Clemson vs. Virginia Tech prediction: Hokies and Tigers face off in chilly Blacksburg


by - Senior Writer -
Clemson faces Virginia Tech at 7:30 pm on ABC Saturday.
Clemson faces Virginia Tech at 7:30 pm on ABC Saturday.

Clemson closes out the regular season Saturday night with a trip to chilly Blacksburg (forecasted to feel like below freezing all game) to take on Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech has been up and down this season, as highlighted by its 4-5 record, and head coach Justin Fuente is under fire in his fifth season at the helm of the Hokies. In Fuente’s first season, Clemson held off a determined Virginia Tech effort in the ACC Championship Game and pulled out a 42-35 win. Clemson would go on to win the National Championship that season.

The Tigers and Hokies played the next season in Blacksburg, and I consider the lead-up to that game the high-water mark of the Fuente tenure. Tech was 4-0 and ranked No. 12 nationally, while Clemson was ranked No. 4. The Tigers cruised to a 31-17 victory over the Hokies, and the programs have gone vastly different directions since that game. Clemson is 44-4 since that night, with two appearances in the National Championship Game and one win, while Virginia Tech is just 23-21.

NO. 4/3 CLEMSON (8-1, 7-1 ACC) at VIRGINIA TECH (4-5, 4-4 ACC)

WHEN: SATURDAY, DEC. 5th, 7:30 P.M. ET
WHERE: LANE STADIUM, BLACKSBURG, VA.
TELEVISION: ABC (Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Maria Taylor)
RADIO: Clemson Tigers Network (Don Munson, Tim Bourret, Reggie Merriweather)
RADIO: Westwood One Sports (Patrick Kinas, Derek Rackley)
SATELLITE RADIO: Sirius 83, XM 83, Internet 83

SERIES HISTORY

OVERALL: Clemson leads series, 22-12-1
HOME: Clemson leads series, 9-6-1
ROAD: Clemson leads series, 9-4
NEUTRAL: Clemson leads series, 4-2
LAST MEETING: Sept. 30, 2017 (31-17, W)
STREAK: Clemson, Won 5

NOTABLE

*Clemson has played 1,218 regular-season games in its 125-season history, posting a 734-439-45 record in those contests. However, only six of those 1,218 regular-season games have been contested in the month of December. Clemson is 3-3 all-time in December regular-season games, dropping its first three in 1922, 1928 and 1945.

Clemson has won its three most recent December regular-season games, including wins by Frank Howard's squads in 1948 and 1956 and a win by Tommy Bowden's 2001 team against Duke. Clemson's 59-31 win against Duke on Dec. 1 was played on that date as a function of postponement following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

*The 2020 Clemson seniors (30-2 in ACC regular-season play from 2017-20) are attempting to surpass the 2018 and 2019 seniors (30 wins each) as the winningest class in school history in regular-season conference play and tie the four-year conference record of 31, set by multiple Florida State classes from 1995- 2000.

*Clemson is attempting to improve to 51-3 against conference opponents since the start of the 2015 season, the first year of Clemson's active run of five consecutive ACC titles.

*Clemson is attempting to win a sixth consecutive game against Virginia Tech, dating to the 2011 season when the Tigers defeated the Hokies twice. It would be Clemson’s longest streak in the series since winning nine consecutive games against the Hokies from 1955-85.

*Clemson is attempting to win a third consecutive game in Blacksburg.

WHEN CLEMSON HAS THE BALL

Virginia Tech defenders took notice earlier this week when Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott noted that the Hokies have had so many moving pieces all season that they lack an identity. The Hokies agreed with that, but they noted that in Clemson’s lone loss at Notre Dame, the Irish were physical with the Clemson offensive line and backs.

Clemson has proven it doesn’t have to run the football to put up big numbers – there is that guy named Trevor Lawrence who can throw it all over the yard – but the Hokies are 12th in the ACC in rush defense, and if they try and get too physical, there might be gaps for Travis Etienne to run through the defense. Clemson has struggled a little bit to run the ball this year — they’re the No. 76 rushing offense in the country despite having Etienne. Etienne has 692 rushing yards, which is tied for 21st in the country and he hasn’t rushed for more than 100 yards in a game since Miami on Oct. 10.

However, Etienne has 40 receptions this season and I don’t think the Hokies have a linebacker that can stay with Etienne coming out of the backfield. The first few possessions should give us an idea of the Hokie gameplan, and once Elliott figures that out, the Tigers will begin to move the ball at will. Virginia Tech can get to the quarterback – they have 32 sacks this season, which is good for fourth nationally – and the defensive line will have to play really, really well for the Hokies to have a chance.

Expect Lawrence and Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell to have big days.

ADVANTAGE: CLEMSON

WHEN VIRGINIA TECH HAS THE BALL

Clemson’s defense will have to bring the juice against the “Juice.” Hokie running back Khalil “Juice” Herbert is averaging 167.8 all-purpose yards per game, the top ACC mark and the second-highest average in the nation among players seeing duty in five or more games behind Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim (184.0 all-purpose ypg in five games). Herbert’s 1,510 all-purpose yards lead all FBS players.

The Hokies lead the ACC in rushing, averaging 251 yards per game on the ground. However, Virginia Tech is 12th in passing offense and missing a few key components at wide receiver. That plays right into the hands of Brent Venables’ defense, which is getting healthy at the right time. Linebacker James Skalski, linebacker Mike Jones, Jr., and defensive tackle Tyler Davis all returned to action last week against Pitt and the Tigers held a dangerous Pitt offense to under 300 yards.

Quarterback Hendon Hooker does a nice job of taking care of the football but will face a determined defensive front. Last week, Venables played some three-man fronts and “rabbit” packages (moved defensive end Myles Murphy inside), and we could see more of that in an effort to confuse Hooker. What we’re likely to see, however, is more of the Miami gameplan – swarm the offensive line with multiple defenders and make the quarterback beat you with his arm. Miami couldn’t do it with D’Eriq King. Hooker won’t do it, either.

ADVANTAGE: CLEMSON

SPECIAL TEAMS

Herbert leads the ACC in kickoff returns, averaging 27.2 yards per return. Oscar Bradburn handles the punting duties and is solid at just over 43 yards per kick, while Clemson’s Will Spiers continues to have an outstanding season, averaging 46 yards per punt, good for third in the league. BT Potter is 15-20 on field goals, while Virginia Tech’s Brian Johnson is 15-21. Potter leads the league with 60 touchbacks, while Virginia Tech’s John Parker Romo is sixth with 28. However, Potter nails a touchback on 92.3 percent of his kickoffs, while Romo is at 57 percent. Yes, Herbert is dangerous and would seem to give the Hokies the edge there, but Potter nullifies that edge.

ADVANTAGE: EVEN

WHAT WILL HAPPEN

Virginia Tech wants to be physical. Virginia Tech needs to make a statement. Maybe if this wasn’t 2020 and Lane Stadium was at capacity, you would think the Hokies could make a run in this one. But this Clemson team has hit the ruthless stage of the season. The Tigers know it's all about making an impression, and the Hokies are in the way. The Hokies will hit a few plays in the run game and maybe have a surprise or two in the pass game, but much like the game against Miami, I think the Clemson defense swarms Hooker and the Hokies will be behind before they ever get the offense untracked.

FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 47, VIRGINIA TECH 16

More TigerNet picks
Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 48-17 Clemson
Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 48-7 Clemson
Brandon Rink - Staff writer - 45-17 Clemson
Pigskin Prophet - 45-20 Clemson
Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 42-7 Clemson*

(* Picking the same score all season)

Game Actual David Hood Mickey Plyler Nikki Hood Brandon Rink Pigskin Prophet Tony Crumpton
Wake Forest 37-13 CU 42-9 CU 49-10 CU 49-13 CU 47-10 CU 44-13 CU 42-7 CU
The Citadel 49-0 CU 52-7 CU 57-6 CU 59-7 CU 55-0 CU 62-6 CU 42-7 CU
Virginia 41-23 CU 38-12 CU 41-14 CU 52-17 CU 45-16 CU 41-13 CU 42-7 CU
Miami 42-17 CU 37-16 CU 38-23 CU 38-20 CU 37-20 CU 41-20 CU 42-7 CU
GT 73-7 CU 45-13 CU 51-13 CU 52-7 CU 55-10 CU 44-13 CU 42-7 CU
Syracuse 47-21 CU 62-9 CU 63-10 CU 70-3 CU 59-6 CU 63-3 CU 42-7 CU
BC 34-28 CU 37-17 CU 34-20 CU 35-7 CU 27-17 CU 44-20 CU 42-7 CU
Notre Dame 47-40 ND 2OT 30-20 CU 24-20 CU 28-14 CU 27-23 CU 30-13 CU 42-7 CU
Pitt 52-17 CU 44-14 CU 44-20 CU 49-17 CU 45-17 CU 41-17 CU 42-7 CU
VT 45-10 CU 47-16 CU 48-17 CU 48-7 CU 45-17 CU 45-20 CU 42-7 CU
Points - 9 13 13 13 13 13

* Points: 3 pts for best correct prediction of the week (tiebreaker is Clemson score), 2 pts for picking score exactly, 1 pt for picking the correct winner

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