Clemson - Georgia Tech Preview
Posted By:Brett Haynes - Greenville, SC Tags:
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Clemson at #13 Georgia Tech. The Tigers and Yellow Jackets tangle tonight in a prime-time ESPN contest on national TV from Atlanta, GA. This has historically been one of the closest rivalries in college football over the last 15 years with the average margin of victory hovering right around four whole points. This game should be no different as the two teams are evenly matched. For the second time in four nights, the ACC takes center stage.
2009 - in atlanta, ??????
2008 - in clemson, in rain, Dabo's first game - lost 21-17
2007 - in atlanta, horrible day on offense - lost 13-3
2006 - in clemson, hosted ESPN's "Gameday" - won 31-7
2005 - in atlanta, another horrible day of offense - lost 10-9
2004 - in clemson, gave up 14 points in final 2 minutes - lost 28-24
2003 - in atlanta, everything jived on this night, even purple jerseys - won 39-3
2002 - in clemson, Willie Simmons saves the day, rained like i've never seen! won 24-19
2001 - in atlanta, Woody Dantzler shows out - won 47-44 OT
2000 - in clemson, we lost on Kerry Watkins fingernail grab - lost 31-28
1999 - in atlanta, Bowden's first team almost wins shoot out - lost 45-42
That is a quick look at the last decade of this series. I attended every one of those games except for in 2001, when I watched the game with my dad at his house. This year will be the second time in 14 years I do not attend this game. I probably attended more games than this - I know I went to Atlanta in 1995 (win) and almost certainly went to the other two games in college (1998 loss, 1997 loss), but I dont remember.
So tonite the Tigers are in a historically bad place and time. That place is Atlanta, where Clemson rarely finds a way to win in any venue. And the time is Thursday night, where the Tigers are 2-8 all-time. On paper, this game should go Tech's way. But this is college football, and with some fresh faces on the Tiger sideline, we will just have to wait and see.
The question all week has been whether or not Clemson can stop the GT flexbone running game. And yes, it is a tricky little thing to figure out. Kevin Steele, the new Clemson defensive coordinator, certainly has a tough task ahead of him, no doubt. But with very gifted athletes to utilize, I think he can give it a good effort. But it isn't just the Tech offense that will be tricky to figure out. What I want to do here is throw that same question back at the GT folks; can you stop the Clemson offense?
The Clemson offense is as big of a mystery to GT as their offense is to Clemson. Running backs Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper are unknowns basically to the Tech coaching staff being so young. But they are extremly talented. And on top of that, CU will certainly have a new plan of attack after scoring just 20 points on the Jackets the last 2 seasons. One more new wrinkle is that Tech has not yet seen Kyle Parker. The Tiger quarterback was wanted by virtually every school in the country two years ago, and by beating out fellow blue-chipper Willy Korn (who was a five-star recruit himself), obviously has the walk to go with the talk. He has a rocket arm, but is also very mobile.
The Tiger receivers dropped several passes last week against MTSU, but are a mixed bag with some potential. Jacoby Ford is a speed demon, and Xavier Dye and Terrance Ashe have a bit of size. I'm not going to build this group up, because they haven't proven anything yet (Ford has pretty good career numbers). But, I will say that they are good enough to serve as a threat. If the o-line is feeling froggy, and get a good jump off of the snap, they could provide just enough room for a man I haven't mentioned yet: CJ Spiller. With all of the talk about the GT running game, you can bet that Spiller would love to run his name right into the Heisman talk. Tech's Jonathon Dwyer is a very solid running back, and Spiller and Dwyer will both be trying their best to steal the spotlight from the other in tonight's game.
Defensively, Clemson wil have to keep the Jacket running game off of the field. This will mean one thing: stopping the run. Jacket junior quarterback Josh Nesbitt has accounted for 10 touchdowns in his career, 7 of which were on the ground. He hasn't had to throw deep too much, but he can if he has to, and a few throws against Clemson to soften the line will spell trouble for CU. But that is easier said than done. The Tigers feature two of the conference's best defensive-linemen in Ricky Sapp and De'Quan Bowers. Linebackers must plug holes and keep their assignments, not hopelessly guess who has the ball and then dive at fake runners all night.
Paul Johnson definetly had a great first season at Tech. After beating UGA in Athens, it seemed that GT was on the way to a top 10 finish. But LSU quickly humbled the Jackets with a 38-3 beat down in the Jackets home city of Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. After that embarassment in his own backyard just 9 months ago, you can bet Johnson wants this prime-time game badly.
On the flipside, Dabo Swinney wants this game just as bad if not worse. The Tigers are his team now, and he wants to put a stamp on them. He needs a big win to solidify his team's trust in this new staff and their mission. Bigger though, on top of those things, Dabo Swinney just hates to lose - simple as that. So this game is a HUGE game for both coaches on both sidelines.
My prediction: After reading this, fans will certainly see me as biased. The fact is that I just don't care. I have said from day one of this website's conception that I was a fan like the rest of you only trying to be an expert. I see these teams as 50/50 going into this game, and with that said, there isn't a snowball's chance in Mexico that I am picking my own team to lose. There are about seven or eight teams that I wouldn't give my Tigers too much of a chance against right now, and Georgia Tech isn't on that list. Does that mean that I think Clemson is a top 10 team? No! But what it means is that I have enough confidence in my program and our players and our coaches that I wouldnt guarantee a loss unless we were playing one of those seven or eight teams. So where am I going with this? What I am trying to say is that this has all of the makings for another great, close GT-Clemson matchup and I am not about to sit on my couch and expect my Tigers to lose. Hell no. We have great players, and a fantastic, enthusiastic new coaching staff. It is time to think positive again... Clemson 27, GT 23.
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