There’s a top-10 showdown this weekend in Clemson between the top ranked Tigers and No. 7 Miami. I’ve already given my prediction for the game but now I’ll take it a step further with five questions/things to watch in tonight’s game.

What: No. 1 Clemson vs No. 7 Miami

Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson S.C.

When: 7:30 PM EST on ABC

Special Teams

In a game that could be very competitive, special teams will likely play a major role in determining a winner Saturday night. Whether it’s field goals, punts or kickoffs, every kick will matter. All of them. As Swinney himself said Wednesday when all things are even special teams is where a game can be won or lost. If you don’t believe me, just ask South Carolina after a special teams gaffe cost them in week one against Tennessee.

Swinney feels good about his units ability to produce and said he has all the confidence in the world in junior placekicker B.T. Potter and punter Will Spiers.

D’Eriq King

Now let me say this first so it is no misunderstanding. I believe King is a really good football player and he should help this Miami team win plenty of games this season if he stays healthy. However, he’s not seen a defense or team anything like Clemson through his career at Houston. He had a historic season in 2018 with 2,982 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He also had 14 touchdowns on the ground. Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins were the only two quarterbacks with more that season.

He declared a redshirt year after four games last season but eventually transferred to Miami. The kid can play. But how will he perform in the biggest college game of his life to this point? Against probably the best offense and defense he’s ever seen? I would prefer the guy that’s been here a few times and already has the rings to show it. Clemson has the advantage at QB and I’m not sure it’s as close as some want to believe. He could actually be better than Trevor Lawrence but he has to go prove it.

Turnover Battle

Clemson (2 turnovers) has done well so far protecting the football and the same can be said about Miami (3 turnovers). But in a game where weather/rain could play a role due to Hurricane Delta, ball security becomes an even bigger factor. The turnover chain will probably make an appearance yet again. In the previous meeting, Miami committed three turnovers to Clemson’s one. They must do a better job this time around but it doesn’t get any easier. Clemson is going to mix it up and show King and that offense a variety of looks–as they will to the Tigers. Everyone knows a wet ball becomes a little harder to hold on to so that is absolutely an area to watch tonight.

Coaching Advantage

This one speaks for itself but I’ll throw a few lines down here for the culture. Manny Diaz is in his second season as a head coach so obviously he’s still very much learning all the ropes–just like Swinney had to do when he first became the head coach. Rhett Lashlee is an up and coming offensive mind and has big game experience having served as the OC at Auburn from 2013-2016. He was the OC for the SEC Tigers when Clemson defeated Auburn on the road, 19-13, in 2016.

Blake Baker is another young coach under the age of 40 and joined the staff as the defensive coordinator with Diaz in 2019. How will he perform in a game such as this? We know how Dabo Swinney, Clemson OC Tony Elliott and DC Brent Venables operate in big time games. They are proven. For Miami’s staff collectively, that remains to be seen. I think Miami is good, but for me the verdict is out if they are ready to be great.

Will the moment be too big for Miami?

Let’s be serious here. Experience matters. Diaz pointed out how these games aren’t as big of a deal anymore and it is ‘just what they do’. But he added that it wasn’t always this way in Clemson. It took time and playing in these type of games and eventually beginning to win more and more of them to reach its current status in college football. That being said, we are only three years removed from the 2017 title game when the teams entered the game with the exact same rankings.

The Tigers rolled past Miami that night, 38-3. Times are different now but the Canes haven’t accomplished all that much since that season and have dropped their last three bowl games. A win Saturday would be a game-changer and perhaps in a different scenario and later in the season, I’d feel more comfortable with the Canes. But right now? I can’t say they are ready. We know Clemson can be successful in Saturday’s environment because they’ve proven it over the last several seasons. But can Miami shine when the lights are the brightest? We shall see.