1. Obviously you can't read too much into the defensive performance against Georgia Tech because of the Jackets' unique scheme. What has your new DC Kevin Steele implemented and how different will the scheme and attack be from the Koenning defenses?
Tiger Illustrated: I think it will be a good bit different because Steele is more aggressive, whereas Koenning preferred to be more conservative while using zone coverage that generally kept the Tigers from getting beat by the big play. Boston College's game-winning touchdown pass against Clemson in 2007 was one of the few times under Koenning that the Tigers surrendered a lengthy, back-breaking touchdown pass near the end of a game.
Dabo Swinney wants to be more aggressive, and he made that clear late last season by forcing Koenning to play more man coverage while sending guys to pressure the quarterback. Steele appears a perfect fit for Swinney because he has that aggressive mindset. He's not going to blitz every down, but he will bring the heat a good bit -- and from all kinds of angles and fronts. The Tigers have two proven veteran cornerbacks in Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler, so it makes sense to let them cover guys one-on-one. But like any coordinator, Steele will be perfectly content to drop seven if his talented, deep defensive line is inflicting havoc on its own.
2. The Tigers obviously have big play capability but struggled at other times. Is it really as simple as getting to Parker before he can get it Spiller or Ford?
Tiger Illustrated: In some ways it is that simple. Georgia Tech DE Derrick Morgan was a terror in the first half last week in Atlanta, and that really disrupted both the running game and the passing game. Clemson had just 146 yards of offense at halftime, and 63 of those yards came on one play (Parker to Spiller on a wheel route).
Clemson made a nice adjustment at halftime, putting left tackle Chris Hairston at right tackle to match up against Morgan. That gave Parker enough time to hit for some big plays.
Clemson's biggest problem last year was its offensive line, and that remains the case now. The difference this year is Parker has better pocket presence than Cullen Harper. Parker is mobile and crafty on the run, whereas Harper seemed to have a poor feel for pressure (or lack thereof).
3. I still don't understand the hiring of Swinney and think that Clemson could have and should have hired a more established coach. What is your take on the guy now that he has been in this spot for a while?
Tiger Illustrated: Hiring Swinney was a gamble because he's 39 and he's never been a coordinator (let alone a head coach). You have to think there will be some issues with learning on the job. In fact, there probably were some instances of that in the Georgia Tech game.
That said, Swinney really has a good feel for what Clemson fans want in a coach. He's the antithesis of Tommy Bowden, who was a nice guy but wasn't particularly warm or lovable. Swinney has reached out to the fans, and he's further endeared himself to them by trying to get this program back to its roots of being tough and hard-nosed.
The good thing for Swinney is that he's not taking over a program in shambles. This bunch is not far away from an ACC title, and he'll be a savior if he gives the school its first conference crown since 1991.
Heck, he'd probably be considered a success this year if he merely won his division.
But getting back to your question, I think it's fair to question why they didn't go with a more established coach. Clemson athletics director Terry Don Phillips will either end up looking like a genius for making this hire, or he'll end up looking for work elsewhere.
4. What is your prediction for the game?
Tiger Illustrated: I think Boston College could give Clemson some problems up front. That was really the story when the Eagles took three straight from the Tigers in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Clemson simply got pushed around up front on defense and wasn't able to run the ball consistently on offense.
Last year, I think you really saw Clemson's speed advantage as the Tigers hit for a bunch of big plays while limiting Boston College to less than 250 yards.
The Eagles could keep this game close if they control things up front, but Clemson's speed on defense should give those freshman quarterbacks some real problems. And I think Spiller could have another big day going against those green linebackers.
Clemson 24, Boston College 13