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2007 Clemson Tigers
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Collegefootballnews.com
Posted Dec 31, 2007


2007 Clemson Tigers Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

Clemson Tigers

Recap: Clemson came tantalizingly close to having that long-awaited breakthrough season under Tommy Bowden, but couldn’t close the deal, a familiar result for the school.  The Tigers appeared to be in the Atlantic Division driver’s seat at the end of the season before losing a heartbreaker to Boston College in Death Valley, 20-17.  They went on to win nine games, beating rival South Carolina and losing to Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, while finding a gem at quarterback in junior Cullen Harper.      

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Cullen Harper

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Phillip Merling

Biggest Surprise: Harper.  A career backup, Harper looked vulnerable to mega-recruit Willy Korn before the season began.  He won the job in August, however, and then padlocked it during the season, earning a spot on the All-ACC second team by throwing 27 touchdown passes and just six interceptions.

Biggest Disappointment: The devastating Nov. 17 loss to Boston College.  Clemson was at home and on fire heading into this winner-take-all game for the Atlantic Division, but fumbled opportunities to win the game, eventually caving in to QB Matt Ryan’s late-game heroics. 

Looking Ahead: Yeah, it’s becoming a tired phrase around Death Valley, but Clemson does have enough returning talent to finally win that first ACC championship since 1991.  Top RB James Davis is leaving early for the NFL Draft, but that should open the door for C.J. Spiller to have a monster third season after enduring a quiet sophomore year.    

- 2007 Clemson Preview
-
2006 Clemson Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
8-4
2007 Record:
 9-4

Sept. 3 Florida State  W 24-18
Sept. 8
UL Monroe W 49-26
Sept. 15 Furman W 38-10
Sept. 22 at NC State W 42-20
Sept. 29 at Georgia Tech L 13-3
Oct. 6 Virginia Tech L 41-23
Oct. 20
Central Mich W 70-14
Oct. 27 at Maryland W 30-17
Nov. 3
at Duke W 47-10
Nov. 10 Wake Forest W 44-10
Nov. 17 Boston College L 20-17
Nov. 24 at So. Carolina W 23-21
Chick-fil-A Bowl
Dec. 31 Auburn L 23-20 OT

Dec. 31
2007 Chick-fil-A Bowl
Auburn 23 ... Clemson 20 OT

Auburn QB Kodi Burns ran for a seven-yard score in overtime, answering a Clemson 25-yard field goal, to pull out the win in a defensive struggle. It took about three quarters for the offenses to warm up, and then they started to move when needed as Clemson scored the first ten points of the fourth quarter with a 22-yard Mark Buchholz field goal and a one-yard James Davis run to go up seven, but Auburn was able to answer with an 11-play, 70-yard drive with a key fourth down conversion and a one-yard Ben Tate run to tie it up. Auburn started off the scoring with a 36-yard Wes Byrum field goal, but Clemson roared back in the second quarter with a thrilling 83-yard C.J. Spiller touchdown dash. Auburn outgained Clemson 423 yards to 293 and got 24 first downs to Clemson's 12.
Offensive Player of the Game: Auburn QB Kodi Burns completed one of four passes for 22 yards and a score, and ran 13 times for 69 yards and the winning touchdown.
Defensive Player of the Game: Auburn DT Pat Sims made five tackles, a sack, and three tackles for loss
Stat Leaders: Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 14-33, 104 yds
Rushing: C.J. Spiller, 8-112, 1 TD. Receiving: Aaron Kelly, 4-36
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 25-39, 211 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Kodi Burns, 13-69, 1 TD. Receiving:
Mario Fannin, 5-53, 1 TD
Notes & Thoughts ... For not being any sort of an offensive shootout, this might have been one of the most entertaining of the 207 bowl games. The two defenses played extremely well, while the offenses came though with key drives in the second half just when they needed them. ... Teams have to play the seniors and have to reward years of hard work, but there's no reason to not play next year's quarterback in a bowl like this. Auburn handled the situation perfectly putting in Brandon Cox on key passing drives, and in the most pressure packed situations, and allowed next year's likely main man, Kodi Burns, to sink or swim on several key moments. ... There's no question that James Davis is a next-level back, but why did Clemson only run C.J. Spiller eight times? Spiller was more of a playmaker and appeared to be the quicker of the two rushing options when he was able to get into space, but Davis got the bulk of the workload with 23 carries. Spiller tore off the big 83-yard touchdown run right off the bat and barely touched the ball the rest of the way. ... So what did we learn about Tony Franklin as the Auburn offensive coordinator? Not too much. It's going to be an offseason of immense scrutiny around the Tigers to see if there can be some pop to the passing game along with the running of Burns, if he turns out to be the main man. Cox might not have been anything special, but he came through time and again this year with a good drive when needed.

Nov. 24
Clemson 23 ... South Carolina 21
Mark Buchholtz made up for two misses with a 35-yard field goal as time ran out for the two-point win. The Tigers took a ten-point lead in the first quarter helped by a blocked punt for a score, but South Carolina came back with a  19-yard touchdown catch from Kenny McKinley, who became the school's all-time leading receiver. He later scored on a 40-yard touchdown in the third, and Blake Mitchell's third scoring pass, a four-yard play to Dion Lecorn, gave the Gamecocks a one-point lead late. Clemson went 61 yards in nine plays, needing a fourth down catch from Aaron Kelly to help get into position for the final field goal. Clemson outrushed USC 214 yards to 80.
Player of the game: Clemson WR Aaron Kelly made nine catches for 134 yards
Stat Leaders: South Carolina - Passing: Blake Mitchell, 18-31, 284 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Cory Boyd, 19-74. Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 8-125, 2 TD
Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 28-38, 229 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
James Davis, 23-122. Receiving: Aaron Kelly, 9-134
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Give Clemson credit for beating South Carolina by making the plays it didn't come up with against Boston College. The Tigers lost to the Eagles because Aaron Kelly dropped a pass and Mark Buchholtz missed a field goal. Against the Gamecocks, Kelly made a clutch catch to keep the final drive alive, and Buchholtz came through with the game-winner. For all the disappointments and all the fire Tommy Bowden is under at times, he won nine games, has a chance at a tenth in the bowl, and beat South Carolina. By almost all standards, that's not bad.

Nov. 17
Boston College 20 ... Clemson 17
Boston College shocked Clemson, and won the Atlantic Division title, on a Matt Ryan 43-yard touchdown pass to Rich Gunnell with 1:46 to play. The Tigers came close on their final drive with Aaron Kelly letting a sure touchdown through his hands, and a sack pushing a final field goal attempt to 54 yards, which Mark Buchholz left just short as time ran out. Neither team ran well, but Clemson managed a one-yard James Davis scoring run in the first, and took the lead late in the fourth with a four-yard Cullen Harper run. BC outgained Clemson 375 yards to 273.

Player of the game: Boston College QB Matt Ryan completed 31 of 47 passes for 315 yards and a touchdown with an interception
Stat Leaders: Boston College - Passing: Matt Ryan, 31-47, 315 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Andre Callender, 22-75. Receiving: Andre Callender, 11-92
Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 26-40, 226 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
C.J. Spiller, 11-52. Receiving: Tyler Grisham, 10-89
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Oh Clemson. Once again, the Tigers get so achingly close to doing something special under Tommy Bowden, and once again, with everything there for the taking, the other teams comes up with the big plays. The loss to Boston College might be devastating, but it'll be vital to not be, well, Clemson, and collapse next week at South Carolina. The Tigers are better than the Gamecocks, but Steve Spurrier's bunch will be rested and ready. Can Clemson put the BC loss in the past right now? This will once again be a huge test for Bowden.

Nov. 10
Clemson 44 ... Wake Forest 10
Clemson scored on its first drive, getting a seven-yard Cullen Harper touchdown run, but Wake Forest was able to keep it close early with a two-yard Josh Adams touchdown run to pull within three. And then the rout was on. Clemson scored 17 straight points in the first half on two Harper touchdown passes, including the first of two to Aaron Kelley, and Mark Buchholz's second of three field goals. Wake Forest got on the board first in the second half with a 52-yard Sam Swank field goal, but the Tigers answered with a 90-yard C.J. Spiller kickoff return for a score to spark another 17-point Tiger run. Kelly set the Clemson record for touchdown catches in a season with 11.
Player of the game: Clemson QB Cullen Harper completed 27 of 35 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for seven yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 27-35, 266 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: James Davis, 21-62. Receiving: Aaron Kelly,10-93, 2 TD
Wake Forest - Passing: Riley Skinner, 21-30, 170 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Micah Andrews, 10-42. Receiving: Josh Adams, 7-5

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Everything is humming at just the right time. Wake Forest is a very good team that that got its doors blown off early on. Now after a two-game losing streak a month ago, the Tigers are right in position to go play for the ACC title, needing to beat Boston College next week for the Atlantic title. The talk might start around an at-large BCS bid even if Clemson doesn't win the ACC championship, but wins over BC and South Carolina are needed for that to happen. If Cullen Harper keeps playing mistake-free football, that might happen. At the moment, he's the ACC Player of the Year.

Nov. 3
Clemson 47 ... Duke 10
Duke scored first on a seven-yard Eron Riley catch, and then it was all Clemson. The Tigers scored 40 straight points, highlighted by a 84-yard kickoff return for a score from C.J. Spiller, and a 70-yard James Davis scoring dash, to go along with two Aaron Kelly touchdown grabs. The Tiger defense held the Blue Devils to just 28 yards rushing and 198 total yards of offense. Duke committed 12 penalties, Clemson four.
Player of the game: Clemson QB Cullen Harper completed 17 of 26 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for a score.
Stat Leaders: Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 17-26, 184 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: James Davis, 8-118, 1 TD. Receiving: Aaron Kelly, 6-57, 2 TD
Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 15-26, 160 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Re'quan Boyette, 11-32. Receiving: Clifford Harris, 5-40

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Cullen Harper is playing at another level. While Matt Ryan might have the All-ACC quarterback spot locked up, it could be argued that Harper is having just as good a year. He's not making mistakes, is taking advantage of the excellent protection he's getting, and is making all the right decisions. After having no problems with Duke, now the work begins for the Tigers with Wake Forest, Boston College and South Carolina coming up. A very good season could be special with wins against those three.

Oct. 27
Clemson 30 ... Maryland 17
Maryland scored first on a 35-yard Obi Egekeze field goal, but then started screwing up with penalties and a fumble to lead to a 23-point Clemson run to put the game away. Mark Buchholz connected on field goals from 35, 34 and 20 yards, while James Davis, who combined with C.J. Spiller for 235 yards, ran for a one-yard score, and Cullen Harper threw two touchdowns passes. The Terps didn't get into the end zone until the fourth quarter on a two-yard Lance Ball run and a one-yard score from Keon Lattimore. Clemson outgained Maryland 428 yards to 314 and held on too the ball for 36:29.
Player of the game: Clemson RBs James Davis and C.J. Spiller combined for 235 yards and a touchdown on 45 carries
Stat Leaders: Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 20-26, 179 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: James Davis, 29-129, 1 TD. Receiving: Aaron Kelly, 5-54, 1 TD
Maryland - Passing: Chris Turner, 19-31, 217 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Lance Ball, 10-53, 1 TD. Receiving: Isaiah Williams, 5-47

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Clemson has been razor sharp over the last two weeks at just the right time. The running game is rolling, Cullen Harper is throwing extremely well, and the defense is coming up with key stops early. Maryland shot itself in the foot a bit early, but give Clemson credit for taking advantage and putting the game away. Now the key will be to not let down against Duke with home dates against Wake Forest and Boston College still ahead to make or break the ACC season.

Oct. 20
Clemson 70 ... Central Michigan 14
Clemson cranked out 656 yards of total offense with Cullen Harper throwing five touchdown passes including two to Aaron Kelly from 63 and five yards out. James Davis added three touchdown runs and Jacoby Ford scored from 36 and eight yards out. This all came in 51 minutes, after CMU got on the board first with the first of two Duane Brooks touchdown catches. The second wouldn't come until midway through the third when the Tigers were up 42-7. Clemson converted 12 of 16 third down chances.
Player of the game: Clemson QB Cullen Harper completed 20 of 22 passes for 273 yards and five touchdowns with an interception
Stat Leaders: Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 20-22, 273 yds, 5 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Sadat Chambers, 10-112, 1 TD. Receiving: Aaron Kelly, 7-121, 2 TD
Central Michigan - Passing: Dan LeFevour, 20-34, 204 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Carl Volny, 10-36. Receiving: Antonio Brown, 6-40
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... 12 of 16 on third downs. Three penalties. One turnover. 341 rushing yards, 315 through the air, 35 first downs. Clemson played as complete a performance as possible in the dismantling of Central Michigan to relieve some of the pressure after losing to Georgia Tech and Central Michigan. When Cullen Harper gets time, and when the running game is helping out, Clemson is unstoppable. Now the momentum has to carry over to the trip to Maryland.

Oct. 6
Virginia Tech 41 ... Clemson 23
Virginia Tech got out to a 31-5 halftime lead by scoring just about every way possible. D.J. Parker took an interception 32 yards for a score 1:10 into the game, Eddie Royal returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown, and following a Mark Buchholz 33-yard field goal to get Clemson on the board, Macho Harris returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. The Tigers mounted a comeback, with Cullen Harper hitting Tyler Grisham for a three-yard score, and Aaron Kelly for an 18-yard touchdown, but a Branden Ore two-yard touchdown run in the final minute made the final score more impressive.
Player of the game: Virginia Tech LBs Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi combined to make 21 tackles and three tackles for loss
Stat Leaders: Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 38-66, 372 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: James Davis, 6-9. Receiving: Aaron Kelly, 11-175, 1 TD
Virginia Tech - Passing: Tyrod Taylor, 7-14, 65 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Tyrod Taylor, 15-118, 1 TD. Receiving: Justin Harper, 3-33, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... How does a team with James Davis and C.J. Spiller only manage eight net yards rushing? Fine, so Virginia Tech's defense is stellar, but if Clemson really wants to be a player in the ACC race, it needs to find a way to get the stars going. Granted, the team needed to come back, but it's not going to win too often when Cullen Harper is throwing it 66 times.

Sept. 29
Georgia Tech 13 ... Clemson 3
Georgia Tech got a two-yard Tashard Choice touchdown run and two Travis Bell field goals, but this game belonged to the defense, with a little help from the poor play of the Clemson special teams. Clemson PK Mark Buchholz missed four field goals, while the vaunted Tiger running game was held to just 34 yards. The Tech defense came up with six sacks, with Philip Wheeler combing up with 2.5, and kept the Tigers off the board for almost 59 minutes after Buchholz hit a 48-yard field goal just over a minute into the game.
Player of the game: Georgia Tech RB Tashard Choice rushed 32 times for 145 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 17-39, 194 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: James Davis, 12-60. Receiving: Aaron Kelly, 6-53
Georgia Tech - Passing: Taylor Bennett, 7-15, 67 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Tashard Choice, 32-145, 1 TD. Receiving: James Johnson, 2-40
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... In the past, a loss like the one this week to Georgia Tech would send the Tigers into the tank for a few games, but with Virginia Tech coming up next, the team has to find a way to forget this clunker as soon as possible. The offensive line got destroyed by the Yellow Jackets, giving Cullen Harper no pass protection and doing next to nothing for the running game, while ill-timed penalties and special teams woes didn't help. This is still a supremely talented team that should be in the ACC title hunt, but it can't afford to lose at home to the Hokies.

Sept. 22
Clemson 42 ... NC State 20
C.J. Spiller caught an 11-yard scoring pass and tore off a 44-yard touchdown run in the first quarter on the way to a 17-7 lead, and then James Davis took over with a three-yard touchdown catch and a one-yard run. The Tigers rolled up 608 yards of total offense, including 340 on the ground, while the defense held the Wolfpack to 202 yards and didn't allow an offensive touchdown until Darrell Blackman caught a nine-yard pass in the fourth quarter. Even that was bittersweet for the Pack, as the point after was returned by Clemson for two points. The other State touchdown came on a 99-yard kickoff return for a score from Blackman after Spiller's first score.
Player of the game: Clemson RB tandem of C.J. Spiller and James Davis combined for 280 yards and two touchdowns on 45 carries, and caught seven passes for 47 yards and two scores.
Stat Leaders: NC State - Passing: Daniel Evans, 16-25, 123 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Andre Brown, 19-66, 1 TD. Receiving: Marcus Stone, 5-37
Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 25-39, 268 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
James Davis, 24-166, 1 TD. Receiving: Aaron Kelly, 8-95
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Is there anyone in the ACC playing better than Clemson? The Tiger schedule might not be anything special over the last few weeks, but still, the offense is balanced and explosive, with QB Cullen Harper continuing to be efficient and effective, and the defense did a great job of shutting down the NC State offense. The only possible knock were two misses from PK Mark Buchholz, who missed from 29 and 52 yards. Now the momentum has to continue against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech over the next two weeks. Win those two, and it's one game against Boston College for the ACC title.

Sept. 15
Clemson 38 ... Furman 10
Clemson forced five turnovers and had little problem scoring when it had to, as Cullen Harper threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Grisham, a 33-yarder to Jacoby Ford, and a 23-yard score to Aaron Kelly. The Tigers only ran for 60 yards, but got a two-yard James Davis touchdown run early on. The defense did the rest, not allowing a Furman touchdown until late in the fourth.
Player of the game: Clemson QB Cullen Harper went 16-of-19 for 266 yards and three touchdown passes.
Stat Leaders: Furman - Passing: Jordan Sorrells, 18-28, 172 yds, 2 INTs
Rushing: Jerome Felton, 20-74. Receiving: Patrick Sprague, 5-56
Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 16-19, 266 yds, 3 TDs
Rushing:
James Davis, 9-58. Receiving: Aaron Kelly, 6-79, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... This is a team sorely in need of a real game. While there might not be too much of a reason to be concerned about 60 rushing yards against Furman, it wasn't a good sign before going into the NC State game. At the moment, the offense is all on QB Cullen Harper, who has completed 36 of his last 45 passes for 536 yards and eight touchdowns, but that was against UL Monroe and Furman. That's fine; that's what cupcake games are for. Now it's time to go back to the bread and butter and get James Davis and C.J. Spiller rolling again.

Sept. 8
Clemson 49 ... UL Monroe 26
It took a little while to get rolling, but Clemson's offense eventually became unstoppable through the air with Cullen Harper throwing five touchdown passes and James Davis rumbling for a 16-yard score. ULM started off the scoring with an 11-play, 67-yard drive culminating in a one-yard Calvin Dawson run, but Harper got hot with a 14-yard scoring pass to Tyler Grisham and a 52-yard scoring play to Jacoby Ford to take the lead for good. C.J. Spiller took a pass 68 yards on Clemson's first play from scrimmage in the second half for Harper's final scoring throw of the day as Willy Korn took over in the fourth quarter. ULM scored 13 points in the final 9:14 highlighted by a 48-yard Frank Goodin run.
Player of the game: Clemson QB Cullen Harper was 20-of-26 for 270 yards and five touchdown passes.
Stat Leaders: UL-Monroe - Passing: Kinsmon Lancaster, 11-26, 139 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Calvin Dawson, 28-121, 1 TD. Receiving: LaGregory Sapp, 4-68
Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 20-26, 270 yds, 5 TDs
Rushing: James Davis, 7-68, 1 TD. Receiving: C.J. Spiller, 4-87, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
UL Monroe was never going to be a threat to Clemson, but this might turn out to have been the Tigers' most important game of the season. With Cullen Harper throwing five touchdown passes, and with a layup against Furman next week, now all the ACC defensive coordinators have to actually worry about the pass. The last thing the rushing tandem of C.J. Spiller and James Davis needs is more room to run, and they'll be sure to get it. Oh sure, the Tigers receivers helped by taking some short passes the distance, but Harper made the throws he needed to make to wake the team up.

Sept. 3
Clemson 24 ... Florida 18
Clemson roared out to a 21-0 lead on two Cullen Harper touchdown passes and a 29-yard James Davis run, and seemingly had the game well in hand late in the third quarter up 24-3. And then everything changed as Jimmy Maners took an errant punt snap out of the end zone for a Florida State safety, and then it got interesting as Antone Smith ran for a one-yard score and Richard Goodman caught a 15-yard touchdown pass to pull the Noles to within six. But Clemson would hang on as time ran out on a final Seminole drive.
Player of the game ... Clemson LB Nick Watkins made 11 tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, and recovered a fumble
Stat Leaders: Florida State - Passing: Drew Weatherford, 17-34, 142 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Antone Smith, 14-90, 1 TD  Receiving: Antone Smith, 5-57
Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 14-24, 160 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
James Davis, 18-102, 1 TD   Receiving: Aaron Kelly, 5-98, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It has to be a big concern that the Tigers let FSU back into a game that should've been a blowout the other way. The offense, while decent, couldn't produce in the second half when the running game wasn't as effective. Cullen Harper, in his first start, was efficient and didn't make any mistakes, but he failed to keep things moving when the Tigers needed a big drive late. Games against UL Monroe and Furman over the next two weeks should help tune everything up.

Sept. 3 - Florida State
Offense: After a dreadful two seasons, the offense is under new leadership with new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher coming in to breathe life into the nation's 70th ranked attack. Step one is to find some semblance of a running game, and that starts with talented junior Antone Smith getting more carries. The offensive line, problem one over the last few years, gets a big upgrade with the addition of line coach Rick Trickett from West Virginia. He's immediately pushed everyone to get into better shape and to get a lot tougher. The passing game won't be forgotten about, with Fisher wanting to bomb away down the field to Greg Carr and DeCody Fagg. Now a steady quarterback has to emerge between Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee.

Defense: The defense came up with a better year than it got credit for, but it gave up too many points. Now the potential is there for this to be a Florida State defense again with tremendous speed and talent in the secondary and a good enough front seven to come up with a big year. There are question marks. Everette Brown is a good-looking pass rushing end, but he needs help from the other side. The linebacking corps will be special as long as Derek Nicholson and Marcus Ball can quickly return from torn ACLs, otherwise it'll be an undersized group with no depth. As always, there's a slew of NFL talent to work around, highlighted by tackle Andre Fluellen and safety Myron Rolle.

Sept. 8 - UL Monroe
Offense: The best offense in the Sun Belt gets 11 starters back led by RB Calvin Dawson working behind a terrific line with several all-star candidates. QB Kinsmon Lancaster has a year of starting experience under his belt, and he has all his top targets to get the ball to including LaGregory Sapp and tight end Zeek Zacharie. While the attack will spread it out and allow Lancaster to use his mobility and big-time arm to find the right receiver, it'll be Dawson who carries the workload when things get tight.
Defense: The same problems ULM had last year appear to be the same issues going into this year with a questionable run defense and no proven pass rush, but the strength, the secondary, will be the same even without Kevin Payne and Chaz Williams. The 4-2-5 did its job against mediocre offenses, but got ripped apart by any offense with a pulse. Unless the line is better, the Warhawks will be pounded on by everyone in the Sun Belt.


Sept. 15 - Furman

Sept. 22 – at NC State
Offense: This won't be a bombs away attack under Dana Bible, but it could be with a big, fast, experienced receiving corps that should be able to spread the field. The trio of running backs, Toney Baker, Andre Brown and Jamelle Eugene, should be a major plus, but the line has to be far better and needs to replace the starting tackles. It'll be a three-man race for the starting quarterback job between Daniel Evans, Nebraska transfer Harrison Beck, and Justin Burke, with the one of them needing to be able to move the offense consistently, something that wasn't done this spring. This will be a running offense that will eventually grow into a 50/50 balance.
Defense: This will be a solid defense, but it won't be spectacular. It could be fantastic in 2008 when all the promising young prospects are ready to shine, but for now, this will be a good, sound D that should be far more consistent than last year. Demario Pressley and Martrel Brown lead a strong line that should be the strength, while three senior linebackers will keep the mistakes to a minimum. The secondary has to come up with more big plays after helping the Pack pick off just seven passes.

Sept. 29 – at Georgia Tech
Offense: Is it possible an offense can lose the offensive coordinator, a sure-fire NFL superstar and a four-year starting quarterback and be better? Absolutely. Calvin Johnson's departure will sting, but the passing game should be even better with Taylor Bennett (or any one of a slew of terrific prospects) taking over for Reggie Ball. Patrick Nix left to take over the Miami offense, but John Bond is a veteran who did a good job with the Northern Illinois program for the last three years. James Johnson will be a decent number one target, and now someone else has to quickly emerge to take the heat off and give Bennett more options. Tashard Choice is an All-ACC caliber back leading a deep and talented group of runners working behind a fantastic line loaded with experience and
depth.
Defense: The defense had two lousy games against Clemson and West Virginia and was solid against everyone else. With just about everyone returning, expect another great year holding almost everyone to under 300 yards and around 20 points. The defensive line will be one of the team's strengths with one of the best groups of ends in America. MLB Philip Wheeler deserves All-America attention while the safety tandem of Jamal Lewis and Djay Jones will be one of the ACC's best. The corners are a bit suspect and the proven linebacker depth is a bit thin, but those aren't glaring problems.

Oct. 6 - Virginia Tech
Offense: Can Tech win a national title with a mediocre offense? It was 99th in the nation in total offense, but it did a great job of taking advantage of all the breaks generated by the defense. Eight starters return, led by ACC Player of the Year candidate Branden Ore at running back, but he needs the line to be healthy for a full season, and better. The passing game has good pieces, but it has to be far more consistent considering there are four talented senior receivers returning. Quarterback Sean Glennon had a good off-season, and now it has to translate into better production.
Defense:
For two years in a row, Tech has led the nation in total defense, and last season, was number one in scoring defense allowing 11 points per game. There's no reason the D can't be even better with eight starters returning led by the 1-2 linebacking punch of Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. Corner Brandon Flowers is emerging as one of the best in the nation, "Macho" Harris is a good defender on the other side, and the line is loaded with size, quickness, depth and experience. As good as things were, and will be, it's not like the D played a who's who of offensive machines, so the overall numbers might be a tad bit overrated, but make no mistake about it; this is a special defense.

Oct. 20 - Central Michigan
Defense: Statistically, the defense struggled throughout last year. Actually, it wasn't that bad as many of the numbers came when the game was already decided. This year's D doesn't have a Dan Bazuin up front, but it has Steven Friend leading a group of good tackles, while there should be a good rotation of ends. The linebacking corps gets better with Ike Brown back from the knee injury that cost him almost all of last year, while the secondary gets three starters back, along with promising corner Chaz West. This won't be a rock of a defense, but it'll be good enough to win another title with.
Offense: Thanks to the emergence of quarterback Dan LeFevour, the offense went from decent to ultra-efficient, leading the MAC in yards and scoring. The passing game became fantastic, and the ground game, while not always getting enough from the backs, hit home run after home run. Now there will be more running from the backs, especially Ontario Sneed and Notre Dame transfer Justin Hoskins, and less running from LeFevour. The receiving corps is good enough for LeFevour to spread the ball around to several different targets. The line won't be as good as last year, after losing two key starters, but it'll be fine.

Oct. 27 - at Maryland
Offense: It's all there for the Terps to be steady, explosive and very, very productive as long as everyone plays as well as they should. This will be one of the four best offenses in the league as long as injuries don't strike up front. The line is full of veterans and should be a rock, but there's no depth. The receiving corps might be the fastest in the ACC and Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore form a tremendous 1-2 rushing punch. It's all there for a big season, but that's what everyone said last year and the Terps were merely average.
Defense:
The defense didn't exactly work last season, but it didn't seem to matter. No one stopped the run, the secondary was average, there weren't enough takeaways, and the 3-4 that was supposed to generate a serious pass rush wasn't even close. The Terps still won nine games helped be the defense coming through when it absolutely had to. This year's group won't be so fortunate and has to be better. The defensive line should be better with end Jeremy Navarre and tackle Dre Moore good enough to hope for All-ACC honors. Erin Henderson leads an athletic linebacking corps that needs experience, but should be good in time. The secondary is a concern, especially the corners hoping for Isaiah Gardner to become a shut-down defender after returning from a shoulder injury.


Nov. 3 – at Duke
Offense: Eleven starters return to an offense that lived through the growing pains of a youth movement in an attempt to take a giant leap forward. New offensive coordinator Peter Vaas, who comes over from Notre Dame, should help make quarterback Thaddeus Lewis more consistent. Helping the overall cause even more is a veteran line that needs to be far better after doing next to nothing well throughout last year. It'll be tailback by committee with several different options to see carries, while the overall strength will be at receiver with several young, big, good-looking targets for Lewis to use to push the ball deeper.
Defense: The defense is still not going to be a rock, but there's promise with several good young players to revolve around. Top prospects Vince Oghobaase and Ayanga Okpokowuruk are rising stars on the line, while Patrick Bailey is a playmaker who'll be one of the ACC's better pass rushers. Michael Tauiliili is a playmaker at middle linebacker, but the outside linebackers are question marks. Safeties Chris Davis and Adrian Aye-Darko are good, and they'll need to be with major concerns at corner.

Nov. 10 - Wake Forest
Offense: Wake Forest will never come out and outbomb anyone, but it'll run effectively behind a veteran offensive line, get the timely passes when needed, and won't screw up. The attack only averaged 21.6 points per game and was 96th in the nation in offense, but there were only 15 giveaways. QB Riley Skinner is back after helping the offense lead the ACC in passing efficiency, but everything will revolve around the ground game with several good runners and four starters returning up front. The receiving corps will be an issue needing to move 2006's leading rusher, Kenneth Moore, back to his natural receiver position.
Defense: The D could be even better than last year when it was solid at bending but rarely breaking finishing 12th in the nation in scoring defense. There's not a Jon Abbate to rely on, and a few key defensive backs need to be replaced, but there's plenty of experience everywhere and lots of speed and athleticism in the secondary. There needs to be more pass rush from the defensive front and there could stand to be fewer big plays allowed against the pass, but the overall production should be solid.


Nov. 17 - Boston College
Offense: It's Matt Ryan's offense and everyone is just playing in it. The new coaching staff will install a new zone blocking scheme, putting a premium on quick, flashy runners, but the line might not be suited for the system. The receiving corps is decent, but nothing special, and the tight ends are promising. It all comes down to Ryan, who'll have more control in the attack, able to change things up a bit on the fly, and he should be tremendous now that he's healthy. He was the best quarterback in the ACC last year, and that was with a broken foot.
Defense: Is it time to start giving the BC defense a little love? It allowed 17 points per game in 2004, 15.92 in 2005, and 15.69 last year. With defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani back, it should be even better with nine starters returning including the entire front seven if linebacker Brian Toal is back from a shoulder problem. The monster tackles, B.J. Raji and Ron Brace, will gum up everything inside, while the deep linebacking corps will quietly be among the ACC's best. DeJuan Tribble is one of the league's best shutdown corners, and Jamie Silva is a top free safety. The problem? There isn't a reliable second corner, and strong safety is a question mark.

Nov. 24 – at South Carolina
Offense: This should be a balanced attack that'll rely on the running game early on and the steady play of emerging QB Blake Mitchell to be more explosive and consistent than last year. The big concern is a line that was overmatched throughout the spring as it tried to break in three new starters. Getting a push for the nice 1-2 rushing punch of Cory Boyd and Mike Davis is job one, while Mitchell will have to make quick decisions early on until things start to come together. The loss of Sidney Rice won't be a killer if Kenny McKinley handles the number one job like he's expected to and a good number two emerges.
Defense: The defense has plenty of returning experience, depth, young options waiting to step up and shine, and good stars to build around. MLB Jasper Brinkley is one of the best in America, and now his twin brother will move from defensive end to outside linebacker to help out (though he might end up back on the line). The secondary is emerging as a potential force if everyone starters to play consistently. There's speed at corner, depth and experience at safety, and an emerging star in SS Emanuel Cook. The defensive line has to be far better against the run, and it should be with the return of Marque Hall from injury and the emergence of freshman Ladi Ajiboye.


 

 

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