No. 5 Clemson Tigers (3-0 SU, 1-2 ATS) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-0 SU, 1-1-0 ATS)
College Football Week 4
Date/Time: Thursday, September 22nd, 7:30PM (EST)
Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium Atlanta, G.A.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CLEM -10/GT +10
Over/Under Total: TBA
A pair of undefeated ACC foes will collide this Thursday when the No. 5 Clemson Tigers go into Atlanta for a meeting with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Last Saturday Georgia Tech scored an impressive blowout victory in a 38-7 rout over Vanderbilt to stay unbeaten. The impressive performance on both sides of the ball from the Yellow Jackets has the potential to make this week’s meeting with Clemson more intriguing. Though the Tigers are double digit favorites, they have not looked very strong at times this year with struggles against both Auburn and Troy. Therefore, this Thursday’s road visit to Georgia Tech should tell us more about how strong this Clemson team really is or if they are still riding on the coat tails of last year’s success.
Many folks may not know this but Clemson and Georgia Tech have a long history as rivals against each other dating back to before both schools joined the ACC. The Yellow Jackets lead the series 50-28-2 but Clemson holds the slight edge 17-16 since joining the ACC. Even in recent years with Clemson’s rise to power, the Yellow Jackets have still been a nuisance to the Tigers with wins in 8 of the last 13 meetings. I believe the reason behind those recent trends is fairly simple. Clemson has built their teams, in recent years, around talent on the offensive side of the ball. Just look back to last season when the Tigers emerged as one of the best offenses in the country and nearly won a National Championship for reference.
However, Georgia Tech’s unique style of play under Coach Paul Johnson has been a problem for Clemson. Under Johnson, the Yellow Jackets have mastered a triple option rushing attack that is not only difficult to defend but it eats up a lot of time on the playing clock. If you limit the amount of opportunities for an offense like Clemson, then you have a much better chance of containing them. It does not always work but the style of play that Georgia Tech has built provides a rather intriguing matchup in this ongoing Clemson vs. Georgia Tech rivalry.
I believe the Yellow Jackets have an opportunity to surprise the Tigers yet again this Thursday. To be honest, Clemson has not looked very sharp so far this season. The defense had to replace a lot of talent over the offseason and it has shown on the field. Meanwhile the offense has not been as explosive as we anticipated. Quarterback Deshaun Watson has struggled a bit completing just 56% of his passes for 692 yards with 7 scores and 3 picks. Not that I expect those numbers to continue because I still think Watson is one of the best quarterbacks in college football. However, the offensive output just has not been convincing. Last year, Clemson dominated with their deadly passing attack and they were just as dangerous on the ground. The biggest difference that I have noticed this season is the lack of progress running the football.
Running back Wayne Gallman had over 1,500 yards last year and Deshaun Watson also rushed for another 1,100 yards on the season. The offense averaged nearly 220 yards per game on the ground in 2015. So far this season, Clemson has just 500 total yards rushing in 3 games. While that may not be entirely disappointing, let’s consider the fact that Clemson’s first 3 opponents were Auburn, Troy, and South Carolina State. Now those numbers appear a little more embarrassing. I believe Clemson has to get their running game going this Thursday to establish some drives and big play possibilities. If they fail to do so, this game could be a lot more close than it potentially should.
There is no doubt that Clemson has the big talent advantage but talent can be overcome with simple execution. The Yellow Jackets executed their assignments very well against Vanderbilt last week with over 500 yards of total offense along with solid play on the defensive side of the football. Quarterback Justin Thomas was able to connect on a few big passes against Vanderbilt which helped set the tone for the offense. The Yellow Jackets style of offense is going to produce a lot of yards on the ground with their triple option but when they can hit a few passes then this offense is really tough to defend. Thomas has been inconsistent at the quarterback position but he is the key to this offense. If he can make a couple of throws down the field, it could really frustrate a Clemson defense that lacks experience. To stop Georgia Tech you have to be very disciplined in your assignments and I think that may be something Clemson struggles with this Thursday.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I feel like this is a bad matchup for Clemson like it normally is when these two teams tangle. Take Georgia Tech +10
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