Workman-like approach needed again

Brandon Ford

The Clemson Tigers opened the week as 28-point favorites over Maryland, and by Monday that number already had jumped to 31.

It's a big number for a conference game, for sure, but it really makes sense.

Clemson should beat Maryland that bad Saturday. Outside of its games against Ball State and Furman, this could be Clemson's most lopsided game of the season, and that's saying something coming off beating Wake Forest and Duke by a combined score of 98-33. But the Terps have just been that bad this season as they have been ravaged by injuries, which have hurt their cause. Maryland struggled mightily in Randy Edsall's first season, losing 10 of its 12 games, including seven of its eight ACC games. But the Terps were actually respectable coming out of the gate this season, lessening, a little bit at least, the heat on Edsall.

Maryland started the season with two wins, including a surprising win over Temple, before suffering close losses to Connecticut and West Virginia (and at the time West Virginia looked like a pretty good team). And that's when the injuries became just too much for the Terps to handle. Maryland has lost three straight games, including a couple of heartbreakers to N.C. State and Boston College, to fall to 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the ACC.

Last week, the Terps' mountain of injuries led to an awful offensive performance in a 33-13 loss to Georgia Tech, which has had its own struggles this season. Down to its fifth quarterback of the season, Maryland just couldn't do anything on offense, and its defense, which has been respectable, had its worst game of the season.

That's not a good combination entering a game against a Clemson team that is playing with a ton of confidence – on both sides of the ball. The Terps still rank 33rd in the nation in points allowed per game (21.7), which is better than Clemson's mark of 23.8 (44th), but Maryland has only faced one offense as dynamic as Clemson's this season. That was West Virginia, which scored 31 points and had 336 yards of total offense against the Terps.

Clemson, however, would be a good bet to top those numbers, no matter how well Maryland's defense is playing. Tajh Boyd is playing as well as any Clemson quarterback ever has, and the Tigers' offense is following his lead to historic numbers.

The Tigers are 10th in the nation in passing yards per game (324.4), 32nd in rushing (198.0) and seventh in points scored (42.7). They have scored at least 37 points in their past eight games, topping 40 four times and 50 twice. But the numbers don't do the attack justice. Chad Morris has as much confidence as any playcaller around, and he has the pieces to play with in Boyd, Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Martavis Bryant, Charone Peake, Adam Humphries, Brandon Ford, Sam Cooper, Andre Ellington, D.J. Howard, Roderick McDowell, and so on and so on. It's almost not fair, but that's what Maryland's defense will have to face this week.

And without some help from the offense, that Terps defense could be in for a long, long day Saturday.

Against Georgia Tech, Maryland gave up 401 total yards, including 370 rushing. Clemson, obviously, will attack with more balance than what Georgia Tech showed (four passing attempts and 56 rushes), but the Terps' defense can't afford to keep going back out on the field after quick series after quick by its offense. Without much of a passing attack -- Shawn Petty has been converted to quarterback from linebacker, after all -- Maryland ran 52 plays for 259 total yards. Georgia Tech took advantage and jumped to a 27-0 lead and cruised in the fourth quarter.

But Georgia Tech's offense can't match what Clemson has to offer. Morris and the Tigers will have a field day against Maryland's defense, especially if it's worn out by the pace of Clemson's attack, if they get enough chances. Maryland's chances didn't improve this week when it was revealed that linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, maybe Maryland's best player, is out for the season with an ACL tear. Hartsfield is the fifth Terps player to be ruled out for the season with that injury, and that has depleted the roster.

Those kinds of problems lead to a struggling team, a big underdog role against a top-10 team and what should be another blowout win for Clemson.

Now the Tigers just have to go out and take care of business against an overmatched opponent – just like they have the past five weeks.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter @DM_Shirley

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