College football forecast: Clemson takes turn in prime time

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has been coasting through the Atlantic Coast Conference while showing no mercy.
© USA Today Sports Images

It’s probably a stretch to put Dabo Swinney on upset alert. At this point, it’s an upset if Clemson fails to cover a big spread or hang 50 points on an opponent.

A week ago, No. 1 Alabama hit the road and annihilated Louisiana State in a shutout. On Saturday night, Swinney and his second-ranked Tigers take their turn as double-digit favorites in prime time.

Swinney has been coasting through the Atlantic Coast Conference while showing no mercy. In the past month, Clemson crushed Wake Forest (63-3), N.C. State (41-7), Florida State (59-10) and Louisville (77-16). To avoid a similar fate, Boston College will need to feed off the home crowd’s energy to keep it competitive on Chestnut Hill. Cold weather would help the Eagles, and so would a prime-time performance from 245-pound running back AJ Dillon.

Unlike Georgia and Ohio State, playoff contenders that were blown out on the road in October, Clemson has shown no weakness. Trevor Lawrence took over the starting quarterback job and ran with it, Travis Etienne is a spectacular running back, and the Tigers rank third in the nation in scoring defense.

The Eagles (7-2) will need to catch a few breaks, but they are capable of putting a rare scare into Swinney. Dillion, who is expected to start despite an ankle injury, is a physical runner and quarterback Anthony Brown can make more plays than the average stiff taking snaps for LSU.

The home underdog is attracting a little interest and the line has ticked down from 20 to 19½, but expect public betting support to show for Clemson before kickoff. I’ll make a small play on BC as a big ‘dog.


Seven more plays for Saturday:

* Ohio State (-3½) over MICHIGAN STATE: The Buckeyes have not played a complete game against a quality opponent all season, something that must change in East Lansing. After their darkest hour in a home loss to Michigan, the Spartans have rallied behind their defense. Michigan State put the brakes on Purdue’s high-scoring offense and limited Maryland to 100 total yards in a 24-3 road win. The quarterback situation for the Spartans does not seem to matter. Mark Dantonio’s teams win with defense, and it’s ugly but effective. This is a compelling matchup and a complex one to handicap. Will the Buckeyes finally put it together and rally behind Urban Meyer or are they simply overrated? Will the Spartans, who were crushed 48-3 last year in Columbus, overcome their many injuries and use their defense to drive the final nail in Ohio State’s playoff coffin? Dwayne Haskins is the far better QB and the Buckeyes have a lot more big-play ability with their passing attack. It feels like Meyer’s team is sitting on a big game.

* Auburn (plus-14) over GEORGIA: The three-loss Tigers have been disappointing, but Gus Malzahn’s team is playing with nothing to lose in the spoiler role this week while the pressure is on the Bulldogs. Malzahn is opening up the playbook and allowing Jarrett Stidham to air it out. Auburn’s defense allows only 17.3 points per game. This is a big number to lay against a quality SEC defense. The preseason line on this game was Georgia -3.5.


* Other plays: Oregon (plus-4) over UTAH; Oregon State (plus-24) over STANFORD; Texas (-1½) over TEXAS TECH; ARKANSAS (plus-13) over Louisiana State; Ucla (plus-12½) over ARIZONA STATE.

Last week: 2-6-1 against the spread

Season: 37-34-3

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