Clemson looks for their second conference when of the year Saturday afternoon when Georgia Tech travels to Death Valley. TheClemsonInsider.com takes a look at the keys to victory for the Tigers.
1. Stop the Run
Georgia Tech leads the ACC in rushing. Josh Nesbitt is second in the conference with an average of 92.7 yards per game, while Anthony Allen is fourth with an average of 85.7.
Clemson’s defense couldn’t stop the Jackets a single time in the ACC Championship game and now they get another shot. DaQuan Bowers is playing at another level this year, the Tiger linebackers are more experienced and the corners are better against the run. Marcus Gilchrist and Byron Maxwell will be key if the Tigers are to shut down the rushing game of the Jackets. Gilchrist and Maxwell are both physical corners and are better against the run than Chancellor and Butler.
The key to stopping the run will be discipline. It is all about assignment football. The players talked this week about how the film room time was more important this week than the time on the practice field.
The Jackets will not beat the Tigers throwing the ball as they only average over 5 catches per game. Clemson should be very familiar with the Jackets after playing them two times last year. Most of the defense is back from those losses.
We should know in the first quarter if the Tigers defense has figured out how to stop the Jackets rushing attack. If not it could be a long afternoon.
2. Special Teams
Special teams could be the difference in this ACC battle. Clemson ranks second in the conference in both kickoff and punt returns. The Jackets are eighth in kickoff returns and eleventh in punt returns.
Andre Ellington provided a huge spark with his kickoff return for a touchdown against Maryland, while Jaron Brown setup another touchdown with a punt return. If the Tigers can get some big returns that could be the difference in the game.
The Tigers lead the conference in punting while the Jackets are eleventh.
Clemson’s coverage teams have played well this year. Another strong performance by the Tiger’s coverage teams will be critical Saturday.
3. Redzone Defense
This should be another high scoring game. The Jackets will move the ball some on the Tigers defense. One of the keys to victory will be limiting the Jackets to field goals when they do reach the redzone, instead of touchdowns.
When the Jackets get into the redzone it will be 4 down territory unless they get fourth and long. It will be critical for the Tigers to play well on first and second down when the Jackets reach the redzone.
4. 4th and Long
Georgia Tech loves to go for it on fourth down, no matter where they are on the field. If the Tigers give them 4th and 2 or 4th and 1 then the Jackets will be going on fourth down. Georgia Tech has attemped 22 fourth down conversions on the season and made twelve. No other ACC team has attempted more than ten on the season.
It will be critical for the Tigers to play well on second and third downs so that the Jackets end up with fourth and long, not fourth and short.
5. 3rd Down Conversions
The Tigers will need to move the ball with long scoring drives. Georgia Tech will not blitz a lot. They will sit back in zone coverage and count on Clemson stopping themselves at some point.
Clemson is tenth in the ACC in third down coversions, making only 32.5 percent. It will be critical for the Tigers to convert on third downs so they can keep drives alive. The Tigers will need to put some points on the board Saturday in the Valley because the Jackets certainly will.