson, the Hurricanes themselves could prove a bigger challenge.
Brad Kaaya is almost universally heralded as a first-round quarterback, and he does have a few receivers who can pose a threat. Kaaya, however, has not faced a defense like he will this week.
Opposing quarterbacks have managed only a 43.8 percent completion rate against Clemson’s secondary. While that is impressive in itself, the Tigers have racked up 9.3 tackles for loss per game.
This has contributed to Clemson having the sixth best havoc rate in the NCAA, which combines tackles for loss, passes defended, and forced fumbles divided by their total number of plays.
While Clemson certainly looks the part of the favorite, Miami has been known to pull wins out of nowhere. After allowing Nebraska to storm back from a 23 point deficit, the Hurricanes found a way to pull out the win in overtime.
Under Al Golden, the Hurricanes have played several ranked teams close in losses and picked up a win against Florida in 2013. Many of their struggles have come late in the year after fast starts in both 2013 and 2014.
Defensively, Miami has struggled often, especially with their tackling. With the emergence of Clemson’s deep pass threat, the Hurricanes will have to be creative in finding answers.
Wayne Gallman has looked good all year, Deshaun Watson has been solid, and Clemson’s receivers have each stepped up to make plays when needed. Clemson’s offensive talent combined with Miami’s defensive woes should spell trouble for the Hurricanes.
Clemson and Miami will kick off Saturday at noon on ABC — TruVista Channel 5.
Reach James Inabinet at 803-635-4016.