The No. 5 Clemson Tigers (5–0, 2–0 ACC) will host the Boston College Eagles (3–3, 0–3 ACC) at Memorial Stadium in a conference matchup on Saturday.
The Tigers are coming off a 43–24 win against Georgia Tech last week, during which they limited the Yellow Jackets to 71 rushing yards on 42 carries and just one successful third-down conversion in 12 opportunities.
The Eagles, who lead the nation with 140.3 yards allowed per game and just two offensive touchdowns given up, lost to Wake Forest 3–0 last week. While serving as the nation’s top defense, Boston College has struggled mightily on offense, gaining just 323.0 total yards per game to rank 118th nationally.
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CLEMSON — Kelly Bryant continues to prove that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney made the right decision when he tabbed the junior to be the Tigers’ starting quarterback this season.
Bryant is coming off a strong performance in the first road start of his career — a career-high 342 yards of total offense in Clemson’s 47-21 victory at Louisville.
“It was another opportunity for him to mature and grow,” Swinney said. “He’s growing up right before our eyes.”
Bryant’s fast start has the Tigers (3-0, 1-0 ACC) off to a fast start as well. The defending national champions are ranked No. 2 and are the only team in the nation with victories against two Top 15 teams this season.
Bryant and Clemson will attempt to keep that perfect record intact Saturday when the Tigers host Boston College (1-2, 0-1) in an Atlantic Division clash at Memorial Stadium.
Clemson has won 18 consecutive games against division opponents and owns a six-game winning streak against Boston College.
“They’ve got playmakers all over the field,” Boston College coach Steve Addazio said.
Clemson’s early success this season had hinged on the play of Bryant, who played sparingly in the past two seasons as Deshaun Watson’s understudy. But given his chance to shine, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has embraced the challenge.
“He has put in the work, so it’s awesome to see him having the success that he’s having,” Swinney said. “He’s put the time in, he’s learned, he has complete ownership in what we’re doing.”
While Bryant’s running ability has never been in question, his passing ability has. So, it’s no surprise that he has rushed for 162 yards and five touchdowns in Clemson’s first three games. But he also has exhibited a nice touch in the passing game, completing 68.7 percent of his passes for 733 yards and two scores.
“I think the quarterback, Kelly Bryant, is a very athletic guy,” Addazio said. “He runs the ball. He reminds me of how (Boston College quarterback) Tyler Murphy used to run the ball. Throws the ball well.”
Clemson also showed a strong running game at Louisville, amassing 297 yards on the ground, which is likely to concern a Boston College team that ranks last in the ACC in rushing defense, surrendering 279 yards per game.
The Tigers continue to get yardage from multiple backs. Freshman Travis Etienne showed his potential by rushing for 98 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown, last week. Sophomore Tavien Feaster chipped in with a career-high 92 yards on only 10 carries. C.J. Fuller, the most experienced of Clemson’s backs, is the likely starter for a fourth straight game.
“Being able to run the football is really what makes us go,” Swinney said.
To add to the Eagles’ concerns, Clemson’s defense leads the nation in sacks (16) and is ranked eighth in total defense. Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel has emerged as the Tigers’ leading tackler behind an all-star line. He had five tackles at Louisville last week and returned an interception 44 yards for a touchdown.
“On defense they’ve always been outstanding, and they continue to be,” Addazio said. “Their front is big and athletic. Their linebackers run well. Their secondary is one of the better secondaries I’ve seen. They rally to the ball as good as any defense I have ever seen.”
Despite a seemingly overwhelming advantage in Clemson’s favor, Swinney expects nothing to come easy.
“They’re 1-2, but you’ve got to look beyond that,” Swinney said.
“They beat a Northern Illinois team that just beat Nebraska, lost to a really good Wake Forest team that is sitting there at 3-0 right now and then played Notre Dame and in the third quarter it was really tight before it got away from them in the fourth quarter.
“Boston College is a tough, hard-nosed physical team. … You’re going to have to win the physical matchup because they’re going to force the issue.”
Anthony Brown, a freshman, will get his fourth straight start at quarterback for the Eagles and is coming off his best passing performance of the season — a 24-for-40 effort for 215 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame.
“They’re playing really fast, a lot of tempo, and I’m impressed with their quarterback,” Swinney said. “He’s a young player, but he has a good feel for what they’re doing.”
Junior Jon Hilliman, one of the top running backs in the ACC, and has rushed for 203 yards in three games, while the Eagles’ defense is led by consensus preseason All-American Harold Landry, a defensive end who led the nation in sacks last year with 16.5.
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