The Virginia Tech Hokies (4-3) will attempt to avenge their two 2011 losses at the hands of the Clemson Tigers (5-1) this Saturday afternoon on the road in Death Valley.
Virginia Tech has been a colossal disappointment thus far in 2012, dropping three of its last five games after starting the season 2-0 with BCS expectations. On the other side, No. 19 Clemson has lived up to the hype, but fell short in its toughest test on the road at Florida State last month.
Both teams are still right in the ACC mix as the second half of the college football season kicks off, and are just 10 months removed from a conference championship battle last December.
Here we get you set with everything you need to know for this weekend's ACC Championship Game rematch in Clemson.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
When: Saturday, October 20 at 12:00 p.m. ET
Listen: 105.3 FM (Blacksburg), 104.9 FM (Clemson)
Live Streaming: TheACC.com
Betting Line: Clemson (-9), according to Covers.com.
Clemson absolutely had Virginia Tech's number a season ago. The Tigers defeated the Hokies twice, once during the regular season and again in the ACC Championship Game. Clemson outscored Virginia Tech a combined 61-13 in the two victories.
The two rivals have not met in Clemson since October 2007. Expect an electric atmosphere in Death Valley on Saturday afternoon as Tech looks to get its first road win of the season and Clemson tries to remain perfect at home.
Who May Not Play for Virginia Tech
*According to USA Today
C Caleb Farris (Ankle), questionable for Saturday
TE Eric Martin (Shoulder), questionable for Saturday
WR Christian Reeves (Hamstring), questionable for Saturday
P Ethan Keyserling (Hip), questionable for Saturday
G David Wang (Knee), doubtful for Saturday
FB Riley Beiro (Shoulder), out for season
WR D.J. Coles (Knee), out for season
T Nick Acree (Knee), out for season
WR Joshua Stanford (Knee), out indefinitely
Who May Not Play for Clemson
*According to USA Today
WR Martavis Bryant (Groin), questionable for Saturday
RB D.J. Howard (Shoulder), questionable for Saturday
G Kalon Davis (Hamstring), questionable for Saturday
LB Justin Parker (Groin), out for season
QB Tony McNeal (Knee), out for season
CB Martin Jenkins (Groin), out indefinitely
Clemson currently sits at No. 19 in the BCS standings, but is ranked No. 14 in the AP Top 25. With nine one-loss teams still ahead of the Tigers heading into their Week 8 matchup with Virginia Tech, Dabo Swinney's squad will likely have to sweep the rest of its schedule and hope to win the conference in December in order to challenge for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.
For the Hokies, winning out is the only option in terms of potentially earning a BCS bowl bid at season's end. Tech can still compete for the conference championship and perhaps lock up an Orange Bowl appearance, but with three losses already the Hokies are completely out of the national championship race.
What They're Saying
Virginia Tech freshman running back J.C. Coleman broke out for 183 rushing yards last weekend in the Hokies' comeback win over Duke. Coleman replaced starter Michael Holmes, who struggled to get much going on the ground.
This was head coach Frank Beamer discussing his current running back situation coming into the matchup with Clemson (via The Roanoke Times' Andy Bitter):
I think you're always looking for a guy that's hot in the ballgame. I still think he's [Holmes] going to be a terrific player. We were just looking for somebody to give us a lift, and J.C. I think did that.
Coleman is averaging a tremendous 7.3 yards per carry following his big game last Saturday.
Clemson defensive tackle Grady Jarrett is well aware of what the Tigers must do on defense in order to keep Virginia Tech's rushing attack in check (via The Greenville News' Mandrallius Robinson):
Playing Georgia Tech, you want to keep low pads and be aware of the cut at all times, but when you’re going against a team like Virginia Tech, there will be a lot of zone read, so you’re more focused on your gap control and not letting your guards climb.
Garrett will be responsible for keeping Tech freshman J.C. Coleman under wraps this weekend.
Virginia Tech Player to Watch
Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas will be the Virginia Tech player to keep an eye on Saturday. Up to this point this fall, Thomas has looked extremely shaky on the road, and the Hokies are 0-3 away from Blacksburg because of it.
The junior is completing under 52 percent of his passes on the road, and has thrown six of his eight interceptions while away as well. Thomas' road struggles have come as a surprise however considering he went 6-0 on the road during the regular season in 2011.
Clemson Player to Watch
Clemson junior wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is on an incredible pace this fall. After six games, Hopkins already has 49 receptions for 777 yards and eight touchdowns. The South Carolina native is on track to catch 100 balls and eventually become Clemson's all-time leading receiver.
Hopkins is without question quarterback Tajh Boyd's favorite target, and has caught a touchdown in all but one game this season. Hopkins has also surpassed 100 yards receiving in four of six games through the first half of the season.
The key matchup in Saturday's conference clash will be Clemson's vaunted aerial assault vs. Virginia Tech's secondary. The Hokies' defense is allowing nearly 37 points per game away from Blacksburg this season, and is clearly the underdog in this matchup.
Clemson boasts the nation's 11th-best passing attack in terms of yardage this season, averaging nearly 325 yards through the air per week. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has also thrown for 14 scores in six games. With superstars like DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins on the outside, Tech's secondary must bring its A-game into Death Valley if its to have any shot at pulling off the upset.
On the Hot Seat
Frank Beamer's team looked pitiful in its two performances against Clemson a season ago, and although Beamer has been calling the shots in Blacksburg since 1987, he will feel his seat heating up if the Hokies suffer a third straight blowout loss to the Tigers this weekend.
Beamer's teams have lost two consecutive bowl games and four of their last six overall. His success at Virginia Tech over the years has created mighty expectations, but Beamer's program is in danger of falling short of those expectations once again in 2012.
Virginia Tech is giving far too many points on the road this season, and Clemson's offense is outright spectacular in Death Valley. With the crowd on their side I like the defending ACC champions to make it three in a row over their conference rival. Clemson's offense is just too potent for Tech to keep up on the scoreboard.
Clemson 41, Virginia Tech 27
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