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What you need to know: No. 2 Clemson at No. 12 Virginia Tech

BLACKSBURG, Va. — The second-ranked Clemson Tigers will visit No. 12 Virginia Tech tonight (8 p.m.) after Clemson claimed a 42-35 victory in the 2016 ACC Championship Game. The Hokies are coming off a 38-0 win over Old Dominion, while Clemson posted a 34-7 win in Death Valley over Boston College.

In its last 10 games versus top 15 team, Clemson has posted a 9-1 record, including wins over No. 13 Auburn and No. 14 Louisville already this year.

The Tigers have been ranked in their last seven meetings with the Hokies. Clemson has won the last four games in the series after Tech won five straight from 1998-2007.

Game information:

Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.

Records: Clemson 4-0, 2-0 ACC; Virginia Tech 4-0, 0-0 ACC

When: 8 p.m.

TV: ABC

Radio: 105.5 in the Upstate (Clemson Tigers Radio Network); SiriusXM Radio Ch. 84

Latest Line: Clemson favored by 7.5 points

Series: Clemson leads 21-12-1 (Clemson has won four straight)

First meeting: Clemson won 12-5 in 1900 (game was played in Charlotte, N.C.)

Last year: Clemson won 42-35 (2016 ACC Championship Game)

Injury Report:  Out for Season: Richard Yeargin, DE, Neck; Logan Rudolph, DE, Shoulder; Cole Renfrow, TE, Knee; Greg Huegel, PK, Knee. Out this Game: Garrett Williams (TE), knee; Tucker Israel, QB, illness; D.J. Greenlee, TE, Knee; Marcus Edmond, CB, foot. Probable: Trayvon Mullen, CB, concussion protocol; Mark Fields, CB, glute muscle.

Three story lines

Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant seemed confused and rattled at times by what Boston College was throwing at him in last week’s game. The Eagles played press man with a two-deep zone behind it. It took Bryant a while to figure out what they were doing and how to attack it. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster is a master at confusing inexperienced quarterbacks with his exotic zone coverages and blitzes. Foster is known for showing what looks like man coverage and then quickly slipping into a zone to cause confusion and force the quarterback to hang on to the football too long. Can Bryant handle the different looks Foster will throw at him?

Tech’s offensive line is experienced and is a veteran group. The Hokies have done a good job allowing just four sacks thus far, but they have not played a defensive front like Clemson’s. The Tigers lead the ACC and are second in the country in sacks. The Hokies seem to especially be vulnerable on the right side of the line with tackle Kyle Chung. Clemson’s Austin Bryant, who will work that side, leads the ACC with five sacks and could potentially have a big day if Chung cannot handle him.

Can someone other than Cam Phillips make a play for quarterback Josh Jackson? Phillips leads the country with 523 receiving yards on 34 catches. He also has five touchdowns. But the next closest Hokie has just 14 catches in freshman Sean Savoy (163 yards and a TD). After Savoy, C.J. Carroll has seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. There has been no real playmakers at running back either as Tech is averaging 218.2 yards a game on the ground and just 4.5 yards per carry. Travon McMillian leads the team with 162 yards on 32 carries.

Virginia Tech players to watch

Josh Jackson, QB: Jackson is one of three FBS QBs to lead his team to a 4-0 start while throwing for 11 or more TDs. Jackson is seeking to become the first Tech QB to win his first five starts since Tyrod Taylor did it in 2007. Jackson and Georgia’s Jake Fromm are the only FBS freshmen QBs to lead their squads to 4-0 starts in 2017. Jackson leads the ACC and ranks sixth among Power Five QBs with a 177.8 rating and 11 TD passes. He leads all FBS freshmen QBs in yards (1,127), rating (177.4) and TD passes (11).

Cam Phillips, WR: He leads the nation in receiving yards (523), while ranking third in rec. ypg (130.8) and fourth in catches (34). Phillips is second in Tech history with 199 catches, needing 12 more to bypass Isaiah Ford (210) for the school record. His 2,586 receiving yards are fourth in Tech annals. Phillips is on pace to register 102 catches over 12 games in 2017 which would smash Ford’s single-season mark of 79 in 2016. Phillips needs 382 yards to bypass Ford for Tech’s career mark.

Sean Savoy, WR: Savoy has come in as a freshman and has made an immediate impact in the Virginia Tech receiving corps as he’s hauled in 14 passes for 163 yards, good enough for 11.6 yards per catch.

Tremaine Edmunds, LB: Edmunds leads the Hokies’ defense with 33 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, he likes to come off the edge and put pressure on the quarterback. He has two forced fumbles to go along with 1.5 sacks.

Terrell Edmunds, S: He is tied for second on the team with three PBUs. He has 20 tackles (14 solo), an INT, a sack and 1.5 TFL.

Virginia Tech Scouting Report

  • Offensively, the Hokies have had their ups and downs this season, much like Clemson. But quarterback Josh Jackson is one of the up-and-coming players in the league and wide receiver Cam Phillips might be one of the most dynamic playmakers in the ACC.
  • The issue for Tech is looking for someone outside of Jackson and Phillips to make a play. Savoy is showing promise, but is he consistent enough to count for a whole game against a tough Clemson defense that will try to take away Phillips as Jackson’s primary target?
  • Also, can anyone step up at running back? The Hokies are a running back by committee group with no one averaging more than 40 yards a game. Virginia Tech is in desperate need of more playmakers besides Phillips and Jackson.
  • On defense, the Hokies mix things up. They don’t get much pressure with their front four so they bring pressure by way of the linebackers, which they are really solid at. Tremaine Edmunds is one of the best in the ACC and though no one talks about him, Andrew Motuapuaka is as solid as they come. He led the Hokies in tackles last season and is currently third on the team this year with 29. He also has four tackles for loss.
  • Mook Reynolds, who plays the robber position for Foster’s defense, can play in space and can attack the line of scrimmage. He helps an experienced Tech secondary, which is led by Tramaine’s brother Terrell at free safety. Foster will play some man, but will also play a lot of zone, while using a 4-2-5 look.
  • Kicker Joey Slye is set to become the school’s all-time leader in field goals. However, he is struggling this season by making just 7-of-12 field goals to this point.

 

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