By Neil Burnett
#5 Clemson travels to Boston College Saturday to play the Eagles in the Red Bandana game, once again. It seems like every time the Tigers travel to Massachusetts, it’s the “Red Bandana Game.” This is probably due to the fact that Clemson gets more eyes on the game, thus a wider promotion on what this is all about.
Welles Crowther, a BC alumni, was a 24-year-old New York equity trader who managed to save the lives of many people during the 9/11 attacks before he died. Crowther wore a red bandana to protect himself from the smoke on September 11 and was known for wearing it under his helmet while playing lacrosse for Boston College.
The “Red Bandana” game is also the next most important game for head coach Dabo Swinney. “BC is the biggest game on Clemson’s schedule. It’s the next game.” The Tigers are ranked #5 in the country, sporting a 5-0 record. Every game on Clemson’s schedule will now be deemed a “statement game”due to them having to prove every week that they are NOT the 10-3 Clemson from last year. Why is 2-3 Boston College a statement game?
It’s more than obvious that AP voters are holding last year against the Tigers. For example, #4 Michigan’s schedule has been less than stellar, but still living off their College Football Playoff appearance from last year. In the last two weeks, Clemson has beaten two top 15 teams, yet still lag behind the Wolverines in the eyes of the AP voters. Don’t get it wrong, at this time, polls mean nothing. It’s just something for fans to haggle over.
The Tigers will be looking to put the rest of college football on notice. They played their best four-quarter game of the season. As a matter of fact, it was probably their best game in the last 18 games. Coordinators are getting more comfortable with their systems. Players are adjusting to Goodwin/Streeter after 10 years of Venables/Elliott. Best of all, we are all watching QB DJ Uiagalelei morph into the top quarterback we all knew was there.
The defense came into its own last week, putting the clamps on one of the top quarterbacks in the country. Although still missing a couple of starters, the defense took a step forward. DT Bryan Bresee will not be suiting up again this game, and there is a chance DE Xavier Thomas MIGHT play. More will be known later this week, as will the status of CBs Malcolm Greene and Sheridon Jones. In the meantime, Nate Wiggins and Toriano Pride have gotten valuable reps and have proven they were up to the challenge. It’s called “building depth”.
There are several parts to making this statement. One, continued improvement from Uiagalelei. OC Brandon Streeter is utilizing the entire field, opening up the middle now with the usage of Jake Briningstool and Davis Allen, hauling in 18 passes for 182 yards and four touchdowns the last two games. They must take another forward and continue to dominate in the trenches. Freshman Blake Miller is getting better every game and the OL is the key to the offense. They have given DJ time to work his magic and it is paying off for the entire offense.
Against BC, the Tigers need to handcuff the Phil Jurkovec/Zay Flowers duo and continue to shut down the opposing team’s rushing attack. They yielded only 34 yards rushing to NCState, and are currently ranked 2nd in the country in rush defense. Continue to make the statement to other teams that running the ball is not a good option.
Yes, Boston College is a statement game for Clemson. College football is not yet convinced that the Tigers are back. Although ranked #5, many still continue to put Clemson on “upset alert” every week. From Lee Corso’s rant about the Tigers being overrated and losing to Wake Forest, to Desmond Howard and Pat McAfee howling like a sick wolf picking NCState, the narrative is still out there. Clemson is cycling out. It doesn’t get any easier. The Tigers still have Florida State, Miami, Notre Dame, Louisville, Syracuse and their little brother from the middle of the state still standing in the way. However, the attention is now on Boston College. Another statement game to reel them back in.