By Gray Gardner.
CLEMSON, SC – The tale of unbeatens could be decided by Clemson’s ability to maintain its high-powered offense Saturday night against Frank Beamer’s Hokies. Virginia Tech enters the game having sleep-walked through the first four match ups of the season while Clemson enters the game having won consecutive games against top twenty opponents.
Last Week in Review: Clemson Offense
The Clemson offense has been on a roll, to say the least. Last week versus Florida State was no exception.
Despite the Seminoles’ nationally acclaimed defense, Chad Morris’ Tigers were able to rack up 443 yards of total offense. Of those yards, 334 came through the air. Tajh Boyd impressed for the fourth game in a row and completed 22 of 35 passes for 3 touchdowns. His favorite target was again true freshman Sammy Watkins.
Watkins finished the day with 7 receptions for 141 yards and 2 scores. Behind him was tight end Dwayne Allen, who hauled in 4 receptions for 67 yards and a score.
Not much was going with the Tigers’ ground game against State’s talented front six, but Andre Ellington and company still managed to cover 100 yards for 2 touchdowns.
Last Week in Review: Virginia Tech Defense
The Hokie defense has been impressive thus far in the season, only allowing 40 points on the year. Then again, they’ve played what might be the easiest four-game stretch of any team in the country to start the season with games against Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State, and Marshall – teams with a combined record of 7 wins and 7 losses.
Regardless of their opponents, Tech’s defense has gotten it done. Last week versus Marshall they only allowed a stingy 6 yards rushing. The Thundering Herd found some success through the air and ended the day with 245 yards passing and a touchdown.
The Hokies weren’t without big plays on defense. They managed to intercept a pass and recover a fumble in their 30-10 victory on Marshall’s home turf.
-Clemson Receivers vs. VA Tech Secondary
This is going to be a mismatch in favor of the Tigers regardless of who their opponent is.
Sammy Watkins said so himself – if the defense decides to double-team him, then Dwayne Allen will be wide open; if they focus a safety on Allen instead, then Watkins or DeAndre Hopkins or someone else will be open. There really is no way around Clemson’s receivers getting open against any given defense.
Opposing offenses have had more success through the air than on the ground against the Hokies this season. Expect the same this week with the Tigers’ talented receiving corps creating havoc in Virginia Tech’s secondary.
–Clemson Offensive Tackles vs. VA Tech Defensive Ends
As many times as Clemson’s receivers will have an advantage, Clemson’s offensive line will have a disadvantage. The status quo remains the same for this game.
Former walk-on Philip Price has been better than expected in his debut season at left tackle, and veteran starter Landon Walker has been a strength on the right side of the line. But their play against more talented ends has resulted in breakdowns in pass protection and 9 sacks given up.
Saturday night they will face J.R. Collins and James Gayle – two ends that have combined for a staggering 8 sacks already this season. If Clemson hopes to be successful on offense, they will have to find a way to keep Collins and Gayle out of the backfield – a task that could be too difficult for the Tigers’ personnel.
It’s hard to pick against Clemson’s offense at this stage in the game. On the season, Morris’ high-tempo offensive attack has eclipsed 2,000 total yards and 20 touchdowns. What’s most impressive is that Clemson has scored exactly 5 touchdowns in each game this season. Will that trend continue against Virginia Tech Saturday night in Blacksburg? I think so.
Despite the Hokies’ home field advantage, a history of Clemson slaughterings in Blacksburg, and the cold environment (game time temperatures are projected to be around 50 degrees), the Tigers have too many intangibles to be kept out of the end zone.
Virginia Tech will get pressure on rookie quarterback Tajh Boyd and will probably record some sacks. Don’t be surprised if Boyd makes some mistakes under pressure in the form of interceptions. The Hokies’ defensive front is too good not to make plays.
But Boyd and the Tigers are also too good not to make plays, and should put up just as many points as they have in each of the last four games. It may be more of a struggle in Blacksburg’s tough environment, but Chad Morris’ offense will still come out on top.