Georgia Southern at No. 2 Clemson
Second-ranked Clemson returns home to Death Valley today as it hosts Georgia Southern for the first meeting between the two programs. Kickoff from Memorial Stadium is scheduled for noon. The game was originally scheduled to kick off at 3:30 p.m., due to Hurricane Florence.
Who has the edge?
Georgia Southern’s Shai Werts vs. Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons: The Eagles rank fourth nationally in running the football, averaging 326.5 yards per game on the ground. The trigger guy is quarterback Shai Werts, who guides Georgia Southern’s triple-option attack. Werts, who is from Newberry, was offered by Clemson as a defensive back. Both head coach Dabo Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables said they really wanted him to come to Clemson, but he wanted to play quarterback. So far this season, Werts has rushed for 246 yards and four scores while throwing for 183 yards and two scores in two games. Simmons is the key to stopping the Eagles’ option attack. Last week, the sophomore struggled at times with his discipline and was caught out of position a few times, despite having seven tackles. If he has discipline issues this week, it could cost the Tigers even more due to the explosive nature of the triple option if even one person on defense does not play assignment football: Advantage: Georgia Southern
Clemson’s Tee Higgins vs. Georgia Souhern’s DBs: Through two games, the Eagles defense has allowed just 247 total yards through the air. That’s good. However, they have not faced Clemson’s receiving corps or quarterbacks likes Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence. However, the Tigers’ biggest advantage comes with 6-foot-5, 208-pound wideout Tee Higgins. The sophomore leads Clemson with 158 yards. He is averaging 26.3 yards per catch. He’ll be matched with cornerbacks Kindle Vildor and Monquavion Brinson. Both corners are 5-foot-11 and weigh 180 pounds. The Tigers will try to exploit these matchups all afternoon. Advantage: Clemson
Clemson’s Travis Etienne vs. Georgia Southern’s defense: Swinney wants Travis Etienee to get the ball. So far in two games, the talented running back has carried the ball just 19 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns. He also has caught three passes for 23 yards. Look for the Tigers to try and get Etienne involved early and often today. Georgia Southern’s defense is allowing a respectable 113.5 yards per game on the ground, but that came against S.C. State and UMass. Etienne will be a different beast, as will Clemson’s offensive line, which is looking to have a better performance than what it showed at Texas A&M last week. Advantage: Clemson
Clemson’s O-line vs. Georgia Southern’s D-Line: As mentioned, the Tigers offensive line struggled at Texas A&M, especially center Justin Falcinelli and left guard John Simpson. Clemson will clearly have a size advantage in this matchup. Tech’s defensive front, which is an Okie front defense, consist of outside backers Raymond Johnson (6-3, 240) and Randy Wade (6-2, 250), nose tackle Ian Bush (6-0, 275) and defensive end Logan Hunt (6-2, 270). Clemson’s offensive line will have a considerable size advantage up front. The question is can they use that size to hold on to their blocks just a little longer to allow Etienne and the other running backs or Bryant to get to the second level in the run game? Advantage: Clemson
Bottom Line: Though Georgia Southern has improved this season and comes into the game with a 2-0 record, the fact is S.C. State and UMass is not Clemson. The Tigers will be the fastest and strongest team the Eagles will see all year. Though Georgia Southern will not be intimidated by Clemson or the 81,500 in Memorial Stadium, they will be overwhelmed with the Tigers’ size and athleticism, which will come at them all day. This game should not be close.
Prediction: Clemson 42, Georgia Southern 6