Clemson Tigers (1-0, 1-0 ATS) at No. 15 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-0, 0-0 ATS) Bobby Dodd Stadium Atlanta, G.A., Thursday September 10th, 7:30PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Georgia Tech -5
The Clemson Tigers travel down to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets this Thursday night in a primetime ACC battle. Both teams kicked off their seasons with victories over weaker opponents last week, but will get their first true test of the year when they square off Thursday night.
Georgia Tech and Clemson are each considered ACC hopefuls this season. The Tigers have flown under the radar this season after so much preseason hype last year. Clemson returns an experienced team led by Heisman Trophy hopeful C.J Spiller who returned a kickoff and punt return in the Tigers victory over Middle Tennessee State last week 37-14.
Georgia Tech ran around, over, and through Jacksonville State in route to a 20 point victory while racking up 335 yards of rushing offense on the ground. The Yellow Jackets are most definitely the best running team in the ACC which could present some problems for the Tigers defense. Georgia Tech won a close 21-17 game a year ago in Death Valley and will be looking for similar results in their first conference meeting of the season.
Clemson returns an experienced defensive group that ranked 18th overall last season. The defense is expected to be a strong unit again this season and they will need to be just that against the running threat of the Yellow Jackets. The biggest challenge the defense experienced last year was their inability to get to the quarterback. Clemson tallied just 14 sacks which equaled dead last in the ACC and outside of the top 100 in the country. They must be able to knock the Georgia Tech offensive line back this Thursday night or the running game will be unstoppable. The Tigers secondary should be able to take on all challengers, but the game will be won up front.
On offense, the Tigers return some key playmakers to keep things exciting. C.J Spiller is one of the most electric players in the ACC although the Heisman campaign may be a bit far fetched. Spiller broke some big plays on special teams last week totaling 171 all-purpose yards. Spiller suffered a hamstring injury in last week’s opener but all indications at this point are that it should not affect this week’s battle. The Tigers success could come down to the passing game behind young quarterback Kyle Parker. Parker must be able to hookup with playmakers like WR Jacobi Ford who has unmatchable speed on the outside and score some big plays if Clemson expects to score the upset. Of course, Spiller could present enough of those big plays if the Yellow Jackets defense lets him run wild.
Georgia Tech also has a very solid defense, but the offense will be just as important. The Yellow Jackets rushing offense ranked 4th in the nation averaging a monstrous 273 yards per game. Jonathon Dwyer is perhaps the best tailback in the conference or at least the most effective. Dwyer who is the former 2008 ACC Player of the Year racked up just less than 1,400 yards last year and got things off to a great start scoring on his first carry of the season breaking open a 74 yard touchdown run last Saturday. Dwyer along with QB Josh Nesbitt give multiple threats for defenses in the option style format run to perfection behind Coach Paul Johnson’s new scheme. Nesbitt and Dwyer both had over 90 yards a piece last week and will be the forefront to success this Thursday night.
On defense, Georgia Tech should be as solid as any team in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets lost most of their talent up front from last year’s dynamic group losing the likes of Michael Johnson and others. However despite popular perception, Clemson has very little success on the ground over the past few years.
If the Yellow Jackets are to get beat, it will likely be on special teams or through the air. If they can get some pressure on Clemson’s young quarterback it should really make it hard for the Tigers passing game considering Parker has yet to be rattled. If they can just get some pressure, it should keep the Clemson air attack grounded. Georgia Tech should turn focus to preventing any big plays on special teams and holding onto the ball. If those things happen, the Yellow Jackets should fair well.
Jay’s Pick - Georgia Tech -5