NCAA Saturday Night Football: Clemson/Miami Preview

by Alec McMordie

The Saturday night game on ABC features two teams ranked in the top-ten in the nation.

Clemson is the number one ranked team in the country after returning eleven starters from last year’s team that lost to LSU in the National Championship Game. That loss to the Tigers snapped a 29-game winning streak for Dabo Swinney’s team. Clemson has won 32-straight games in the regular season. They opened this season 3-0 with convincing victories over Wake Forest, The Citadel, and Virginia last week by a 41-23 score.

Junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the likely front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy. He is completing 73.3% of his passes for 848 passing yards with seven touchdown passes and another three rushing touchdowns. He leads an offense that is scoring 42.3 yards per game while averaging 6.8 yards-per-play. Lawrence has 314 pass attempts without an interception with his lack pick being at Louisville on October 19th of last year.

The Tigers defense is holding their opponents to only 12.0 points-per-game and just 4.34 yards-per-play. However, this unit did struggle against Virginia’s dual-threat quarterback Brennan Armstrong last week, who passed for 270 yards and added another 89 yards on the ground. That showing gives the Miami faithful the hope that D’Eriq King can find similar success.

Miami has won their first three games of the season with victories over UAB, Louisville, and then Florida State two weeks ago by a 52-10 score. With King running their offense, the Hurricanes are scoring 43.3 points-per-game while averaging 6.7 yards-per-play. The transfer quarterback from Houston is completing 67% of his passes for 736 yards with six touchdown passes. He has rushed for another 157 yards with a touchdown with an impressive 5.4 yards average after contact.

Second-year head coach Manny Diaz banked on bringing King in to be his starting quarterback and matching him with former SMU offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee with the hope that this would jump-start a pedestrian offensive attack. The Hurricanes averaged just 25.7 points-per-game and 6.7 yards-per-play last year.

The schemes were not the only thing that held the Hurricane offense back last season. This showdown will be the biggest test yet for an offensive line that returns four starters from last year’s maligned group that surrendered 51 sacks. Clemson has registered 27 tackles-for-loss with 13 quarterback sacks.

Miami has lost its last three opportunities to face a team ranked in the top-ten. The Hurricanes have not finished in the AP top-ten at the end of a season since 2003. They have been outscored in their last two encounters with a Swinney-coached Clemson team by a 92-3 margin with the most recent meeting being in the ACC Championship Game in 2017 when the Tigers won by a 38-3 score. Diaz was the Miami defensive coordinator for that game. This showdown will be a measuring stick as to just how much progress he has made with this program since replacing Mark Richt as their head coach.

The ABC broadcast begins at 7:30 PM ET. BetOnline lists Clemson as a 14.5-point favorite with a total of 60.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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