Georgia Tech and Clemson meet in an early season ACC clash under the lights in Atlanta on Thursday night. The winner of the game will gain a leg up on their competition in the Atlantic and Coastal divisions.
Last week, GT cruised to 37-17 win over Jacksonville State, racking up 497 yards of total offense, including 335 on the ground. The Yellow Jackets got their starters out early with no first teamer going over 40 plays with the short week upcoming. Tech gained eight yards per play in the win but did lose three fumbles and the turnover battle.
Clemson beat Middle Tennessee State 37-14 with a kick return and punt return by C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford respectively. The Tigers got a little bit later start though, not finishing up their game until after 9PM.
Last year, Georgia Tech beat Clemson in Death Valley 21-17 in Dabo Swinney's first game as interim coach for the Tigers. GT had just 207 yards rushing, 66 below their season average, but that was the third most yards allowed by Clemson on the ground in 2008.
The Tigers had just 51 yards on the ground against a Tech team giving up 120 per game, but that total was just Clemson's fourth lowest during a disappointing 2008 campaign that resulted in Tommy Bowden being fired midseason. The Tigers' four lowest rush efforts were all losses.
Clemson turned the ball over four more times than did Georgia Tech, one leading directly to a GT TD.
Starting QB Willy Korn was knocked out of the game and former starter Cullen Harper replaced him. Josh Nesbitt returned after missing two games with a hamstring injury.
Three Keys for Georgia Tech
1. Take Care of the ball
Especially in the red zone. The Jackets put the ball on the ground five times last week, losing three of them. Two good scoring chances were denied due to fumbles. If GT coughs it up this many times again, they won't be able to continue to get scoring chances against a legitimate team like Clemson.
2. Maintain Balance
And not just between the run and the pass—between who carries the ball and to what side. GT's offense clicks when defenses don't know where the ball is going before the snap and after the snap. Jonathan Dwyer is the feature back, but Tech must utilize other backs like Anthony Allen and Roddy Jones, as well as WR Demaryius Thomas, effectively.
3. Kick Coverage
Tech cannot allow Spiller and Ford to get loose for two touchdowns again this week. Jacksonville State did not return a GT punt and got just 19 yards per kick return. Clemson got 27 yards per punt return and 48 per kick last week. Directional kicking, squib kick, short kick...whatever it takes, but limit the touches Spiller and Ford get in the return game.
Three Keys for Clemson
1. Get the Ground Game Established
The Tigers will not win with 51 yards rushing this year. Even if it is not working early Clemson cannot just abandon the run game like they may have in the past. If GT is soft somewhere defensively, it may on the D-line. Spiller is your best player—use him as much as you can.
2. Win the Line of Scrimmage
Georgia Tech's offense is predicated off linemen getting up the field and making blocks. Clemson needs to play big and fast on the defensive line like LSU did in the bowl win last year. The Tigers did a pretty good job last year but need to be even better against a more experienced Yellow Jacket line.
3. Better QB Play
Clemson QBs cannot be 9-of-21 passing and win this game. The Tigers have a better passing attack than Ga Tech and need to move the ball with a short passing game to keep the clock moving and the ball out of the hands of the Jackets' explosive offense.
Ten of the last 13 in this series have been decided by five points or less. Neither team played very well last year, and neither was overly impressive in week one (especially GT).
With the short week, I think Georgia Tech has two big physical advantages because they don't have to travel and their game ended before Clemson's even started.
I see this one coming down to the fourth quarter again in higher than expected scoring game (total set at 42).
Georgia Tech 31, Clemson 24
Ga Tech Covers -5
Last Week: 1-2 ATS, 1-2 SU
Season: 1-2 ATS, 1-2 SU