No. 12 Tigers trying to avoid trap game against Ball State


For the Clemson Tigers, the prospect of navigating the non-conference schedule without a loss and maintaining an outside shot at a national title hinged on surviving two weeks without star wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

With the larger of those challenges conquered in a season-opening win over Auburn, the Tigers will try to avoid a classic trap game when they host Ball State on Saturday afternoon. It’s the home opener for the 12th-ranked Tigers, who have won seven straight in Death Valley and own a 2-0 advantage in the all-time series with wins in 1992 and 2002.

Two potentially explosive offenses will be on display. Ball State rolled up 596 total yards in a season-opening 37-26 win against Eastern Michigan and Clemson had 528 total yards in a 26-19 win against Auburn, even without Watkins, who is serving a two-game suspension for his offseason arrest.

The Cardinals showed off their offensive firepower in the opener, as Jahwan Edwards ran for a career-high 200 yards on 20 carries and scored three touchdowns. Jamill Smith had a career-high 119 receiving yards on seven catches. With an experienced quarterback in junior Keith Wenning – who is making his 24th consecutive start – Ball State should be able to hold its own on offense, but the defense will be tested by Clemson’s talented playmakers.

Even without Watkins, the Tigers have no shortage of big-time threats on offense. Quarterback Tajh Boyd is 15 pounds lighter than a year ago and showed improved mobility against Auburn. DeAndre Hopkins picked up the slack without Watkins by catching a school-record 13 passes for 119 yards and a score. And Andre Ellington rolled up a career-best 228 rushing yards. New defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ debut was solid, too, as the Tigers held Auburn to one touchdown and four field goals.

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