Weather X-Factor in Georgia Tech Game


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - Forget the high scoring, wild finishes for just a moment.


After all, if today's Georgia Tech visit to Clemson (Noon, ESPN) turns out to
be another roller-coaster ride, no one will be surprised. But which way the
tide turns could come down to an intricate chess match:


Tech's multiple offense, with its dangerous blend of pass and run, against
Clemson's suddenly resurgent defense, fortified by coordinator John Lovett's
knack for developing schemes and disguising coverages.


After watching film of Clemson's first two games (Georgia, La. Tech), new
Yellow Jackets' head coach Chan Gailey seemed to have a firm understanding of
why the Tigers' defense has been so successful, allowing just 166 rushing
yards so far this season.


"From what I've seen, Clemson looks fast," Gailey said. "They have very good
team speed, including the up front guys on both sides of the line, especially
the inside guys on defense. "They are using an eight-man front and are
attacking the run very well. Their linebackers can all run and those guys are
really active players. They use a lot of disguises in their packages."


Therein lies lies one of the keys to today's matchup.


If Clemson's defense can slow Tech's running game and force Gailey's troops
into a one-dimensional attack, then Lovett's varying looks could serve to
confuse quarterback A.J. Suggs, just as they did Louisiana Tech's Luke McCown
a week ago.


But Tony Hollings, the Yellow Jackets' tailback, has been magnificent through
two games. Granted, he and Georgia Tech were playing against
less-than-formidable competition in Vanderbilt and UConn, but the numbers are
impressive nevertheless. Hollings has rushed for 297 yards in two games,
despite having but one carry in the second half.


In fact, few of Tech's offensive starters have played more than the first
half in each blowout victory, meaning Gailey's offense has yet to show the
entire playbook.


"Right now the biggest question mark is that Georgia Tech has not been
challenged and not had to show its hand," Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden
said. "We've had two 60-minute
games and we've had to play every card. There might be some doubt and
indecision on our part because we know that they are holding something back."


That something could very well be backup quarterback Damarius Bilbo.


Bilbo is expected to see significant playing time today, but in more of a
"slash" role than behind the center. The fact that Georgia Tech closed its
practices to the media this week only served to fuel speculation that
something special was in the works.


"We know about him," Bowden said. "We've got to be aware of Bilbo when he's
on the field."


But even with all the scouting and stragegy, the X-factor today could be the
weather.


Forecasters are calling for anywhere from 2-to-6 inches of rain by this
evening and through the night. How much of that rain falls before and during
the game could play havoc with the Death Valley playing surface.


Though in reasonably good shape for the opener a week ago, the recently
redone grass surface came loose in large chunks on more than one occasion,
and that was bone dry. Add a significant amount of rain to the field, and who
knows what the damage might be.


Then you throw out all of the above. Whoever has the best mudder wins the
game.

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