By Gray Gardner.
CLEMSON, SC – The undefeated Clemson football team will face Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Saturday night. The Clemson Insider has the scoop on how the Tigers’ offense will match up against the Yellow Jackets in this week’s Offensive Preview.
Last week in review: Clemson Offense
It was another day for the records in Clemson’s 59-38 win over the North Carolina Tarheels. Quarterback Tajh Boyd tied former Tiger Cullen Harper with the most touchdown passes thrown in a game (5) and also tied Woodrow Dantzler for total touchdowns scored in a game (6).
Receiver DeAndre Hopkins had his best game to date, catching 9 balls for 157 yards and a score. Sammy Watkins was right behind with 8 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. Five different receivers caught touchdown passes for Clemson – a telling sign of Clemson’s wealth of offensive playmakers.
The Tigers’ offense showed its ability to win (and win big) even as a one-dimensional offense. Clemson rushed for only 77 yards last Saturday as North Carolina’s talented front shut down the running game. Despite being forced to throw, the Tigers were still able to rack up 450 yards of offense and 59 points.
Last week in review: Georgia Tech Defense
What was great day for Clemson was another nightmare for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets – ranked as high as #12 this season – lost their second straight game to the Miami Hurricanes by a score of 24-7.
Georgia Tech has struggled on defense this season and has won games by scoring lots of points with their powerful offensive approach. However, the Jackets have struggled in their last two games on offense, and their defense has not been able to stop its opponents.
Against Miami, the Jackets allowed only 262 yards of offense in a balanced Hurricane attack – 122 yards rushing and 140 yards passing. Although not staggering amounts of yards, the Hurricanes were able to get in the endzone twice on the ground and were in the redzone 4 times.
Georgia Tech’s defense now ranks 8th in the nation in pass defense and 33rd in the nation in total defense. Tech’s troubles have been in stopping the run, where they rank 77th in the country.
-Clemson’s Receivers vs. Georgia Tech’s Secondary
Clemson’s high-powered passing offense will face its biggest test on the road Saturday against a Georgia Tech defense that ranks 8th in pass defense and 18th in pass efficiency defense. Isaiah Johnson – the Yellow Jackets’ star defensive back – will be one to watch in the secondary. Johnson leads the team in interceptions and returned one for a touchdown four weeks ago against NC State. Johnson will likely line up against Clemson’s Sammy Watkins on Saturday, so keep your eyes on that battle. Ultimately, Clemson’s talent level and offensive tempo should wear down the Yellow Jackets’ secondary, but don’t be surprised if the Tigers are challenged early.
-Clemson’s O-Line vs. Linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu
Tech’s sophomore linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu has given opposing offense’s fits all season, and it’s safe to say he’s primed to do the same against Clemson. The Tigers showed weakness a week ago against North Carolina’s variety of blitz packages. The result was a non-existent running game and 3 sacks – 1 of which was actually Tajh Boyd’s fault. If Attaochu and the rest of the Yellow Jacket defense is able to get pressure on Boyd and cause him to make mistakes, watch out – Tech’s secondary is good enough to capitalize. How Clemson responds to the blitz this weekend in Atlanta should tell the tale for its offensive success or failure Saturday night.
Clemson’s offense is currently averaging 482 yards and just over 40 points a game. Georgia Tech’s defense is currently allowing an average of 341 yards and just over 24 points a game. Clemson has earned those stats against the 12th and 13th ranked defenses in the country in Florida State and Virginia Tech and the 3rd ranked defense in the FCS in Wofford. Clemson totaled a combined 93 points and 1,242 total offensive yards against those opponents.
Georgia Tech is yet to face a top 15 offense like that of Clemson. In fact, the Yellow Jackets have only faced one team in the top 49 in total offense. Tech has now played Western Carolina (62nd FCS), Middle Tennessee St. (20th), Kansas (52nd), North Carolina (59th), NC State (80th), Maryland (73rd), Virginia (50th), and Miami (81st).
Given those stats, it’s safe to say that Georgia Tech’s defensive performance this season is inflated on paper. Anyone that has watched a Tech game this season knows that they are not quite as impressive as their statistics may seem. Clemson’s offense will be challenged – these teams always play one another close. But opponents are yet to find a way to stop or even slow down Chad Morris’s spread attack.
Expect the Yellow Jackets to show a lot of blitzes early in an attempt to confuse quarterback Tajh Boyd. Expect them to be successful in creating one or two big plays. But also expect Clemson to handle the pressure as they have all season on their way to 30+ points and a victory.