Clemson and Georgia Tech Game Prediction


by - Senior Writer -
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Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele get his first chance at stopping Paul Johnson's offense.

The Clemson Tigers have an early-season matchup at Georgia Tech on Thursday, and the game is as crucial as any Game Two of the season could be. Even though the teams play in different divisions in the ACC, the winner will have an early leg up on the competition as the drive towards the ACC Championship Game begins. Last week, the Picking Machine was as close as you can be when it picked the Tigers to win 37-13 against Middle Tennessee State, and they won by a 37-14 tally. While I love the fact that the Machine got that close, I have no expectations that will happen again this week. The Clemson-Tech series has been up and down, with 10 of the past 13 games decided by five points or less. You could honestly make any sort of prediction and come up with a pretty good chance of being right. But here is what I see.

Clemson at Georgia Tech

When Clemson Has the Ball

The Tigers unveiled redshirt freshman quarterback Kyle Parker last week, and Parker played well in his first start – protecting the football and efficiently managing the offense. He even managed a couple of runs that showed his elusive side. However, there were drops by receivers in the passing game, and expect Georgia Tech load up the box with anywhere from 8 to 10 players and concentrate on stopping C.J. Spiller, Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington. The Jackets have better athletes on defense than the Blue Raiders, and will force Parker and the receivers to beat them through the air. If Parker and his wideouts can hit a couple of big plays early, it might open up the running game for C.J. Spiller, who had one of his most electric games against Tech three years ago. Expect Spiller to have some openings, especially late as the Jacket defense wears down.

ADVANTAGE – EVEN

When Georgia Tech Has the Ball

Everybody already knows the Jackets have Paul Johnson’s option offense ready to roll in year two of the Johnson era. But the Jackets actually enjoyed a huge amount of success last season, and Clemson was one of the few teams to actually hold Tech in check. Teams that have athletic defensive ends who are able to play assignment football (Bowers, Sapp, Alexander anyone?) have the best chance of stopping the big plays that are inherent to option offense. The Tigers have the athletes to stop the Tech running game, but stopping it for four quarters is a tough challenge because teams don’t see it very often. Last week, the Jackets also continued a haunting trend from last season when they had five turnovers. Clemson’s ball hawks will be on the prowl for big turnovers all evening.

ADVANTAGE – EVEN.


Special Teams

The Tigers and Spiller started the season off with a bang last week, with Spiller and Jacoby Ford each enjoying big returns. The punting game was also very good, and Richard Jackson was 3-for-5 on field goals, and this may be a game in which he has to hit the first crucial big kick of his career. Tech head coach Paul Johnson said this week that he has no problem kicking it to Clemson’s playmakers, but if the game is tight late, don’t look for Clemson’s playmakers to get their hands on the ball. Tech sophomore cornerback Jerrard Tarrant returned a punt 68 yards for a score for Georgia Tech's first punt return for a touchdown since 2003.

ADVANTAGE – Slight to Clemson.

Coaching

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney promised a return to a more physical, intimidating style of play under his watch, and while the Tigers aren’t quite back to their 80’s form yet, there were several big hits last week. The game operations also went smooth, and Clemson only had four penalties for 40 yards. Thus far, Swinney has done a fantastic job of getting the Tigers head back in the right direction. Johnson is a fantastic coach who has been a winner everywhere he has coached, and Tech will be no exception. His game plan on Thursday will be to stop the Clemson running game while waiting patiently for Clemson to make mistakes on defense.

ADVANTAGE – Georgia Tech.

BOTTOM LINE

I have been all over the web for the past three days, and pretty much every sports and betting site on the planet expects the 15th-ranked Jackets to handle the Tigers. They have home field advantage, a tricky offense, a great head coach, and Clemson’s history of losing these types of games all on their side. Everything seems to point to a Tech victory, and the smart money says the Jackets win in the five to seven point ranges. But the so-called pundits haven’t been around Kevin Steele or his defense the past few months. Nor have they seen the passion that Clemson’s players have exhibited in their desire to turn the program around. Things have been truly different in 2009. Look for that passion to keep the Tigers close throughout the game, and Richard Jackson hits that big field goal late to thrill Clemson fans and give the ACC another nail-biter on national television. Add another tombstone to the entrance of the Clemson practice field.

THE PICK
CLEMSON 23-21

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