Five thoughts on Saturday’s Miami-Clemson matchup

The Miami Hurricanes (4-2, 1-1) welcome the No. 6 Clemson Tigers (6-0, 3-0) and their dynamic offense to Sun Life Stadium Saturday afternoon. The matchup will be the biggest home game of the season for Miami, and is also the highest ranked opponent the Canes have faced since No. 2 Florida State last season. Clemson has one of the most impressive resumes in the country thus far, and wants to continue its pursuit of perfection. As the upset-minded Hurricanes prepare for Saturday’s kickoff, here are five things to think about.

  1. Clemson is as good as advertised.

Don’t let “Clemsoning”, the term that is well beyond stale, fool you. The undefeated Tigers will bring their flashy offense and sturdy defense to Sun Life Stadium on Saturday, and give the Hurricanes everything they have. Clemson is riding a 34-game win-streak against unranked opponents, and will certainly be looking to make Miami the 35th.

Clemson’s high-octane offense is built around its fantastic depth and big play potential. They’re led offensively by sophomore standout quarterback Deshaun Watson and his stable of young, energetic weapons. Watson leads the ACC with 16 total touchdowns, 14 of them coming from his absolute rocket of an arm. Wide receiver Artavis Scott has been his favorite target thus far, with 443 yards receiving and four touchdowns. Look for Scott to utilize his quick feet and evasiveness on special teams as well. Running back Wayne Gallman has been a steady option for Tigers on the ground, averaging just under 100 yards a game and adding five touchdowns himself.

The Tigers’ tenacious defense will surely look to get physical in the trenches against Miami. They’re a sturdy group of veterans led by their intimidating defensive line. Defensive tackle Carlos Watkins is a force inside, with a pick-six and two sacks to his name. On the outside, Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd are perhaps the most talented defensive end tandem in the ACC. Together, Lawson and Dodd account for 18.5 of the team’s 56 tackles for loss this season second in the ACC.

  1. Miami can turn Clemson’s greatest strength into a weakness.

Miami’s defense can certainly exploit Clemson’s tendency to hunt for the big play. With 37 plays from scrimmage going for 20 yards or more, it’s no secret that Clemson looks to get yards in bunches. While Clemson has certainly made dazzling plays thus far, it hasn’t all been rainbows and sunshine in Death Valley.

Overall, Clemson isn’t particularly careful with the football with 12 total turnovers on the year. Watson has thrown seven interceptions already, second most in the ACC behind Matt Johns of Virginia. These statistics are music to the ears of the Hurricanes’ defense. Miami’s defense leads the ACC with 15 turnovers, and leads the entire country in turnover margin at plus-13. Individually, junior defensive back Artie Burns leads the ACC with five interceptions (T-3rd nationally). If Clemson wants to shoot for the big play, Miami will certainly be ready with its talented secondary. The turnover battle may become the narrative Saturday, and if so, the Canes certainly have to like their chances.

  1. Two of the nation’s best young quarterbacks will battle it out against one another.

Although Brad Kaaya and Watson are only sophomores, they both have made plenty of noise across the country. Both quarterbacks showed tons of promise last season and came into this year with lofty expectations. Needless to say, they haven’t disappointed. Watson has come on strong since his ACL injury in 2014, leading the ACC in touchdowns and throwing for 235 yards per game. When he tucks the ball away, he’s just as dangerous, running for 234 yards and two touchdowns.

The Hurricanes have a star signal caller of their own in Kaaya. Since earning the starting job as a true freshman, Kaaya has blown people away with his poise, leadership and decision-making. Kaaya, with an ACC-high 1,845 passing yards in just six games, is on pace to shatter Bernie Kosar’s school record of 3,642 yards set in 1984. In addition, Kaaya has protected the football extremely well, throwing just one interception. Both of these quarterbacks have emerged as leaders for their respective football teams, and will duel it out against each other Saturday.

  1. This is going to be an extremely fun football game to watch.

Miami and Clemson provide plenty of star-power for the avid football fan to enjoy. There will be playmakers all over the field Saturday, and plenty of interesting matchups to keep tabs on. Here are just a few of those entertaining storylines:

How will Burns, Corn Elder, and the rest of Miami’s talented secondary stack up against the deep receiving corps of Clemson?

Can the Tigers’ veteran offensive line protect Watson from the likes of defensive linemen Chad Thomas and Al-Quadin Muhammad?

What will Miami’s dynamic backfield duo of Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton do to attack Clemson’s physical front-seven?

How much success will Kaaya and his receivers have against defensive backs T.J. Green and Jayron Kearse?

Be sure to keep an eye on these narratives, as they probably will dictate the flow of Saturday’s game.

  1. A win is a win.

A win has the Canes sitting pretty in the ACC Coastal Division at 5-2 overall and 2-1 in in the division with the toughest part of their schedule in the rear view mirror. Even though there will be plenty of talent on the field tomorrow, style points will be the last thing on the minds of those players. Bottom line, a win against No. 6 Clemson is a huge step forward for Miami, no matter how nice it looks.