In the last three weeks, let’s just say the competition has not been too stiff for No. 12 Virginia Tech.
Since an opening season win against what appears to be a pretty good West Virginia team, the Hokies have cruised to easy victories over Delaware, East Carolina and Old Dominion. In those three games, the defense has produced two shutouts and has allowed no more than 281 total yards in any of the three wins.
However, Old Dominion ranks 124th nationally in total offense (279.0 ypg), East Carolina is 1-3 and is averaging just 105.5 yards per game on the ground and Delaware is an FCS program.
On Saturday, Virginia Tech (4-0, 0-0 ACC) will step up in competition in a big way when it takes on No. 2 Clemson at 8 p.m. in Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va. The Tigers (4-0, 2-0) not only own wins over No. 13 Auburn and No. 14 Louisville this year, but they have looked good in doing it.
The defense sacked Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham 11 times in a 14-6 victory, while the offense exploded for more than 600 yards the next week at Louisville in routing Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals.
In each of the last three weeks, Virginia Tech has struggled early against lesser competition. It even trailed East Carolina 17-7 after the first quarter. Head coach Justin Fuente knows his team cannot play like this against the Tigers.
“Well you’re not going to be able to get away with much of anything,” he said. “If you make a mistake they’re going to make you pay. There have been some things here and there on defense and some things on special teams and some things offensively that if we make those mistakes it’s not going to be good.”
Clemson is third nationally in total defense, allowing just 227.0 yards per game and third in scoring defense, 9.3 points. On the offensive side, the Tigers rank 12th in total offense (510.2) and 13th in rushing (272.0).
Quarterback Kelly Bryant ranks third in rushing touchdowns (7), running back Travis Etienne is second nationally in yards per carry (12.7) and the defense is second nationally in sacks (17). Clemson is also 10th in red zone offense with 13 scores in 14 trips, including 12 touchdowns.
“Really you don’t even have to make a mistake you can take one step in the wrong direction or hesitate for half a step,” Fuente said. “When you’re playing the talent that we’re going up to it’s like defusing a bomb. Just one small snip of the wire that’s incorrect, and boom! You blow your hands off, that’s just how talented and good they are.
“We have to make sure that we’re on point with everything we’re doing, crystal clear in our directives and our assignment being able to play well because everything will be difficult. A first down will be difficult, a defensive stop will be difficult, punting the ball and covering the punt will be difficult. It’s just all amplified … every step you take is amplified when you play talent like this.”