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Matchup of the Week: Clemson Edition

Each week, SOTU takes a closer look at the most important matchup for the Canes heading into each week. Miami is set to face off against No. 6 Clemson at Sun Life Stadium, looking for an upset bid and spoil Clemson's bid for the College Football Playoff.

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports


It was a great and comforting feeling when the Canes for their fourth win of the season, but the celebration was brief when Miami's schedule had the No. 6 Clemson Tigers coming to town the next week. Miami will kickoff against the Tigers at noon on Saturday (ABC) and will try and get their first signature win in Golden's tenure.

Miami (4-2, 1-1 ACC) and Clemson (6-0, 3-0) haven't squared off since 2010, a game which Miami won 30-21 in Death Valley. Clemson is a team full of athletes, playmakers and great coaches, and deserve every bit of the hype they are receiving. It was quite some time ago, but let's take a look at what happened last time these two teams faced each other.

Feels like forever ago...

Deshaun Watson vs. Canes Defense

It seems to be a running theme listing the defense...

I'll start here, Clemson QB Deshaun Watson is damn good. Cam drew fire for saying Brad Kaaya is better than Watson, and Clemson fans have an argument. He is superman to that offense and to that team. So far on the year, Watson has only led Clemson to an undefeated record (6-0), reached No. 6 in the AP Poll, and completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 1,410 yards, 14 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 156.8 passer rating. Watson has also rushed for 234 yards and two touchdowns.

What makes Watson so dangerous is his legs. One missed tackle or one breakdown along the defensive line and it will be off to the races. What Watson does best is create plays and work off of an effective run game (as most QBs do). Clemson has as good of a run-game as Miami, even though the Canes have struggled running the football lately, and Watson sprays the ball around for easy completions before lulling a defense to sleep and taking shots downfield.

What Miami cannot do in this game is continually peek into the backfield and get caught watching Watson. Their rushing attack and Watson's mobility has proven to be effective, and there is no reason why it cannot succeed against Miami. I've said this before, but players such as Chad Thomas and Quan Muhammad need to have big games and provide constant pressure to get Watson and the Clemson offense on their heels. The unit to keep a close eye on is the linebackers. Last week, senior middle linebacker and captain Raphael Kirby suffered a knee injury and is out for the season. Sophomore Juwon Young will now get his shot, starting his first game against a top-10 opponent. As for the secondary, I am not a fan of the revolving door, especially at safety. Keeping your guys fresh? Completely understandable. Keep Deon Bush out for AN ENTIRE SERIES?!?! Don't do that. Not only do the players have to be smart and make plays, but the coaches need their best players on the field 90+ percent of the time. Period.

I previously wrote how Miami actually matches up pretty well with Clemson offensively on paper, however, these stats truly do not tell the entire story. Clemson plays faster than Miami and runs the ball more as well. The Tigers appear to run a much cleaner, smoother and more efficient offense, compared to Miami's patented hot-and-cold approach.

Miami Offense vs. Clemson Defense

This one is broad, and will be fairly short, as well. Clemson's defense is better than Miami's, and this doesn't need analytical reasoning. Either way, Clemson is only allowing 16.7 points per game, and only allowing 167.5 through the air and 114.8 on the ground. Miami's strength is clearly letting Kaaya sling it around the field (averaging nearly 300 yards per game), so something has got to give. It is imperative that Miami get the running game figured out, but with the offensive line playing poorly and constantly putting Kaaya and the offense behind the sticks, the Canes ultimately have no choice but to let Kaaya do his thing.


This game was probably circled on many people's calendar this year. Miami will get another chance to take down a highly ranked opponent, this time in their own stadium. The players still want to prove that they are not all-talk and want to show that they can not only compete with the best, but beat the best. There is no other way to put this, but it sucks that Miami drew Clemson for the second crossover game in the ACC. If this goes south for the Canes, it will put them at two conference losses, virtually making it known that Miami will likely have to go undefeated the rest of the way for a shot at the Coastal crown. Win or lose, Miami is facing a good team, in which the opponent is projected to win. What Miami CANNOT do is come out flat, quit, play poorly, etc. Make this a respectable game and show the world that the Canes can be taken seriously and not overlooked. As for a prediction...Miami - 23, Clemson - 38. I pray it turns out differently.