If it seems like an eternity since Georgia Tech last took the field in football… that’s because it has been virtually that long. Back on November 2nd, the Jackets knocked off Pittsburgh by the score of 21-10, and that has allowed Paul Johnson and company plenty of time to prepare for 8th-ranked Clemson. With that in mind, let’s get to the preview.
Georgia Tech Offense vs. Clemson Defense
If the Jackets have a chance in this game, this side of the ball will be the reason. Tech enters the game as the 5th-ranked rushing team in all of college football (311.2 yards per game), while Clemson is near the middle of the pack in allowing just over 140 yards per contest. The bigger key on the ground, though, will be Tech’s ability (or lack thereof) to keep the ball away from the insane Clemson offense as much as possible.
Tech is coming off of a 276-yard rushing performance against Pitt, but this is a different animal in terms of the athleticism on Clemson’s defense. Vad Lee will absolutely need to establish some sort of threat through the air to keep the ultra-athletic Clemson defensive ends (and safeties) honest, and while that doesn’t seem likely, he’s been better of late.
Robert Godhigh (who has 200 yards and 3 TD’s in his last 2 games) and David Sims have had it going in recent days, and they are the principle reason that Tech has scored 112 points in the last 3 ball games. The offensive line will need to open (and sustain) holes, but if they do, Godhigh and Sims belong on the field with Clemson, and they can produce some explosive plays.
Georgia Tech Defense vs. Clemson Offense
This is a bit uglier. Clemson’s offense is a virtual juggernaut, and they are led by the aforementioned Tahj Boyd. No one is discussing Boyd in the Heisman race anymore (after his collapse against Florida State), but the senior signal-caller still has a 20-to-6 touchdown to interception ratio with over 2,600 yards passing in 9 games.
Boyd isn’t the rushing threat that many people think he is (less than 30 yards per game), but he does have 7 rushing touchdowns, and Ted Roof’s defense will have to account for him with a spy in the red zone. In terms of targets in the air, Sammy Watkins is one of the nation’s best receivers, and he has had a resurgent season as a junior. Watkins has nearly 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns (again, in only 9 games), and the Tech secondary will have their hands full (and then some) with Watkins and Martavis Bryant.
On the ground, they don’t have the explosive back that Andre Ellington was, but Roderick McDowell has been more than up to the challenge. McDowell, coupled with Boyd and Watkins, form one of the best “skill” trios in the entire country, and they are a huge reason why the Tigers have a top-12 offense in both scoring and yardage this season.
With this game set in Death Valley, absolutely no one around the country expects Georgia Tech to compete in this game, much less win it outright. I certainly would never pick that as the most likely outcome, but there is a scenario (in my mind, anyway) where the Jackets ground this game to a halt with the running game, keep the ball away from Tahj Boyd, and rely on the “Clemson being Clemson” factor to take over. No matter the result, this one will be must-see TV, and the entire nation (through the magic of ESPN) will be able to see it.
Stay tuned for post-game coverage, and a live game thread that will open on Thursday afternoon.