For Tigers, Time Is Now
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I will go ahead and say it in this opening sentence: I picked VT to win this game. Yes, in our weekly contest of 15 games, I took the Hokies. But deep down, in the bottom of my heart, I feel I may have chosen unwisely. Gameday is here, and all of the sudden I am seeing everything in orange. No, not orange accompanied with maroon, but orange accompanied with purple. My mind is telling me to stick with my pick of the Hokies, but my heart is telling me this year's Clemson team is different. But, even if the Tigers are different, winning in Blacksburg is still a tough task...
I said I would never pick against Clemson in a game where I thought we had a good shot. So for the last couple of days, I have been at odds with myself wondering if I made the right choice in picking VT. You see, I am torn. I want badly to win the 5th annual Pick'em Contest here on Fans25, and I am currently tied for 2nd place out of 114 players. I am trying to pick smart. But as I sit here in the early AM of gameday, I am wishing I had picked CU. Why? Because I think Clemson has a serious, serious shot tonight.
I know how Blacksburg is. It is loud, and the stands go straight up, and their fans get after it. They play Enter Sandman by Metallica, and the place goes bananas, and they run out with the American Flag. It's not bad.
But that stuff wears off after a few drives - and then you have to play football. Us folks down here in the upstate of South Carolina know that all too well. If pageantry won you home games, we would be 180-0 the last few decades.
So that brings us to the actual play between the white lines, and this looks to be one hell of a game. VT is led by a quarterback of which they are very excited about, 6'-6" sophomore, Logan Thomas. We always know Tech will show up to play defense.
Clemson is being led on offense by Tajh Boyd, a sophomore QB that is breaking out before our very eyes under first-year OC Chad Morris. Boyd's favorite target is freshman WR Sammy Watkins, who is tied for the national lead with six TDs already in 2011. The Tiger D is young, but talented, and very well coached.
As is so important in football, the running game will certainly be a factor tonight. Tech's top rusher is David Wilson, who has already matched his 2010 total of five rushing scores. He averages 5.9 yards per carry. Wilson's partner in crime is Josh Oglesby, who has five scores as well, and is averaging 4.8 per touch. VT is known to always have a solid running game.
Clemson will counter with junior Andre Ellington (three scores, 4.8 per touch), freshman DJ Howard (one score, 8.4 per touch) and freshman Mike Bellamy (one score, 7.5 per touch). Bellamy has lightning fast speed, but is still a bit small, and is limited in offensive knowledge. Ellington is the go to guy to start with, and Howard and Bellamy will provide other looks.
Special teams will certainly come into play, and Clemson makes me nervous. While our punter, Dawson Zimmerman, is pretty good, he is also coming back from injury after he got nailed by a Seminole. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro is a 50-50 every time it seems like. Tech features sophomore Cody Journell, who is 4 of 7 this season on field goals. I feel a big FG will come into play in the 4th quarter.
One interesting fact in this game is that it features the ACC's oldest coach in Tech's Frank Beamer (64 years old) against the ACC's youngest head coach, Clemson's Dabo Swinney (41).
So as I get ready for this game, I am torn, still, over my pick. While I am being respectful of what Lane Stadum has done to my squad in recent memory (1999 and 2006 losses), I am also thinking that three guys in Clemson have seriously changed our attitude, and that we will give the Hokies all they want and then some tonight. Those three guys are Chad Morris, Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. Last year, those three names were non-existent, barely mentioned and non-existent, respectfully, among the Tiger nation. Twelve months later, Morris is OC, Boyd is adapting super well to Morris' system, and Watkins is looking like a freshman All-American fielding Boyd's passes.
Clemson's hope is for more of the same from the offense. They want to get Watkins and fellow WR Nuke Hokpins to spread 'em out, then run the three backs. So far, Morris has adapted to find a way to put 38 on Auburn and 35 on FSU. It will be interesting to see his wits match up against Tech DC mainstay Bud Foster (Hokie defensive staff since 1987). VT takes defense very seriously, and this is going to be one heck of a duel.
Like I said in the opening paragraph, I am picking VT. I honestly do feel Clemson is different this year, but even at that, it is tough to win in Blacksburg. Tiger fans have been through a lot, and no team or fan-base in America is ready to make a home in the top ten like CU is. I think Watkins brings new firepower - a weapon who could be six points on any given touch. I think the defense will get better with each and every game.
But this is a very, very young team, and tonight will be tough. I will be on the ground pounding the floor when we are on defense. I will be pacing the house when we are on offense. I will be pulling for my Tigers as hard as I possibly can - and I think we can do it. But, until I see it actually happen on the field, I will respect my opponent and respect recent history, and pick VT.
This is going to be one for the ages! Dabo, prove me wrong. The time is now.
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