on January 1, 2009 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Who has the edge? Clemson vs. Nebraska

A breakdown of today’s Konica Minolta Gator Bowl

Clemson (7-5) vs. Nebraska (8-4)

Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla., 1 p.m.

Quarterback

In just 15 starts, Nebraska’s Joe Ganz has thrown for 4,731 yards and 38 touchdowns, while helping Nebraska average more than 40 points a game. This year he has thrown for 3,332 yards and 23 scores. He has just 10 picks. Clemson’s Cullen Harper ended the regular season looking like the quarterback who set 22 Tiger records in 2007.

Advantage: Nebraska

Running back

Roy Helu has started just one game for the Cornhuskers, but he leads the team with 804 yards and seven TDs. Marlon Lucky also has seven scores and has rushed for 517 yards. This will be the last game together for Clemson’s Thunder & Lightning. James Davis and C.J. Spiller have combined for 1,337 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. It’s Davis’ 23rd birthday today, and he needs 112 yards to become the Tigers’ all-time leading rusher.

Advantage: Clemson

Wide receivers

Clemson’s Aaron Kelly needs 23 yards to become Clemson’s all-time receiver in that category. The All-ACC wideout is already atop the charts in catches and touchdowns and is the ACC’s all-time leader in receptions. Nebraska has seven different receivers with at least 21 catches and 200 yards and are led by Nate Swift’s 909 yards on 60 catches and nine TDs.

Advantage: Nebraska

Offensive line

Clemson’s running game has come to life recently, and that has a lot to do with the Tigers finally getting healthy up front and building some continuity. The Cornhuskers have averaged 211.7 rushing yards per game over the last six games and have yielded only 21 sacks this season.

Advantage: Nebraska

Run defense

It’s rare when a nose tackle leads a team in tackles, but not every nose tackle is as good as Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh. The All-Big 12 tackle recorded 68 tackles, including 15 tackles for a loss and five sacks. With the improvement of tackles Brandon Thompson and Jarvis Jenkins and the return to health of Rashaad Jackson and Dorell Scott, the Tigers have held their last three opponents to 205 rushing yards combined.

Advantage: Nebraska

Pass defense

Without a doubt this is the strength of the Clemson football team. The Tigers rank ninth in the nation in passing efficiency defense and 10th in yards allowed, while safety Michael Hamlin ranks fifth nationally with six interceptions. The Huskers’ secondary is their weakest link. Nebraska opponents have completed nearly 60 percent of their passes for 235.7 yards a game.

Advantage: Clemson

Special teams

Both teams have had pretty solid years in the special teams department. Nebraska’s Swift has a 88-yard punt return for a score and is averaging 14.8 yards per return, while Clemson’s Spiller has a 96-yard kickoff return for a TD and is averaging 27.9 yards a return. Whichever one of these two breaks a long return could be the difference maker in a game that should be pretty even.

Advantage: Clemson

Bottom line: This is Clemson’s opportunity to make up for some nightmarish performances in front of a nationally televised audience. It’s also Nebraska’s chance to show the college football world that it’s on the way back. Who wants to win the most? At least we are finally going to find out.

—Will Vandervort