Can A&M Upset Clemson?

A poorly executed 2 point play sealed the L for our Ags last year against Clemson's Tigers at Kyle Field.

Tomorrow, the Texas A&M Aggies goes to Clemson's Death Valley, but both these teams are vastly different than what they were last year. Trevor Lawrence has taken over the offense and has destroyed all competition in his wake with the talented group of receivers. A&M did not face Justyn Ross last year, and the veterans that return are highly skilled. The NFL D-Line the Tigers had has moved on. In their place steps new faces, but, as Jimbo put it, same bodies, different numbers. For the Aggies, we see a much more improved Kellen Mond, but lose the SEC's leading rusher from last year and one of the best tight ends that we've ever had in Trayveon Williams and Jace Sternberger (respectively) to the NFL. A more experienced O-Line (overall) welcomes a freshman at right guard. Sophomore Jashaun Corbin leads his fellow underclassmen in a deep running back corp, consisting of three sophomores and a true freshman. The Aggie back line on defense features some new faces, but looks to be much improved, nabbing four picks against Texas State, more than half what was taken all of last season over 13 games. A&M's uglies in the trenches see familiar names moved into starting roles, and bring in previously injured would-be starters from last year's campaign to man the linebacker and defensive end positions.

So, what does it take to beat the defending national champions who blew out 'Bama by 28 points?


We've seen Mond have monster performances against the big boys, including last year against Clemson, but he'll have to do it again to have a shot to beat this Clemson Tigers team. Mond's decision making seems to elevated from where it was a year ago, and his throws are more on point, though he still has a tendency to throw behind his receivers. I have always been a HUGE critic of Kellen, but Jimbo may have fixed him. These throws he made against Texas State were simply next level stuff:

(was having trouble trying to embed the videos in the post itself, so here are the links to the tweets with the videos)

He had a couple of those all of last year to go along with some serious duds. Mond will have to be consistently accurate to topple the Tigers. If Kellen completes at a clip of 67% or more, then the Aggies should have a good chance to win this game. The receivers need to have sticky hands, and I'd expect Caleb Chapman to get some play in the slot to free up the deep ball. If the running game can get going, and I expect there will be a bunch of running between the tackles, most likely behind the freshman Kenyon Green at right guard, then we'll really see how much Kellen's accuracy has improved. Mond should have his number called a few times early on as well to keep the defense honest, and open up some rushing lanes for the RB and give time for receivers to get some separation.

On the defensive side, how do you stop Trevor Lawrence? It starts with stuffing the run, again. Etienne was held to under 50 rushing yards on 8 attempts, more than half of which came on a single play. He averaged roughly 5.5 yards a carry, but only ran 8 times because the Ags would not let him get going. The ground game stayed alive for Clemson through Kelly Bryant (now at Mizzou), and, though I would expect Etienne to get more carries, I don't think he'll be able to gain much ground against what may be an improved line over last year for A&M. Without the mobility of Kelly Bryant, Trevor Lawrence is going to have to stand up and make some throws while (hopefully) getting obliterated by our interior line of Justin Madibuike and Big Bobby Brown. He doesn't have the legs Bryant did, so the defense should be more able to key in on Etienne and the rushing attack Clemson brings to the table. That being said, Lawrence certainly isn't a statue back there. He can move around a bit, and may take off to try to get some yards. He's a big dude, and doesn't go down easily. Landing solid hits on him will be essential to rattle his cage early to hurry up his internal clock, which could lead to, dare I say it, a pick or two for this Aggie defense.

The best way to stop Trevor Lawrence? Keep the ball out of his hands. The fewer times he touches the ball, the greater chance for the upset, plain and simple. Control the clock. Texas A&M averaged 33:57 in time of possession last season, about 56% of the game. Year 2 in Jimbo's system should yield similar, if not better, results. Against Texas State, A&M held the ball for 35:46, almost 60% of the game. A strong rushing attack combined with a more accurate QB should allow for the Aggies to control the clock and dictate the pace of this contest.

Let's not forget special teams play. We could see a return by either team be the difference in the game, but I doubt there will be many punts or kickoffs returned. Braden Mann may blast the ball into orbit, and may end the game early, who knows? In all seriousness, Mann is the man. Flipping field position to give your defense room to work is key, and with the best punter in the nation returning, look for mostly long field possessions for Clemson when A&M is unable to score. For A&M, Roshaud Paul needs to hang on to every punt that comes his way, and take the yards given to him if available, but know when to take the fair catch. Not many return yards will be given up in this game. There will be a couple long field goal attempts, and it may take a last second attempt to get a win for either team, though I don't envision that being the case. Seth Small has the leg, but his accuracy wasn't all that great last season. Hopefully he'll be able to make a couple kicks in Death Valley.


Assuming that progression has been made in Jimbo's system, both on offense and defense, I see the Ags winning this one in a drag out, beat down match.

Mond throws for 350 yards with 2 TDs and runs for 50 more for another (3 total TD's, 1 INT); 68% accuracy, 3 sacks

Corbin racks up 75 yards on the ground (110 all purpose) and 1 TD, with the offense totaling 180 combined and an additional TD from another rushing contributor (most likely Isiah Spiller); 5 negative yardage plays, no fumbles

Small goes 1/2 on field goal attempts, missing on a 40 yarder, but makes a 35

Lawrence throws for 220 yards for 3 TDs, adds 20 yards on the ground; 56% accuracy, 4 sacks

Etienne gets the ball more, but can't get anywhere near his 5.5 ypc last year, 60 yards on the ground with no scores, 130 total rushing as a whole for the Clemson Offense; 8 negative yardage plays, 1 fumble (recovered by Clemson)

Potter goes 2/2 on field goals, both inside the 40


**I am super excited about this game, and hopefully the Aggies pull it off. I've never went out there and made stat specific predictions like this, but we'll see how much I enjoy the taste of my foot after the game.

BTHO clemson

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