History: It's been since 1965 since the Frogs battled the Tigers in a won by Clemson 3-0 in Death Valley. It is just the fourth meeting between the two schools with Clemson holding a 2-1 series lead.
Outlook: Clemson is off to a 2-1 start and in reality are just a field goal shhy of being undefeated. After rallying from a 24-0 deficit at Georgia Tech, the Tigers lost a heartbreaker 27-30 in the final seconds. The Tigers bounced back last week, with authority in a 25-7 win over Boston College. While the offense struggled in the red-zone, kicker Richard Jackson led the way nailing six field goals. As impressive as his individual performance was, nothing beats the effort put forth by the Clemson defense against Boston College. The Tigers limited the Eagles to a school-record 55 total yards at Death Valley.
It all starts with Heisman hopeful C.J. Spiller who is a threat to score anytime he touches the football. Spiller, who has over 2,500 career rushing yards, hasn't scored a rushing touchdown thus far and is averaging just over 4 yards per carry. Some of that may be attributed to a nagging turf-toe which has reduced some of his cutback ability. Even with the slight injury, he is still regarded as one of the most explosive players in college football. Although Spiller is entering his fourth year in the backfield for the Tigers, some of the tough going this year is the inexperience at quarterback under first year starter Kyle Parker. The 6-foot signal caller has struggled early on completing only 47% of his passes. Parker especially struggled last week against Boston College, completing only 13-of-27 passes including 2 interceptions. Parker has showed flashes, particularly in the second half against Georgia Tech. However, it's apparent that the redshirt freshman is going through struggles that will improve with the more experience he gains. While Spiller is the key guy opponents keep an eye on when Clemson runs the ball, his backup has had some success as well. Andre Ellington is averaging an impressive 6.6 yards per carry on the year and is also a threat to score from anywhere on the field. When Clemson throws the ball, it has one of the world's fastest athletes in Jacoby Ford to throw to. Arguably the nation's fastest player, Ford has 215 yards on the year including 109 against Georgia Tech. Boston College limited Ford's yardage last week but he also had a season-high six receptions. The offensive line has had it's struggles this year giving up 6 sacks thus far. That includes three given up to Georgia Tech's Derrick Morgan, who recorded three himself. On the bright side, the Tigers have improved their rushing yards per game from last season by 47 yards. Last week's 152 yards was against the nation's 4th ranked defense. However, there is uncertainty along the Tiger O-line this week with the status of injured tackle Chris Hairston.
First year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has the Clemson faithful believing in his defense. And why not, the Tigers have one of the most athletic defenses that is loaded with speed, speed, speed. TCU coach Gary Patterson says Clemson is equally as talented as Oklahoma, which the Frogs faced in 2008. You got to believe he was referring to the defense which in his opinion boasts several players he feels will play on Sundays. It starts with two of the ACC's top players in end Ricky Sapp and safety DeAndre McDaniel. Sapp had a breakout game last week against Boston College recording 2 sacks and forced fumble. McDaniel leads the team in tackles and interceptions which is proof of him being a force at defending the pass and run. While both Sapp and McDaniel have enjoyed individual success, what the Tigers did defensively last week as a unit against the Eagles was simply dominating in every fashion of a game. Not only did the Tigers hold te Eagles to 55 total yards, they limited Eagle quarterbacks to just 5-of-21 passing for 25 yards. The Tigers also stuffed the Eagles running game to the tune of 29 yards on 28 carries. Improved play on the Tiger defensive interior from Jarvis Jenkins and Brandon Thompson have helped with the run defense. DeQuan Bowers, opposite end from Sapp, also recorded a sack last week. Sophomore Brandon Maye is also a force from his linebacker position with 22 tackles which ranks him second on the team.
Special Teams: You know you have a good kicker when he makes 6-of-6 field goal attempts. That's exactly what Richard Jackson did last week as he was perfect with a long of 52. What's even more impressive is the condition in which he made the field goals in. The game was delayed twice for inclement weather so Jackson's field goals were on a rain soaked field. If that's not scary enough for opponents, imagine the kickoff team's fear when Spiller and Ford are awaiting the kick. When teams are brave enough to kick to Spiller, he has torched them for 40 yards per return including a 96-yard score against Middle Tennessee State in the opener. Spiller and Ford also handle the punt return duties and they may be even more dangerous there. Spiller ranks second in the nation averaging a whopping 36 yards per return. His touchdown on a punt return last week was the lone touchdown against Boston College. Ford, not to be outdone, ranks 11th in the country for punt returns averaging 19 yards per return with a score.
Summing up: Although ranked #15 in the AP and #14 in the coaches poll, TCU goes into Death Valley as the underdog. Some feel that TCU is getting a lack of respect, but that doesn't include Clemson who expects a battle. Clemson is on the verge of a top 25 berth, and will likely get the nod if they are victorious over the Frogs. Rain has hit the southeast for the last two weeks and the conditions may play a big factor Saturday. Both defenses have players that fly all over the field and make plays. TCU may hold the edge on offense with their experience but the same came be said for Clemson's return game with Spiller and Ford. The atmosphere in Death Valley will no doubt play a part in the game, although TCU is no stranger to playing in big games on the road in the Patterson era. Will the Tigers have enough to move into the top 25 or will TCU move to 2-0 against ACC teams in 2009?