ACC Championship Prediction
This is it. The most important game of the season for the Clemson Tigers. Definitely the most important game in the last 18 years or so, and, as some have suggested, perhaps one of the bigger games since the early 1980’s. Regardless of how you feel about the importance of this contest, there is no denying how much a win could mean for the Clemson program – an ACC Championship, extra bowl revenue, a first-ever BCS Bowl appearance on a night when most of the nation will have no other games competing for attention – it all adds up. The opponent is a well-known bunch of option-running Bees from Atlanta, and all signs point to one heck of game.
Georgia Tech vs. Clemson
When Georgia Tech Has the Ball
Yep, we all know that Georgia Tech is all about running the football, and they have some talented playmakers in quarterback Josh Nesbitt and tailbacks Jonathan Dwyer and Anthony Allen [who burned the Tigers for an 82-yard touchdown in the first meeting], but to me, the kill shot always comes after the Jackets have softened up the defense. The defense backs start creeping in, and Nesbitt steps back and hits big receiver Demaryius Thomas for a long pass play, leaving defenses demoralized. You have to leave a cornerback in single coverage on Thomas, and Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said earlier there was no other choice, so either Chris Chancellor or Crezdon Butler will have their hands full. A lot of will also depend on players staying in their gaps and keeping contain on the dive. Clemson was awful at that last week against Carolina, and have had trouble in recent weeks stopping the run up the middle. They have to do a better job this week or Tech could have a field day.
ADVANTAGE – Georgia Tech.
When Clemson Has the Ball
The Jackets had the ball shoved down their throat last week against Georgia, and Clemson fans are hoping the Tigers can do the same. However, the Bulldogs were lining up in the I-formation and running right at Tech, and one of the bigger disappointments for me last week as seeing the Tigers run out of the shotgun and not the I. I wanted to see the Tigers line up behind big old fullback Chad Diehl and run straight at them. In the first game against Tech, the Tigers exploded in the second half, and hit some huge plays in the passing game while hitting for good chunks in the running game. Look for Clemson try and run it early, then hit some of those bigger plays in the passing game. But that was the game plan last week, and instead Carolina slipped into a zone defense and the Clemson offense was stuffed for the better part of three quarters. However, the Georgia Tech defense is not as stout as some others the Tigers have seen, and if this game turns into a shootout, the Clemson offense should be able to throw some numbers on the scoreboard.
ADVANTAGE – CLEMSON
Special teams were a killer in the September contest – Georgia Tech used an illegal play to hit a touchdown on a fake field goal, and the Jackets scored another touchdown on a pooch punt that went awry. 14 points is huge in any game. The Tigers are outstanding in the kick return game, however, and kicker Richard Jackson seemed to settle in nicely last week. Once again, the big question will be if the opponent decides to kick the football to Spiller and Ford. Carolina tried it once last week and got burned, then kicked away. Once again, the question becomes – will Tech head coach Paul Johnson kick to the Clemson’s duo, or will he give good field position to the Clemson offense? A lot depends on how the game starts out and is progressing, but here is betting the onus will be on the Clemson offense to score.
ADVANTAGE – Slight to CLEMSON
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson and his staff give opposing coaches headaches with their different offensive scheme – unless you play a 1-AA team like Wofford, a team won’t see the true option all year. Johnson is all very experienced, and most of the time if pretty good at making adjustments during the game. Clemson’s coaching staff has gotten the Tigers to believe, and a berth in the ACC Championship Game is the reward. The big head-to-head matchup this week is between Johnson and Steele – whoever wins that matchup probably wins the game.
ADVANTAGE – Slight to Tech
This game might just come down to which team makes the better adjustments at halftime. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney had disappointment etched in his face last week after the Carolina loss because his Tigers fell short of one of their five goals – and I expect that practice has been intense this week. I expect that the desire for a little payback, plus the desire for an ACC Championship and an Orange Bowl berth will have Clemson’s players emotional and intense. But will it be enough to overcome the polished schemes of Tech? Time will tell.
CLEMSON 30, TECH 27