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It was always going to be tough to replace the best quarterback and the best running back in school history. But Clemson had become such a juggernaut, many (myself included) just assumed they would figure it out.
Well, in Clemson, 9-3 is a down year and it happened largely because the quarterback play of DJ Uiagalelei was sub-par. To say his numbers were average would actually be misleading – he was just plain bad this year after so much hype surrounding him prior to the season.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound sophomore had the same number of touchdowns (9) and interceptions (9), completed just 54.7 percent of his passes and barely threw for more than 2,000 yards. He did rush for 304 yards and four scores, too.
Because of that, no Clemson receiver – despite plenty who have talent – ended up being a true threat. That said, junior Justyn Ross had the best season of the bunch, hauling in 46 passes for 514 yards and three touchdowns, though he hasn’t found the end zone in any of the past six weeks.
Clemson also replaced its best back in school history, Travs Etienne, by going with a committee this season. Will Shipley led the way with 678 yards and 10 touchdowns while Kobe Pace added 590 yards and six touchdowns.
Uiagalelei threw for fewer than 200 yards eight times this season – and only one defense was as good as Iowa State’s. Clemson’s three losses came against pass defense ranked third (Georgia), 32nd (NC State) and Pittsburgh (105).
On top of that, Uiagaalelei has thrown six interceptions in his past six games.
Clemson’s offense is bad, but it’s 9-3 for a reason and that’s because it has a darn good defense. That’s going to make it tough for an Iowa State squad that comes in limited – without its very best player.
Breece Hall, a Doak Walker Award finalist for the nation’s top running back, has announced he won’t play in the game but has instead opted out to prepare for the upcoming NFL draft.
Hall was the Big 12’s top back, rushing 253 times for 1,452 yards (5.9 yards per carry) and a career-high 20 touchdowns. So, it seems as if there will be even more pressure on senior quarterback Brock Purdy.
Purdy was extremely efficient, completing 73.1 percent of his passes for 2,984 yards, 18 touchdowns and just seven yards. He added another 224 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
However, Clemson’s defense would have been the second best in the Big 12, ranking behind only ranking 36th in pass defense and eighth in rush defense, coming in 10th overall in the country.
Without a question, the x-factors in this game are the coaches.
It’s two of the top 10 coaches in the nation – Clemson’s Dabo Sweeney, a two-time national champion, and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, who was one of the hottest coaching commodities in the last few coaching carousels.
Both coaches know how to win big games, it’s just a matter of which one is able to get his team up for this one. Each team had much larger aspirations this season, but fell short. Let’s see which team this one means more to.
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|Tigers vs Iowa State Information|
|Teams||Clemson Tigers vs. Iowa State Cyclones|
|Location||Alamodome, San Antonio, TX|
|Time||Wednesday, Dec. 29, 5:45 p.m. EST|
|How to watch||ESPN|
Tony writes about baseball for WSN.com after recently graduating with his Masters from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to that, Tony was a local sports reporter for MLive Media Group, based out of Jackson, Michigan where he covered everything from high school to professional sports. He graduated from Michigan State in 2015 with a degree in journalism. During his time there he covered the Michigan State football and men’s basketball teams from 2013-15 and hosted a sports radio show on WDBM 89FM.More info on Tony Garcia
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