As the Tigers and Jackets head into the second game of their seasons, both teams are vulnerable. The Thursday night game brings new dynamics to a matchup that already promised to be a good game. With only days to prepare for the opponent, both defensive coordinators are under a lot of pressure to get their teams to game-ready status.
All the talk of this game has centered on the question of how Clemson will prepare for the gimmicky offense of Paul Johnson. ACC teams struggled with Georgia Tech all last year as the Jackets offense is one of the trickiest to understand and defend.
The biggest question mark for Clemson going into this game is whether they will be able stop the running game. As it is with every team that plays Georgia Tech, the only way to beat them is to take away their offense and it starts up front.
If Clemson lets the Jackets rushing attack get rolling they could be in for a long night. Jonathan Dwyer is looking to make a statement on national television, and he is key to how well the Tech offense plays. If Clemson can get quick pressure up front to disrupt the timing of Georgia Tech then they have a chance to pull out a big win.
For Georgia Tech, their biggest challenge will come in preparation for a team that they don't know a lot about. Clemson has changed so much of their coaching staff and revamped the system. The Tigers have a lot of options on offense with Kyle Parker and a plethora of quality running backs. In addition, Clemson only showed the basic playbook last week which leaves the Tech coaching staff without much to study.
It is still unknown how effective C.J. Spiller will be due to a hamstring injury, but theoretically he is not irreplaceable. Clemson had two other backs with over 70 yards rushing in the first game. If Spiller is healthy, Clemson will have a big day on the ground but without their feature back, they make it a lot easier for the Jackets defense to shut them down.
For Clemson, there are two keys; run the ball effectively and don't make mistakes. Six turnovers killed them against Georgia Tech last year, and they can't afford to give away free possessions. They have the talent to run on Tech and if they do, they put themselves in a great position for a win.
Georgia Tech has to establish the run early and sustain the long drives. If the Jackets can get an quick lead and get Clemson out of the running game then it's all over. This game is Tech's to win. If they can take care of business, they will be in a great position to achieve their goal of an ACC Championship.
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