It's been a strange year for the Virginia Tech Hokies, who started out No. 16 in the AP poll but now aren't receiving any votes for the Top 25. However, their chances to win the ACC remain alive, and they will travel to take on the 19th-ranked Clemson Tigers in a critical conference matchup.
These teams met in the ACC Championship game in 2011, with the Tigers getting the upper hand.
Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas was getting Heisman hype before the season began, but he has not performed up to expectations. Meanwhile, Tigers QB Tajh Boyd has continued improving from his sophomore campaign.
Here is a breakdown of what should be an exciting game between two dynamic quarterbacks fighting to vault their teams into favorite status in the ACC.
Current Betting Line (via Odds Shark)
Spread: Clemson (-8)
Money Line: Virginia Tech (+260), Clemson (-320)
Virginia Tech Injury Report
Caleb Farris, C (ankle) QUESTIONABLE, David Wang, G (knee) QUESTIONABLE, Andrew Miller, C (ankle) OUT.
Clemson Injury Report
D.J. Howard, RB (shoulder) QUESTIONABLE.
(Note: Injury information courtesy of USA TODAY)
What's at Stake/BCS Impact
Clemson must keep pace with Florida State in the ACC Atlantic division, since FSU beat the Tigers earlier this season.
The Hokies are vying for the top spot in the weaker, but tighter, Coastal division where Miami, North Carolina and Duke all have only one loss in conference play thus far.
It was expected that Virginia Tech would make a run at a second consecutive BCS bowl bid, but it looks like the Tigers are in better position to do that. The computer rankings despise Clemson, though, so they must have something to prove on Saturday.
A win by the Hokies would put them much more into the mix for the conference championship game where an automatic BCS bid would be at stake.
Virginia Tech Player to Watch: QB Logan Thomas
All the hype surrounding the junior seems to have dissipated.
Although he will still likely be a first-round pick, Thomas' season has been a pretty massive disappointment. His accuracy has dropped, and his decision-making hasn't improved very much.
Perhaps Thomas is pressing too much in the face of more pressure than he encountered last season. He took 17 sacks in 2011, but has already been brought down 13 times this year.
In a story by Hank Kurz Jr. that ran in the Augusta Chronicle, Thomas indicated that he's ready to avenge last year's two losses to Clemson:
It’s something that I’m not going to let slip out of the back of my mind...Two tough losses last year prevented us (from being) in a bigger bowl game … but I’m extremely happy to get another shot at them – and hopefully get a chance to take it to them on their own turf.
Thomas must step up with his best game of the season against the Hokies' first ranked opponent for Virginia Tech to have any chance of pulling the road upset.
Clemson Player to Watch: WR Sammy Watkins
A two-game suspension to start the season put a wrench in Watkins' bid to live up to his preseason ACC Player of the Year billing. The super sophomore has not had a spectacular game yet and missed the Boston College game two weeks ago with a stomach virus.
Watkins has been outshone by teammate DeAndre Hopkins, who is second in the NCAA with 777 receiving yards and tied for third with eight touchdowns.
It will be interesting to see if Watkins can finally get into a rhythm. If he can, and if Hopkins continues his amazing string of games, it will be a long day for the Hokies.
The Virginia Tech secondary is giving up under 210 yards per game through the air. They will face by far their toughest test to date in dealing with Tajh Boyd and his lethal weapons DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins.
While it's unlikely that the Hokies will be able to shut down both of the big-play receivers, they must prevent at least one of them from having a monster game. The last thing the Virginia Tech offense wants is to get into a shootout with the Tigers.
With home-field advantage and more offensive firepower, it's hard to envision the Tigers dropping this one in Death Valley. The Tigers are simply a different animal of an opponent than the Hokies have faced all season, which should make the outcome fairly decisive.
Final score: Clemson 34, Virginia Tech 24