It is hard to find any opponent on Clemson’s schedule that has brought forth more emotional swings in the past two years than Georgia Tech. Clemson travels to Atlanta Saturday for a 3:30 showdown against the Yellow Jackets in a game that is desperately needed by both teams to keep upper-echelon hopes alive. Also on the line is the competitive battle lines related to alignment when it comes to the ACC bowl pecking order, and both teams Saturday are looking to improve their stock.
The past two years between Tech and Clemson have brought almost completely opposite feelings each year for both teams. And the cities that those teams played in were witness to it all.
One game started at 7:00 p.m. with no television. The other was an 8:00 start time with a national television audience.
One game came a month after Clemson was embarrassed at home against Georgia and only a few weeks after the death of the legendary voice of the Clemson Tigers, Jim Phillips. The other game came a week after an emotional Clemson payback win against a Wake Forest team that had embarrassed the Tigers a year earlier in Winston Salem.
One game had Clemson unveiling their purple jersey tops. The other game had the Tigers wearing their traditional big game all orange.
One game saw Clemson run to a 23-3 halftime lead that looked easier than the score may indicate. The other game saw a 7-7 deadlock at halftime that never hinted at the fireworks that were about to take place.
One game saw Clemson score 20 points in one quarter. The other game saw Georgia Tech score 21 points in one quarter.
One game saw Charlie Whitehurst throw three touchdown passes to three different receivers. The other game saw Reggie Ball throw three touchdown passes to the same receiver.
One game saw Clemson’s defense get a safety. The other game saw Clemson’s special teams give up the biggest play of the game to the horror of Tiger fans standing in their seats.
One game gave Clemson fans an emotional and chest-pumping win. The other game gave Clemson fans a stunned look of pain.
One game gave Clemson a great win and Tech an embarrassing loss. The other game gave exactly the opposite.
The two games in those two years in those two cities were demoralizing to one of the teams in each of the years. While there are plenty of demons looming in the shadows from the Georgia Tech game of last year, there are plenty of fond memories of our last trip inside the newly revamped Bobby Dodd Stadium.
It is a tale of two cities. Two cities about as far apart on the spectrum as two cities can get. And two cities that brought forth completely different emotions the past two years.
There will be plenty of room for Tiger fans in Atlanta this Saturday, despite the fact that it is homecoming for the Yellow Jackets. While most of the renovations to Bobby Dodd have been wonderful, you have to question the upper deck in the end zone. Instead of allowing more seating for Tech fans, the upper deck remains relatively unfilled by Tech fans in most big games. Georgia Bulldog fans fill that new upper deck entirely during their rivalry game and Clemson fans two years ago ate up about 70% of the seats in that section.
Speaking of Tech fans, do any of those fans that bought those premium seats between the 40’s ever come to the games? Each time Tech is on television those seats look empty to me. Maybe the fans that bought those seats are all at the game, just up in the air conditioned and well stocked club level. I don’t know, but it creates a weird visual for television cameras.
Calvin Johnson is really good, but I think we sometimes make him out to be more than he really is based on those great catches last year. He can certainly beat Clemson all by himself Saturday. But I will be surprised if he dominates the game this year to the same extent as he did last year.
Tech’s young offensive line has forced the Yellow Jackets to roll out Reggie Ball more than they did a year ago. The results have been mixed, with Ball’s completion percentage down from a year ago. But when you roll out a quarterback, the key on defense is for you linebackers to pursue to the ball. Keep an eye on the key match up between Clemson’s linebackers and Reggie Ball on Saturday.
Everybody wants to talk about the close games between these two teams, but let us not forget that the last time Clemson traveled to Atlanta, the Tigers won convincingly. In fact, Clemson has dominated the Yellow Jackets statistically the past two years, despite the fact that the Tigers lost last year. And Clemson had the opportunity to blow out Tech the past three years, although the only actual rout was two years ago in Atlanta.
The loss of Donnell Clark and James Davis really hurt this weekend. Let’s see if we can have people step up to cover. Speaking of Davis, does anybody really believe without a shadow of a doubt that he won’t play Saturday? Not me.
Major kudos to Clemson fans that showed up in mass last weekend at Clemson against a Temple team that was about as exciting as my ninth grade Algebra teacher.
Speaking of last week, it sure was good to see Kyle Browning catch a touchdown pass. If there were ever a kid that epitomizes what it is to be a college athlete willing to do whatever he can for a team, it is Browning. Many thought Kyle was a package deal with All-Everything Roscoe Crosby. As it turned out, Crosby was the package deal.
Whatever Clemson is paying the contractors for the West EndZone, they deserve a tip based on the stunning progress that has taken place in such a short time. The rounded corners of the stadium are now habitable for fans, which is great considering the large crowds expected for Homecoming against Duke and the Florida State game in two weeks.
Final thought: I think Coach Ford coined the phrase, “A win is a win is a win”. Saturday this team needs a win. It does not matter what shape or form it comes in. I love the idea of a 5-3 team on a three game winning streak heading down the stretch with home games against Duke, FSU, and a road game in Columbia.
Go to the game and be loud…let’s take Bobby Dodd over like we did two years ago.
See you in Atlanta.