Third-ranked Clemson visits Georgia Tech today to kick off the ACC part of the schedule. The game is set to kick at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.
Here are five numbers of significance regarding tonight’s game between the Tigers and Georgia Tech in Atlanta…
20.1: Yards per completion for Georgia Tech in 2016. It’s common knowledge that Paul Johnson’s offense relies on the big play in its downfield passing game to help better balance out the run-heavy tendency of the scheme. For the most part, his teams have been fairly inaccurate on the whole, but chunk plays make them more efficient through the air. This average would best each Johnson-coached team outside of the 2009 and 2011 teams. Over the past four seasons, Tech has averaged between 16 and 18 yards per catch. If Clemson can limit those big plays, the Yellow Jackets could find it quite difficult to move the football.
25.3: Yards per punt return for Ray-Ray McCloud in 2016. Obviously, the sample size is fairly small, with only three games currently in the books. However, this average would blow away the school record of 16.9 yards per return set by Bobby Gage back in 1948. What makes this number particularly interesting is the stark contrast it represents from previous seasons. Last year, for instance, Clemson only returned 27 punts—fewer than two per game—for 63 total yards. That’s good enough for an average of 2.3 yards per return. The leader in that category was Artavis Scott, who managed only 55 yards on 13 returns. McCloud gives Clemson its first legitimate weapon in the punt returner role in a number of years.
28: Road wins in conference games for Clemson since its last win at Georgia Tech. That win came on September 20, 2003, by a convincing 36-point margin (39-3). The Tigers have lost the last five meetings between the two teams in Atlanta, the longest active string of road futility for Clemson against an ACC opponent. As a reference point, Florida State has only beaten Clemson four consecutive times in Tallahassee. The average margin of victory for the Jackets during that five-game stretch is exactly ten points, but the most recent matchup in 2014 resulted in a 22-point win, the largest margin of the five.
34: Times Clemson and Georgia Tech have played against each other since 1983. That’s the first year the Yellow Jackets joined the Atlantic Coast Conference. Since that point, the two sides have been evenly matched, with both teams winning 17 times apiece. Even so, the Tigers have won the point differential by an astounding 141 points in those 34 meetings. At one time, this game was destined to be a barnburner every single year. From 1997 to 2001, the matchup was decided by exactly three points each time. That is no longer the case, however, with the past six meetings between these two teams being decided by 14 points or more each time.
71: Rushing yards Clemson allowed to Georgia Tech last season. When the Yellow Jackets came into Death Valley with a banged-up offense, no one believed the result would be the worst day ever for Johnson’s option attack—and it wasn’t even close. The only game that even approached that level of ineptitude moving the football on the ground for Johnson at Tech came in his third game with the school, against Miami in 2009. The 1.7 yards per carry fell short of Tech’s season average by more than three times, a staggeringly low outlier in the data set of the season. In that Miami game in 2009, the Yellow Jackets averaged 2.4 yards per carry—the previous low for Johnson during his time in Atlanta.