No. 5 Virginia Tech Hokies (11-1 SU, 4-8 ATS) vs. No. 21 Clemson Tigers (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS), Saturday December, 3rd 2011. 8:00PM EST, College Football Week 14
Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, N.C.
By Jay Horne, NCAA Football Handicapper of Predictem.com
Point Spread: VT -7/Clem +7
Over/Under Total: 51
This year’s ACC Championship Game will be a re-match between the No. 5 Virginia Tech Hokies and the No. 21 Clemson Tigers when the two teams collide inside Bank of America Stadium this Saturday night. Clemson handed Virginia Tech their only loss this season back in the first week of October in a decisive 23-3 victory in Blacksburg, V.A. If not for that single loss, the Hokies may be in the thick of the National Championship hunt. This Saturday the two teams will meet on neutral turf with a trip to a BCS Orange Bowl on the line.
With all respect to Virginia Tech and Clemson, neither team is playing the way they were back in October. At that time Clemson was striving with their passing attack and caught the Hokies at a time when they were in an offensive slump. Entering this Saturday, Clemson is the team in an offensive slump having lost 3 of their last 4 games. In fact, the Clemson offense has been held to 17 points or less in all 3 of those losses. QB Tahj Boyd has not played as strongly as he did earlier in the year and in all honesty has shown a lot of confidence in recent weeks.
Boyd threw just 3 picks through the first 8 games this year, but has now thrown 7 picks in the last 4 games with only 4 touchdowns during that period. Still despite the recent struggles, Clemson still has the best passing unit in the ACC. Freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins is one of the best wide receivers the ACC has seen in some time and has posted 1,073 receiving yards with 10 scores in his first season. Tight end Dwayne Allen is nominated for John Mackey Award given annually to the nation’s top tight end. Throw in another young talent in Nuke Hopkins that has racked up 779 receiving yards and it is apparent that Clemson has the talent to be explosive in the passing game.
The main objective for Clemson offensively will be to give Boyd enough time to throw the football. Boyd struggles in recent weeks can mainly be contributed to pressure from opposing defenses. The offensive line has been a question mark all season and it is imperative they play well this week. Virginia Tech’s defense is led by one of the greatest minds in college football behind defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
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The Hokies are very talented along the defensive line and they get after opposing quarterbacks very well. The Hokies rank 8th in the country averaging 3.08 sacks per game so they need to get pressure on Boyd to be successful. In the previous meeting this season, the Hokies sacked Boyd just once and really did not get much pressure on him throughout the game. Therefore it will be interesting to see if Clemson’s offensive line will be up for the challenge yet again this Saturday night.
For Virginia Tech’s offense, they sport a strong rushing attack that averages 199 yards per game on the ground. The rushing offense is highlighted by tailback David Wilson ranks 3rd out of all running backs with 1,595 rushing yards on the year. Wilson has rushed for at least 100 yards in all but 2 games this season and is coming off a big outing in the 38-0 victory over Virginia last week. In that game, Wilson rushed for 153 yards with 2 scores and it is safe to say he will be the weapon of choice again this Saturday.
I’m sure Wilson will get his fair share of yards this Saturday, but whether or not it will be enough remains to be determined. I believe the x-factor in this game will be Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas. Thomas has improved throughout the 2nd half of the season and shaken off the turnovers that plagued him earlier in the year. In fact, Thomas has not thrown a single interception in 6 of the last 7 games for the Hokies. However, what Thomas has done is added a passing threat to the Virginia Tech offense. In the last 7 games, Thomas has tossed 14 touchdowns and has been effective enough to keep defenses on their heels with the help of the ground attack. If Thomas can make a few plays again this Saturday, it just may be the difference to get the Hokies back to the Orange Bowl.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Clemson has lost all confidence and they appear a bit dazzled which is everything you don’t want from a really young football team. With that into consideration and the Hokies anxiously awaiting their shot at redemption, I think Virginia Tech pulls away late for a decisive victory. Take VT -7
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