PREVIEW: Alabama-Clemson 2008

Editor’s note: We are planning previews/scouting reports/analysis on all of Alabama’s 2008 games if there is an interest. We are also offering the preview as a PDF download if you would prefer reading it in a more attractive format online or to print it out for offline reading. You can get the three page downloadable PDF for $1.99 by clicking here. You can see sample pages below (Scroll down to read the story):

Tough, but winnable game

Clemson is a tough game to begin the 2008 campaign; however, the game is winnable. Here’s why:

OFFENSE: Clemson boasts one of the best backfields in college football. Senior quarterback Cullen Harper set a host of records in 2007—21 records in all. Harper’s stats were impressive 282 of 433 passes with 27 touchdowns and six interceptions.

He was sacked 35 times last year.

And that is where the Clemson offense must improve for 2008 to be a special year. But, the offensive line will see four new starters from last year’s problematic unit. Turnover like that means the line must establish cohesion during August and the early weeks of the season.

Clemson’s line wasn’t able to open much running room during three big games in 2007. The Tigers amassed just 8 yards rushing against Virginia Tech, 34 yards against Georgia Tech and 47 yards against Boston College.

That won’t be enough to defeat Alabama.

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The line must provide much more physical play, so that Clemson’s stable of star running backs can produce.

Senior running back James Davis should lead the way for Clemson’s ground attack. The senior has over 3,000 career rushing yards and 36 career rushing touchdowns. Last year, Davis contemplated jumping to the NFL, but returned to Clemson.

But the backfield doesn’t end with Harper and Davis. C.J. Spiller forms another cog in Clemson’s offensive arsenal. In 2007, Spiller rushed for over 700 yards. He provides a change of pace with his speed. In the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Spiller amassed 112 yards on 8 carries, including an 83-yard touchdown run. Spiller is also a threat on special teams; he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns last season.

Complementing the running game are returning starters at receiver. Seniors Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham provide explosiveness on the edges. Kelly caught a school record 88 passes for 1,081 yards last season. Grisham had 60 receptions last year for 653 yards. Another weapon to watch catching the ball and stretching the field is Jacoby Ford.

Getting the idea why Clemson is a consensus Top 10 school in 2008? They have proven weapons in the backfield, and at receiver. The question mark, and it is a big question mark, is the offensive line.

It bedeviled Clemson last season, and will prove problematic starting 2008.

DEFENSE: Last year’s Clemson defense was in the Top 25 of the major defensive categories of scoring, rushing, passing and total. The Tigers were 10th in scoring, 23rd in rushing, 13th in passing and 9th in total. And that unit returns 8 starters.

The strength of the Clemson defense just may be its secondary. All four starters return from last season, and the Tigers boast a pair of top safeties in seniors Michael Hamlin and Chris Clemons. Hamlin and junior cornerback Chris Chancellor led the team with four interceptions each. The other corner, junior Crezdon Butler picked off three passes last year.

The corners helped the Tigers hold opposing teams to an average of 188.5 yards passing per game. Safety Hamlin led the team in tackles with 97.

The defensive line returns three of four starters. While the team lost Phillip Merling to the NFL, Clemson hopes freshman DaQuan Bowers could help fill the void. Bowers was a top recruit (rated a five star by Rivals). He brings 4.57 speed to the defensive end position. Expectations are as big for Bowers as some of Alabama’s top signees.

The hole in the Clemson defense is at linebacker. The Tigers face a dilemma perhaps as bad if not worse than the Tide. The Tigers must replace all three starters off last year’s team. The most recent loss was senior ILB Cortney Vincent. Bowden kicked Vincent off the team at the end of spring practice.

Without a doubt, linebacker is the least experienced part of the Tiger defense. Alabama should be able to attack this element of the Clemson front seven.

ANALYSIS: A matchup to watch is Alabama’s John Parker Wilson versus Clemson’s secondary.

We expect Alabama’s offensive line to provide sufficient protection for Wilson against the somewhat inexperienced Clemson front seven. This means Wilson should have time to make his decisions, and when Wilson has time he can be effective—just take a look at the tape of Wilson’s masterpiece against Tennessee.

However, if Alabama’s line reverts, then Wilson will have serious problems against a strong, experienced Clemson secondary.

The game will be determined by line play—Clemson’s offensive line. The line is suspect with four new starters , and the Tigers must replace two All-Americans.

Not an easy task. Much more difficult when you face a Nick Saban defense to start the season. Cohesion is a major recipe for offensive line success. Disrupting the cohesion is a strength of Saban’s scheme. The combination of this being a season opener and the limited time for Clemson to develop line chemistry during preseason drills, the defense has a substantial advantage.

If Alabama’s defensive line can exploit Clemson’s limited unit cohesion, it would go a long way to controlling Clemson’s explosive running game and passing game.

Score Projection: Alabama 31-Clemson 28

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Clemson Notes:
•Clemson returns 17 starters off last year’s squad.
•Of the 17 returning, 7 starters are on offense, 8 on defense and two on special teams.
•Clemson will have a returning 1000-yard rusher (James Davis) and a returning 1000-yard receiver (Aaron Kelly) in 2008. Clemson and Tennessee are the only BCS conference teams that can make that claim.
•Clemson led the ACC in scoring offense, passing efficiency offense, total touchdowns fewest turnovers and ranked second in rushing offense and total offense.
•Cullen Harper established 21 Clemson records during the year and led the ACC in passing efficiency. He became just the fourth quarterback in school history to lead the ACC in passing. He finished 22nd in the nation in passing efficiency.
Clemson ranked in the top 10 in the nation in total defense (9th, 306.8 yards per game) and scoring defense (10th at 18.7 points per game).
• Clemson was also 13th in pass defense, allowing 188.5 yards per game and 13th in pass efficiency defense.
• Clemson was also 23rd in rushing defense, meaning the Tigers ranked in the top 25 in the nation in all four major defensive categories.
•The Aug. 30 meeting is the first since 1975.
•This marks the first neutral site game to start Clemson’s season since the Tigers played Alabama in Birmingham in 1904. The Tigers won that game 18-0.
Clemson must replace four starters on its offensive line. Gone from last year’s team are: All-Americans OT Barry Richardson, OG Chris McDuffie. Clemson also lost seniors Christian Capote and Brandon Pilgrim.
“The Alabama game in the Georgia Dome will be one of national importance and should bring considerable exposure to our program. It will be a great challenge for our team right from the get go and it will create a sense of urgency for our players during the off season,” said Clemson head football coach Tommy Bowden.

“The offensive line and linebacker positions are areas of concern and areas we will address in the spring and August preseason work,” Bowden said. “We have moved some players to help ,shore up those areas and there will be an opportunity for freshmen to gain significant playing time.”

52 Comments

Add Yours
  1. 1
    Bama Fan In N Y C

    I expect a loss. We’ll either start of strong, or finish strong, but ultimately we’ll fall short, but only by a hair.

  2. 4
    capstonereport

    I’m thinking Alabama will do OK to start season, have a lag toward the middle and be better toward the end of the season.

    I’m still debating how I’ll do an early prediction on Alabama-Auburn. I’m leaning one way based on defense right now. I’ll just have to see if that holds up when I start thinking about both offenses a bit more.

  3. 5
    tmc1

    I was thinking Clemson will be like the Florida state game last year.
    Line play will definately work in Bama’s favor as there are at least 2 Bama lineman who will require a lot of double teams. they say that Terrace Cody might require triple teams to move him.
    Really to soon to tell. But I gotta believe Bama might pull it off.

  4. 6
    capstonereport

    I’m convinced that Clemson will have problems running the football against Alabama. That could be wishful thinking, but I believe Alabama’s run defense will be better in 2008, and Clemson’s blocking worse. And Clemson’s blocking was bad in 2007. They gave up 35 sacks and only ran for 8 Yards against Va. Tech and 34 against Georgia Tech.

    If Clemson is forced into throwing, they are beatable.

  5. 7
    julio

    Cap, it’s amazing that Clemson had 2 All Americans on the O line despite giving up 35 sacks. I know the sacks were probably attributed to others, but it’s funny that anyone on that line would have even gotten the attention with those stats.

    I don’t think Bama matches up well with Clemson at all. I know Clemson replaces the o-line, but Bama doesn’t have a front 7 that could stop anybody either. With the running attack Clemson has, forget it. I’ll agree with you on one pt, though. Bama will have to make Clemson pass to have a chance of winning.

    The second dangerous part is JPW against Clemson’s secondary. If the game drags on into the 4th quarter and Bama’s behind, he’s gonna start chucking it up for grabs like he always does. If he can’t get away with that aagainst La-Mo, he damn sure ain’t gettin’ away with it against Clemson. The only way I see Bama winning this game is getting on top of Clemson big, and doing it early. The only 2 remotely big games that JPW has won are Tenn and Ark last year. In both games, Bama got a big lead early and took the pressure off. (to be fair, Bama lost the big lead against Ark when McFadden decided to start playing, and JPW directed the only clutch drive in his entire career at Bama. nonetheless, he waited until the end of the game to do it, and sat on his hands the entire second half before that.)

    I think Clemson will be favored in this game by around 8 pts. I think that’ll be money in the bank. Clemson, 31-17.

  6. 8
    SHANEHATERS

    Bamma WINS at the recruiting game!!!

    Clemson wins by a mile

    I know TMC is thinking WELL????
    UMMMMM AUBURN BEAT EM SO WE CAN
    WRONG AGAIN or hes thinking????

    I wonder what SHANE THINKS??? hes still on SHANES tit

  7. 9
    C-Bass

    Clemson will have a field day in the dome. Bowden will seek to spit in the face of the team that overlooked his ol man for Bill Curry. That still amazes me Bama.

    Capstoned,
    R U sure that Bama is going to come in and score that many points in the first game of the year on National Television?
    Not the Bama I know. Clemson 24 Bama 14. Clemson rushes for over 170 due to your lack of having only one good Linebacker.

  8. 10
    Kenny

    Capstoned! I like it a lot more than the too often used crapstone which is native seems to be native for the Auburn vernacular.

    The most important thing to stopping any running game will not be the linebackers, but the defensive line. I think that is where we will be significantly improved. I think we will be helped out a lot by the players we brought in last year.

  9. 11
    tmc1

    I keep forgetting the Chicken Bowl.
    Auburn had their famed “spread eagle” and were chopblocking (aka clipping) in fine form. Auburn beat the 3rd best team in the ACC and you would think that you had cured cancer by the way you Aubbos brag about it. Clemson could not beat 1/2 the teams in the SEC last year. Not even MSU. (who as I recall gave you guys a crooming too.)
    I know, I know, you guys beat a Bowden. I guess that makes up for all the years ya’ll were kissing a Bowden’s backside.

    When are you Aubbos gonna rmemeber that YOU barely equaled LaMo last year.
    Dont you remember, LaMo beat Bama by 7 and all the Aubbos were thinking they would blow Bama out.Then Bama almost beat Auburn (and the referees) in their own house. missing several key players I might add.
    Face it Aubbos….. 6 in a row, isnt 9 in a row and you will never equal Bama’s records. Except in NCAA Probations (you guys own the SEC in that department). Proving as a matter of record, Auburn is the cheatingest team in the SEC and in the top 5 Nationally.

    Auburn is a second rate school with a third rate education, and an OVERRATED!!!
    football team. Next stop for Auburn…right back were you came from, a cow pasture called obscurity.

  10. 13
    FinebaumJunkie

    It’s funny that you keep mentioning margin of victory in those two games. You seem to be running out of points to make. Since you know all about 4 and 5 star recruits, as I recall in your own house, and without several of our key players, Trey Smith ran all over your candy asses a few years back. Granted, if Georgia had not scored 100 points, we ALMOST would have beat them, we ALMOST beat South Florida in overtime, we ALMOST beat Miss.State, and we ALMOST beat LSU. Let me see if that makes me feel better. Nope. It ALMOST did though.

  11. 14
    tmc1

    Doesnt it feel good to know that in your biggest victory of the year, you were ALMOST a better team than LaMo?
    Oh and if it makes you feel any better you ALMOST lost a few more games too.
    Auburn is a fluke. ALMOST a contender, ALWAYS a pretender.
    2004 was Auburn’s chance and they ALMOST won the big prize. But as usual the Auburn curse set in. And every year since Auburn ALMOST gets to the SEC championship game.
    Auburn is always going to be the poster children for ALMOST. It is ironic that you used the word “ALMOST” because it has been Auburn’s go-to excuse every year since 1957.

  12. 15
    SHANEHATERS

    HAHAAHAHA Equaled LAMO >>>>>>LMAO is it
    you guys got the stink beat off of you
    By LAMO and you still have to find a way to tie it to Auburn WOW! Al Auburn did
    was come in and no matter what you say about last years IRON BOWL beat the rest of the STINK OFF OF SABANS ARS! and good call Shane is a BLoggger 2010 sounds about right when SABAN proves he is the MOST OVERRATED RECRUITER there is

  13. 20
    007

    It’ll be even funnier when LaMo (Alabama Tech’s equal) surprises the Barnies in Jordan-Hair-Dye Cow Manure Stadium. But then again, it is being played in Alabama Tech-ville, so I suspect their MVPs (referees) will carry them through the game, as always…

  14. 21
    Shane is a BLOGGER

    007, the War Hawks will not score three TDs like they did against Dinky. WOW, three TDs against the #1 team in the nation according to brain dead bammurs. Bar would roll over in his grave.

  15. 22
    arnoldziffle

    Why is it that Auburn beat Clemson in the Chick Bowl and yet, Clemson is ranked higher in the preseason top 10. It sucks to be Auburn, thats why!

  16. 23
    tmc1

    007 you are exactly right.
    The referees (aka Auburn’s 12th man) have always found a way to save the Aubbos honor. Except a couple times last year. My personal favorite was when the South Florida BULLS came in and cained the Aubbo team. It was comical the way the Aubbo faithful sat there while Leavett’s team made them look like cuckolds.

    9 in a row!

  17. 24
    wash_your_feet

    The warchickens still harbor those false hopes that TubblyWubbly will win the big one.
    Sad Sad Barneys!
    If that is your best chance, give up now and avoid humiliation later. Tubbly is driving the buss into a ditch.
    ROLL TIDE!

  18. 25
    Shane is a BLOGGER

    Arnoldziffle,

    Oink, Oink, that’s short for “Hey bammur cheerleaders come get your slop”.

  19. 26
    Shane is a BLOGGER

    wash your feet,

    Shane will lick clean between your toes if you will give him a big “Rammer Jammer Yeller Hammur, Go to HE–Alabammur”.

    Got 10? (Toes)

    tmc, I know you are grinning.

  20. 27
    arnoldziffle

    shane is a BLOGGER.
    Moo Moo thats short for “Hey Auburn cheerleaders, stop grazing on Dye field”
    SHANEhaters is a BLOGGER. YOUR A MORON!

  21. 29
    SlApDaSh

    I heard that ctt is recruiting alot of kids out of Texas this year. Wouldnt you say that is evidence he has been run out of the state?

  22. 30
    purple-haze23

    tmc, I LMAO at your post.
    Yeah I saw it too.Didnt USF finish out of the top 25 last year?I thought so.I cant wait to see the “spread eagle” get whopped by LAMO this year.
    My prediction.
    Bama wins by 4.
    And Auburn says that this year’s Clemson isnt as good as last years team.
    GIVE’EM HELL BAMA!

  23. 31
    Christopherson

    Barnies have made a career off of living off false hopes. Each and every time something plays in their favor, they have high (false) hopes set, hoping it’ll never end.

    Their actions, as of right now, are merely soaking up their success while its still in their favor.

    They know time is a serious issue and unfortunately for them, it’s not on their side. Most of the Barnies here, have repeated themselves, multiple times, each decade of dominance (1950s, 1980s, 2000s, and their ancestors done the same in the early 1900s). They’re not sincere when they say they believe in their team and coach, because they’ve yet to hire a coach who starts and finishes on a highly strong note (Shug, Dye, Tator, and now Tubby). Judging by Tubby’s mediocre success prior to our collapse, I’d say he’s no better than he was before. Any coach could’ve fed off of our mishaps the way Tubby did. But now that his time has come and gone, and his high quality recruits are fading, the playing field is slowly leveling out, and that Alabama team that you saw hammer that Alabama Polytechnic Institute team into the dirt all throughout the 1990s and in 2001, our last year of equality, will be the same Alabama team that will hammer them into oblivion in the forthcoming future.

    It’s an inevitable fact, Barnzoes, so precariously claim it’s not while the sun slowly sets in your trailer park infested cow pasture known as Aubarn, AL!

  24. 32
    tmc1

    You said it Christoferson.
    Seems the Aubbos are always pinning their hopes on every get rich quick scheme that comes to town. Jesus, Ron Popiel could retire in Auburn. I used to think Aubbos were just niave and gullible but now I realize it is just plain old barn yard stupidity that keeps them lining up at the fairy tale trough of ignorance.

  25. 33
    RedneckTider

    tmc1- “Auburn is a second rate school with a third rate education, and an OVERRATED!!!” Then what does that make bammer??? They can’t beat the second rated school with a third rated education.
    Does Alabama even have a front seven? I really think that opening the season with Clemson will be a disaster. Alabama will have a weak front seven with the exception of one player at linebacker. Clemson will run the ball all day long on the bammer defense. Bammer can’t stop them with their defense that needs major repairs.
    Clemson- 31 Bammer-10

  26. 34
    capstonereport

    I know there are some issues at linebacker. However, I think the defensive line itself is going to be very good. We’ll have to see, but I feel good about the front.

  27. 35
    RedneckTider

    Crapstone report:
    The defensive line is not experienced. The linebackers lack serious depth and The secondary will be the strenght of the defense. Don’t expect them to be real good in the first game. Don’t expect Clemson to be really good either. It is the first game but Clemson has so much more talent and depth they will wear bammer out.

  28. 38
    RedneckTider

    That is just a joke capstone. You wouldn’t be a real fan if you didn’t believe that your team will win and win all the time. ;).

  29. 39
    WillisMann

    RedneckBarnie, your mother/sister is calling you to come back home to the Wire Road single-wide. Unfortunately, you guys aren’t hosting any rodeos this weekend, so The Polytechnic Institute of Alabama’s library WILL BE closed. Or maybe with all that excess time you have on your hands, you could create an Aubarn site for Barnies seeing as how no one else has (or can afford to/or knows how to build a website from scratch).

  30. 40
    RedneckTider

    Creating an Auburn site wouldn’t be as funny as coming on here listening to the delusional fans. It is so funny and provides comic relief. Pathetic how you have to TRY and down Auburn fans and the city of Auburn. Try winning a game then maybe you will get respect until then, I am laughing at you.

  31. 41
    RedneckTider

    By the way- there are plenty of Auburn websites out there, I frequent all of them but the sheer delusional ignorance of bammer fans on this site keeps me coming back for more entertainment. WillisMan how many games will bammer win this year.. tell me please.. Bammers back again baby

  32. 42
    TiderInsider

    It’s typical for Alabama to start off explosive, and finish lackluster.

    Hopefully that trend will be broken this season, but I’m not expecting much due to the fact that our talent level is still mediocre.

    As far as API is concerned, Kodi Burns turned a lot of heads after his phenomenal performance against MSU and NMSU, last season. And with the world’s number 1 coordinating cheater, calling the shots on offense, I firmly believe API will win the 2008 Opelika Farmer’s Market trophy for the second time in four years!

  33. 44
    RedneckTider

    Tiderinsider- the talent level at UAT is not mediocre. Haven’t you been listening to all the delusional fans. UAT has the best talent EVER. They will win all the games this year! Bama is back baby. (again)

  34. 45
    SHANEHATERS

    Im a blogger ?? Hell i didnt even know i was “blogging” until i found out SHANE was a PRO BLOGGER but i ll take it im a ROOKIE BLOGGER >>>HELL YEA!!!!

  35. 47
    DarkIllusions

    Redneck, perhaps you should share some of that stuff you’ve been smoking. Haven’t you been listening to your very own dysfunctional fan base known as the Alabama Polytechnic Institute Barnies? According to the professional experts in Opelika, ‘Alabama STILL lacks quality talent and experience.’

    Last I recall, the only “talent” we’ve been boasting is the incoming recruiting class. Just knock us while it’s there. Another twenty to thirty years of bending over for us is a loooong time, isn’t it, Mr. Aubarn Wire Road piece of cow shit?

  36. 48
    Redneck Tider

    Actually, that stuff I’m smoking is the stuff Jimmy Johns, the inside man for Aufarm, has been dealing down here in barn-ville! Honestly, you should try some because it’s some goooood dope!!!

    WAR EAGLE HEY!

  37. 49
    Shane is a BLOGGER

    A Chattanooga TV Station reported tonight that coach sabin was seen at his Lake Burton Lake home in North Georgia standing on a bar stool agruing with his wife face to face. An ambulance was dispatched after Mrs sabin slapped him off the stool. Questioned by police she said that nicky was blaming the UAT Police Dept for the arrest of an innocent man. He was tired of them profiling his players and wanted her to play linebacker. Shane from Centerpoint is on his way to get to the bottom of this breaking story. Stay tuned.

  38. 50
    RedneckTider

    Hey everyone.. read the post by DarkIllusions and keep making our point for us.. typical bammer fans.. WOW. They can’t get into decent discussions about football without letting true colors show. Delusional fans.

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