The Final Breakdown

CLEMSON - Paul Johnson has had Dabo Swinney's number since 2008, when Swinney took over midway through the season as interim head coach. Will it continue in 2010?

WHAT: Clemson vs. Georgia Tech
WHERE: Memorial Stadium (81,500) - Clemson, S.C.
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 23 (3:30 p.m. EST)
SPREAD: Clemson by 6
TV: ABC

Since then, Georgia Tech has beaten Clemson three times, including last season's ACC Championship.

Last season, the Yellow Jackets won the title game 39-34 and the regular season meeting 30-27.

The Tigers haven't won since 2006 when ESPN GameDay was in Tigertown for the 31-7 win, which saw James Davis and C.J. Spiller put on a show before a national television audience.

Georgia Tech owns the all-time series lead with a 49-24-2 record. Since the Yellow Jackets joined the ACC in 1983, Clemson has 13 wins and Georgia Tech has 15.

Clemson (3-3 overall, 1-2 ACC) is looking for a second-straight home win before next week's trip to Boston College. Georgia Tech (5-2 overall, 3-1 ACC) hopes to head into the bye week with a win.

GEORGIA TECH RUNNING GAME VS. CLEMSON FRONT
Joshua Nesbitt helped engineer a pair of 300-yard rushing performances against Clemson in 2009. He led Georgia Tech to nation's second-best rushing attack last year and has the Yellow Jackets in the same position through seven games this season.

The leading rusher at Georgia Tech (649 yards and eight touchdowns), Nesbitt is the straw that stirs the drink. With two full seasons under his belt, he's extremely proficient at running Johnson's triple-option. Nesbitt needs just 44 yards to break former Clemson quarterback Woodrow Dantzler's ACC record 2,761 career yards rushing by a quarterback.


Georgia Tech QB Joshua Nesbitt helped engineer a pair of 300-yard rushing performances against Clemson in 2009.(Dean Legge)
B-back Anthony Allen moved from A-back with the departure of Jonathan Dwyer. Allen is second on the team with 600 yards and five touchdowns.

Orwin Smith, Roddy Jones and Embry Peeples all average at least 6.6 yards per carry from the A-back position. Jones and Smith each have three touchdowns.

Although Clemson didn't make Georgia Tech to punt in the ACC Championship, the Tigers did force the Yellow Jackets to go three-and-out on seven drives in the regular season meeting. Georgia Tech had only 22 all of last season.

Earlier this week, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele spoke of the importance of solid play along the line. Da'Quan Bowers, Jarvis Jenkins and company must occupy their gaps and play the proper responsibilities each play to help the linebackers and safeties to cut-down on the long, gashing runs.

Bowers is having a career season, averaging 2½ tackles for loss and 1½ sacks per game.

Starting weak-side linebacker Brandon Maye is questionable with a calf injury. His likely replacement, Jonathan Willard, played several snaps in the ACC Championship.

First- and second-down will be extremely critical if Clemson is able to make third-down a passing situation. Georgia Tech could be in trouble if that is the case—see the regular season matchup in 2009.

Still, the advantage remains with the Yellow Jackets.

ADVANTAGE:

CLEMSON SPECIAL TEAMS VS. GEORGIA TECH SPECIAL TEAMS
Clemson sports return numbers that rank among the nation's best. Georgia Tech's are slightly above the bottom of the barrel (87th on punt returns and 86th on kickoffs).

Marcus Gilchrist, DeAndre Hopkins and Jaron Brown and are largely responsible for the Tigers' 16th ranking in punt return average (13.4). Andre Ellington's 87-yard kickoff return against Maryland last week vaulted the team's kickoff return average to 23.9, which is 32nd in the nation.


Andre Ellington's 87-yard kickoff return against Maryland last week vaulted the team's kickoff return average to 23.9, which is 32nd in the nation. (Getty Images)
Meanwhile Georgia Tech's net punting numbers are downright bad. Sean Poole and Chandler Anderson have combined for the nation's 114th ranking (out of 120).

The Yellow Jackets are very good in covering kickoffs, though, with an eighth-overall ranking (17.9 yards per return).

Scott Blair is one of the conference's most consistent field goal kickers. He's third in the ACC, hitting field goals at a 90 percent clip and tied for fifth with 1.29 every game.

Last week, Clemson special team plays resulted in a touchdown and setup one other. There could be similar success this week, particularly in the punt return department.

ADVANTAGE:

CLEMSON PASSING GAME VS. GEORGIA TECH SECONDARY, PASS RUSH
The backend of the Georgia Tech defense is the strongest area of the Yellow Jacket defense.

The veteran-laden group is lead by cornerback Mario Butler, who's started 34-straight games. Safety Jerrard Tarrant, who leads the team with three interceptions, has 13 starts. Fellow safety Mario Edwards has 12 starts. Cornerback Dominique Reese has 25 starts under his belt.


Since Georgia Tech doesn't consistently bring pressure, Clemson QB Kyle Parker should have plenty of time to work through his progressions to find an open receiver. (Getty Images)
The group is giving up an average of 195.6 yards passing per game, which is the nation's 42nd-best.

Georgia Tech's pass rush is pretty middle of the road. Al Groh's 3-4 scheme has netted just 15 sacks this season, or 2.14 per game, which is 55th in the country.

Inside linebacker Brad Jefferson leads the Yellow Jackets with four. Steven Sylvester is second with three from one of the outside linebacker positions, which are prime pass rush spots in the 3-4.

Once again, Clemson's passing game saw its fair share of dropped passes last week. For a change, the wide receivers didn't have any.

DeAndre Hopkins, Kyle Parker's favorite wide receiver target, is back this week. Hopkins leads all Tiger wide receivers with 13 catches.

Dwayne Allen, who was responsible for two drops last week, still leads the team with 19 receptions for 259 yards.

Since Georgia Tech doesn't bring a lot of pressure, Parker should have plenty of time to work through his progressions to find an open receiver, if there's not one down field. Clemson still averages just one sack per game.

Georgia Tech is allowing opponents to average 4.1 yards per carry this season. But Georgia Tech hasn't allowed a passing touchdown since N.C. State's Russell Wilson threw three.

ADVANTAGE:

CLEMSON RUNNING GAME VS. GEORGIA TECH FRONT
The Yellow Jackets' run defense has allowed an average of 151.71 yards per game, which is 65th in the country. Every opponent has rushed for at least 137 yards.

Jefferson leads the team in tackles with 42 and is tied for third with 5½ tackles for loss. Sylvester leads the team with 10 tackles for loss. Reese is active in run support, too. He's second among all Georgia Tech defenders with seven tackles for loss.


The Tigers will try to improve upon the season's 165.4 ground average on Saturday against the Jackets. (Roy Philpott)
Important to the 3-4 are defensive ends that can play like defensive tackles. Georgia Tech has those. Izaan Cross, who's 6-4, 292 pounds, holds down one side. Jason Peters (6-2, 271) occupies the other.

Ellington spearheads the Clemson rushing attack, averaging 79.3 yards per game, which is fifth-best in the ACC. He's also second in the conference with nine points per game.

The Clemson offensive line, which is, for the most part, intact from last season, imposed its will on the Georgia Tech front in the conference championship.

The Tigers will try to improve upon the season's 165.4 ground average on Saturday. Ellington and Jamie Harper should be able reach the mark with ease.

ADVANTAGE:

GEORGIA TECH PASSING GAME VS. CLEMSON SECONDARY, PASS RUSH
Nesbitt's passing numbers are considerably lower this season now that he doesn't have the luxury of throwing to Denver Bronco first-round pick Demaryius Thomas.


The The current go-to wide receiver for Josh Nesbitt, Stephen Hill, leads the Yellow Jackets with 10 receptions for 135 yards. (Roy Philpott)
The senior quarterback has seen a 7-point dip in completion percentage and a 30-point drop in his rating.

Georgia Tech's passing game is far less explosive, too. Nesbitt's yards per completion—10.5 in 2009 is 7.1 in 2010. The current go-to wide receiver, Stephen Hill, leads the Yellow Jackets with 10 receptions for 135 yards. Thomas, who had 46 for 1,154 and eight touchdowns, averaged 25 yards per catch last season.

Byron Maxwell has the size to matchup one-on-one with Hill downfield—just as long as he doesn't take the bait on a double-move.

On average, Georgia Tech passes just 12 times a game, so it'll be tough for Bowers to add onto his nine sacks, which are the second most in the country.

If Georgia Tech's throwing a lot, it's not good news for Yellow Jacket fans. When Paul Johnson is calling pass plays, it's Clemson's advantage. But, when Georgia Tech does pass the ball, it typically goes for big gains. Of the 34 completions 7 have gone for 32 yards or more.

ADVANTAGE:

PREDICTION: Clemson 24 Georgia Tech 23

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