The Clemson Tigers had good fortune fall their way last Saturday with a decisive 31-7 victory over the Maryland Terrapins. But now, the Tigers have moved on and are preparing to gear up against Paul Johnson’s option offense and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
The Jackets look to continue their winning streak over the Tigers, having established a winning streak since 2007, winning both meetings in the regular season and the ACC Championship Game.
Georgia Tech has certainly had its struggles this season as well, having barely beaten Wake Forest a couple of weeks ago. The loss of Demariyus Thomas has certainly hindered their passing game, while the loss of Jonathan Dwyer has certainly lowered the production of the running backs. This Saturday is certainly anyone’s game to win.
If Clemson is to claim a victory, there are several key pieces that must be in place on Saturday.
It all starts with stopping Georgia Tech’s option. Clemson’s defense played the run well against Maryland, and has seen some progress in stopping the run.
Clemson must have a good performance from its linebackers if it wants to hope to stop Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt. The linebacker corps has been the only question mark of the entire Clemson defense. One has to wonder how the young linebackers will actually perform on the field against the option.
It will be the first time for redshirt freshman starter Quandon Christian, as well as extended time for Tig Willard, who has played few snaps against this offense. Corico Hawkins and Brandon Maye are the two linebackers most experienced against the spread option. Young players like Justin Parker and Spencer Shuey are sure to have their troubles as well.
To combat the option, Clemson may rely heavily on its defensive line, led by Daquan Bowers, and the physical secondary. It’s possible plenty of nickel may be seen if the linebackers struggle, with Deandre in the box as a linebacker.
The final piece is, of course, Kyle Parker and the passing game.
The passing game has struggled all season, and Parker and the receivers have not always been on the same page. Some answers have been found in true freshman Deandre Hopkins, and even sophomore Jaron Brown. Hopkins was out last week with an injury, but will play full speed on Saturday. The passing game can be further elevated through extended use of Jamie Harper out of the backfield, as he possesses one of the best hands on the team.
Georgia Tech is currently making the transition to a 3-4 defense under Al Groh, and has seen its struggles all year. They have had their problems stopping the run, and Clemson MUST take advantage and do what they do best by running the football with Andre Ellington. A few quarterback runs by Kyle Parker helped to keep the Maryland defense guessing; they will do the same thing against Georgia Tech here.
Most of all, scoring is the primary key to stopping an option team like Georgia Tech. The option does not play well when that team is behind. It forces them to throw the ball and score quickly, and option teams do not have the best passing games.
On Saturday, the Tigers must play disciplined football if it wants to finally put a win against Paul Johnson.