No. 6 Clemson gets the ACC portion of its schedule started Saturday when Georgia Tech visits Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. The Tigers have won the last six in the series by an average of nearly 31 points.
Clemson’s offense vs. Georgia Tech’s defense: Tech has eight starters back on defense and is allowing just 19.5 points per game so far. Meanwhile, Clemson’s offense, with a new quarterback, new running backs and a revamped offensive line, has been clunky at times with its operation, though the Tigers have already gone up against one of the country’s best defenses in Georgia. Clemson’s running game bounced back from a tough night against Georgia to churn out nearly 7 yards per carry against South Carolina State, and the Tigers, with Justyn Ross back in the fold and a healthy Joseph Ngata, still have one of the country’s most dangerous receiving corps.
Georgia Tech’s pass defense is the eighth-best in country statistically (123.5 yards per game), but playing Kennesaw State, a triple-option team, last week has a lot to do with that. The Yellow Jackets gave up 22 points to Northern Illinois in their season-opening loss. It may not be as wide a gap as people might think given what each side of the ball is dealing with right now, but Clemson’s offense is more talented. Advantage: Clemson
Clemson’s defense vs. Georgia Tech’s offense: Clemson would love nothing more than for the offense to put it all together this week, but even if that doesn’t happen, the defense will be the reason Clemson wins this game going away. The Tigers’ combination of talent, experience and depth on that side of the ball has yet to allow a touchdown, and the group is set to add even more seasoning with the return of veteran safety Nolan Turner, who missed the first two games with an injury. Now the defense gets to go against at least one freshman quarterback — maybe two — from Tech, which is major advantage Clemson.
The Yellow Jackets have an explosive running back in Jahmyr Gibbs and some experience along the offensive line, but barring a home-run play or a turnover that sets Tech’s offense up with a short field, it’s hard to envision the Yellow Jackets finding the end zone against Clemson’s first- or second-teamers. Advantage: Clemson
Special teams: Both teams have a wealth of experience at placekicker, but Tennessee transfer Brent Cimaglia has missed two of his first three field-goal attempts for Tech. And Gavin Stewart’s only attempt was blocked. Meanwhile, Clemson senior B.T. Potter has connected on the only kick he’s attempted within his range (what would’ve been a career-long 58-yarder at the end of the first half last week came up well short). David Shanahan has been a real weapon for Tech in flipping the field (46.8 yards per punt), but freshman Will Taylor, who’s averaging nearly 18 yards a return and had a 51-yarder last week, has given Clemson a spark returning punts. Advantage: Clemson
Bottom line: Much like last week, Clemson is the superior team in most if not all facets, which will likely produce a lopsided score similar to the others in the series recently.
Prediction: Clemson 42, Georgia Tech 10
Football season has finally arrived. Time to represent your Tigers and show your stripes!