Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Georgia Tech was caught off guard in its season-opening loss to Northern Illinois two weeks ago, and he is making sure his sixth-ranked Tigers do not fall in the same trap against the Yellow Jackets.
The Tigers (1-1) open up ACC play against Georgia Tech today at Death Valley. The oddsmakers list Clemson as a 28-point favorite, despite the fact the Tigers are still trying to find their way offensively.
“We just have to cut out some of the mistakes,” Swinney said on Off Campus with Mark Packer Thursday on ESPNU Radio. “We put the ball on the ground four different times (against S.C. State). We only lost one, but we were very fortunate. So, we have to do a much better job from a ball security standpoint.
“Then we missed some plays that were there. We made a ton of plays, obviously, but we missed some plays. We ended up having a tipped ball interception, and they got three points off of that, so we need to quit scoring for the other team and then we had an overthrow interception from when Taisun [Phommachanh] was in there. We had a couple of drops, and we have to get a little better with our blocking on the perimeter. So, there are a lot of things to keep cleaning up.”
That is why Swinney does not want his team to get a false sense of security, considering they have beat the Yellow Jackets in each of the last six years, including a 73-7 win in Atlanta last year.
In the two years the Yellow Jackets have been led by head coach Geoff Collins, Clemson has averaged 62.5 points and 651.5 yards against the Jackets.
But Swinney says this year’s Yellow Jackets are not those Yellow Jackets.
“(Northern Illinois) caught them off guard with some unbalanced stuff and kind of possessed the ball and got the run game going. It was just a few plays here and there,” Swinney said. “Again, they ended up scoring late and went for two and won the game. But (Georgia Tech) bounced back last week and played great.
“This is a much, much improved Georgia Tech team. They have a ton of experience.”
The Yellow Jackets (1-1) bounced back with a 45-17 win over Kennesaw State last week. They held Kennesaw State’s triple-option rushing attack to 149 yards and to just 3 of 15 on third down. They allowed just 260 total yards.
“This is a good football team that I think has made a ton of improvement,” Swinney said. “You can see the culture taking root there that Coach Collins is trying to get instill and you see them play hard. Anytime you see guys play with the type of effort that they play with, it just shows you they believe. They have a lot of respect for their coaches.”
And the Yellow Jackets would love nothing more than to knock off the No. 6 team in the country, while snapping the Tigers’ 29-game home winning streak at the same time.
Clemson is also trying to win its 31st straight game against a full-time ACC opponent, as well as win a seventh consecutive conference opener.
“It is the first game in the ACC for both teams. Everybody wants to get off to a good start and get a win,” Swinney said. “So, we have to play well.”