No. 1 Clemson faces Boston College without Lawrence

Clemson has become everyone’s nemesis in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and that is especially true of Boston College.

But this Saturday, the top-ranked Tigers won’t have star quarterback Trevor Lawrence on the field as they seek a 10th consecutive victory against the Eagles in a nationally televised game at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium.

Lawrence tested positive for COVID-19, the school announced Thursday, and will miss at least one contest.

“He is doing well with mild symptoms but will not be available for this week’s game against Boston College,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement. “While we certainly will miss Trevor, this is an opportunity for other guys to step up and we’re excited about competing against a very good BC team on Saturday.”

Clemson’s record under Lawrence is 35-1 so that leaves big shoes to fill. The expected starter is true freshman D.J. Uiagalelei, who has completed 12 of 19 passes for 102 yards in mop-up duty this season.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have outscored Boston College 176-31 over the past four years, holding the Eagles to seven points each of the past three seasons.

“They have great players that are really well coached,” Boston College coach Jeff Hafley said. “They have the ability to run the football, run the quarterback, throw the ball down the field. They have it all. They’re good at everything.”

Clemson is blessed with a plethora of offensive weapons and that includes running back Travis Etienne.

While Lawrence is a favorite for the Heisman Trophy, Etienne is 43 yards away from passing North Carolina State’s Ted Brown (1975-78) and becoming the ACC’s all-time leading rusher. He enters the game with 4,560.

“I think the running back is the most underrated player in college football,” Hadley said of Etienne. “The way he runs, he looks like he’s on a mission constantly.”

Clemson is expected to be without two key defensive players. Fifth-year linebacker James Skalski is likely to miss multiple games because of a groin injury while All-ACC defensive lineman Tyler Davis is questionable after sitting out last week’s game due to a lower leg injury.

–Field Level Media

Clemson, which has won two of the past four national championships, is off to a 6-0 start for a sixth consecutive season. The Tigers also are 5-0 in the ACC and have won 27 consecutive games against league opponents.

Boston College (4-2, 3-2 ACC) is coming off a 48-27 victory against Georgia Tech and showing some rapid progression under first-year coach Hafley, who was Ohio State’s defensive coordinator in 2019.

“Boston College is going to be a tough team,” said Swinney, whose first victory as a head coach came against Boston College in 2008. “They’re playing hard, they’re playing confident, they could easily be a 5-1 football team right now. They’re doing a great job of figuring out what their strengths are and playing to those strengths. It will be a tough challenge, no doubt about it.”

The Eagles have received a boost from quarterback Phil Jurkovec, a transfer from Notre Dame who has revived the program’s passing attack. He is averaging 278 yards per game through the air and also is the team’s second-leading rusher.

“The difference in Boston College this year is they’re throwing the ball all over the place,” Swinney said. “He’s a big quarterback — a hard guy to get on the ground.

“He’s athletic, he’s crafty and he can make all the throws. He’s getting better and better, and you can tell that the team believes in him.”

Jurkovec also has found plenty of favorite targets, including Hunter Long, who is among the top pass-catching tight ends in the country, and game-changing wide receivers CJ Lewis and Zay Flowers, who have combined for seven touchdowns.

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