Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Week 3 Preview: Turnovers Will Make or Break Clemson

Going into week three, many publications and talking heads have already given up on Clemson. Many people feel as if there is not enough talent, Dabo Swinney is too stubborn to adapt, or that the Tigers are just flat-out not good this year. The Tigers themselves have also made it hard to argue against these claims after a loss at Duke and a bad start against Charleston Southern to start the season. We would not go as far as to make those claims though. We believe Clemson is still a very good football team. The thing that has really hurt them more than anything else so far this season really is the turnovers.

Tigers’ Turnover Problem 

The turnovers have become demoralizing for Clemson. Already in two games the Clemson offense has five turnovers overall. Two turnovers were given up right in the red zone. Four of these turnovers have led to scores either on the return or during the following drive. There even was the special teams turnover when the Tigers lost the surprise onside kick last week. That one led to a drive that ended in a field goal and the last score for Charleston Southern last week.

These turnovers are what is killing this Clemson team. Take away the turnovers they tie or even win the game against Duke and Charleston Southern doesn’t score at all. Whenever Clemson is giving the ball up, more often than not it is leading to a score for the opponents. The defense gets put in bad positions and it makes them look worse than they really are. Charleston Southern finished with 17 points and the defense was truly responsible for only the field goal off the last turnover. Winning the turnover battle this week against Florida Atlantic will be crucial in getting a statement win heading into Florida State week.

A Glance at FAU 

The Florida Atlantic, or FAU, Owls play out of the American Athletic Conference. For the second week in a row, the Tigers will face a program with a new head coach. Tom Herman took the job at FAU late last year and is in his first official season. The former Texas head coach has an overall 54-22 record and an undefeated bowl record at 5-0. At Texas, his tenure was not of expectations for that program but he did have four winning seasons.


On offense, they have a talented quarterback in Casey Thompson. The former Texas and Nebraska quarterback has had a bit of a rollercoaster college career already. It has continued so far in his time starting for FAU too. In their week one game against FCS school Monmouth he had a spectacular game. Thompson had an 80% completion percentage completing 20 of 25 passes for 280 yards five touchdowns and an interception.

The next week against a fellow group of five school out of the MAC, Ohio, he did not play as well. In that game, he had a 64.2% completion percentage completing 43 of 67 passes for 460 yards and two interceptions. It really was a tale of two games for Thompson. He has the talent to be a very good quarterback but he struggles under pressure. When the defensive line is in his face he makes bad decisions and would rather force a throw than take off running. Pressure from the defensive front will be critical in this game. Allowing Thompson to get the ball to his speedy wide receivers could be trouble as they have true breakaway speed. Multiple short catches by the FAU receivers turned into big plays against Monmouth.


On defense, FAU is very good. They have talent at all three levels from the line to linebackers, and even at defensive back. Some injuries and a targeting penalty could keep a couple of key players out or limited this week. One guy that will play though the Tigers will have to pay attention to is graduate linebacker Jackson Ambush. The fifth-year player already has 15 total tackles, one tackle for loss, and an interception. He can both stop the run and play in coverage so keeping him from making plays will be tough but important. As a leader on the FAU defense, he has the kind of energy his teammates will feed off of.

Win the Turnover Battle, Win the Game 

 The key to winning this game for the Tigers is to not turn the ball over. The fewer opportunities the opponent has to score, the easier it is to win the game. Both teams are prone to giving the ball up. They each have multiple turnovers in both their first two games of the season. FAU had an interception and fumble against Monmouth, then two interceptions against Ohio. The team that will win this game is the team that is able to hold on to the ball. If Clemson can do that they will have a great day on both sides of the ball.

The FAU offensive line is not bad but they do get lazy as the game goes on. The defensive line putting pressure on Thomas and forcing bad decisions will cause him to give the ball to the Clemson defense. The Clemson offense will be tested again. There is some good talent on the Owl defense that could give them some problems. The wide receivers are going to have to work hard to get themselves open against the defensive backs. What will give the offense problems is the speed the FAU defense plays with. They are a fast defense, but so is Florida State’s. This will be a great defense to play to help prepare for that game.

FAU is not a bad team by any stretch. They have talent but can be undisciplined at times. Clemson has been the same way though to start the season. The Tigers have even more talent than FAU but if they keep making the same mistakes, especially with the turnovers it will hurt them badly. Again, the team that gives the ball up the least will be the winner. If that can be Clemson, they will get a statement victory against a good FAU team going into the Florida State game.

Photo Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports


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