The Final Breakdown

Clemson and Georgia Tech will renew their rivalry on Saturday afternoon when the Yellow Jackets head north on I-85 towards Tigertown.

WHAT: No. 15 Clemson vs. Georgia Tech
WHERE: Memorial Stadium (85,000) - Clemson, S.C.
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 6 (3:30 p.m.)
SPREAD: Clemson -10.5
TV: ESPN

Over the last several years, it's been a tightly contested matchup. Twelve of the last 17 games between Clemson and Georgia Tech have been decided by five points or less, including a six-game stretch between 1996 and 2001 in which each game was decided by three points.

Of Georgia Tech's last 13 wins, 11 were by a touchdown or less.

The Yellow Jackets have won five of the last six games and lead the all-time series, 50-25-2.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is 1-4 against Georgia Tech. This season, the Tigers are 4-1 [1-1 ACC].

Georgia Tech enters the contest at 2-3 [1-2 ACC]. Paul Johnson's team is coming off back-to-back losses to Miami and Middle Tennessee.

GT PASS RUSH/SECONDARY VS. CLEMSON PASS ATTACK
Tajh Boyd's performance in last year's meeting with Georgia Tech was pretty forgettable. After a couple of interceptions, Clemson was handed its first loss of the season. It also kicked off a three-game slump for the first-year starting quarterback.


Nuk Hopkins set a school record with 197 receiving yards last weekend at Boston College. (Roy Philpott)
Don't expect a repeat performance against Georgia Tech by Boyd in 2012, because there are several factors are working in his favor.

For starters, this game is at home.

Second, if Georgia Tech opts to drop seven and eight defenders back into coverage, Boyd is a threat to tuck the ball and run. Last year, he didn't offer much as a dual threat. It's a much different story this season.

Third, Andre Ellington was out for the Georgia Tech game in 2011. This year, he's playing. One of the most overlooked parts of his game is pass blocking, and the Yellow Jackets were able to take advantage of freshmen D.J. Howard and Mike Bellamy.

And, finally, Boyd is a year older and a year wiser. He's completed 111 of 160 passes for 1,351 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions this season.

DeAndre Hopkins, who leads the team in all receiving categories, has 42 receptions for 604 yards and six touchdowns. Sammy Watkins is expected to return to the lineup on Saturday after missing last week's game at Boston College with an "abdominal virus."

Hopkins and Watkins present opposing secondaries with one of the most formidable wide receiver duos in the country. They'll matchup with a pair of quality cornerbacks from Georgia Tech.

Jemea Thomas, who recorded his first two career interceptions in last year's game, is regarded as one of Georgia Tech's most athletic players. His counterpart, Rod Sweeting, was named honorable mention All-ACC in 2011.

Georgia Tech expects to welcome back outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, who sat out the Middle Tennessee game with an undisclosed injury. Through four games this season, Attaochu has assisted on one sack.

The junior, who has 10 career sacks, is one of the top pass rushers in the ACC. He was named honorable mention All-ACC after the 2011 campaign. Attaochu is one of seven different Yellow Jackets to be in on a sack this season. As a team, they're tied for 90th in the country with 1.4 sacks per contest.

There were plenty of question marks surrounding the Clemson offensive line before the start of the 2012 season. And, so far, the group has proven to be better than advertised. They've allowed an average of 1.4 sacks per game, which is tied for 39th in the country.

Assuming Boyd continues to play like he has through five games this season this matchup shouldn't be much of a contest for the Tigers.

ADVANTAGE:

GT FRONT SEVEN VS. CLEMSON RUN GAME
If Benny Cunningham [no relation to the former Clemson tight end] can rush 217 yards and five touchdowns against Georgia Tech, shouldn't Ellington be able to run wild against the Yellow Jackets?

Absolutely.


Andre Ellington leads the ACC in rushing at over 103 yards per game. (Roy Philpott)
Ellington has experienced some success against Georgia Tech. In two games as a redshirt freshman in 2009, he rushed eight times for 84 yards. In 2009, he rushed 20 times for 166 yards and two scores.

Teams have had success running the ball against Georgia Tech in 2012. The Yellow Jackets rank 65th in the country in rushing defense, allowing an average of 155.2 yards per game. Presbyterian gained 145 yards and Miami gained 173 yards on the ground against Georgia Tech.

The Clemson ground game continues to assert itself as the ACC's best running attacks, outside of Atlanta.

The Tigers are third in the conference in rushing with 200.6 yards per game. That also ranks No. 33 in the country.

As noted above, Boyd has had a hand in some of that success on the ground. He's second among Clemson rushers with 161 yards and tied for third with a touchdown.

Roderick McDowell, who's third on the team with 98 yards rushing, has three touchdowns on the ground.

Also a threat on the ground, Watkins has carried six times for 95 yards and a touchdown.

Another number that speaks to the struggles Georgia Tech has against the run is the average number of tackles for loss per game. The Yellow Jackets are 84th in the country with five.

In case you didn't realize by now, the advantage goes to the Tigers.

ADVANTAGE:

CLEMSON PASS RUSH/SECONDARY VS. GT PASS ATTACK
Just because Georgia Tech is 111th in the country in passing offense, it doesn't mean the Yellow Jackets aren't effective when they go to the air.


Tevin Washington hasn't gotten off the start many in Atlanta hoped for this season. (Getty Images)
Georgia Tech is 20th in the country in pass efficiency with a team rating of 160.06. Tevin Washington, who has a pass efficiency rating of 158.34, has completed 40 of 64 passes for 660 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Only a handful of teams have thrown less than Georgia Tech has this season. Through five games, Georgia Tech has attempted 76 passes. Navy, Temple, Air Force, New Mexico and Army are the only teams to attempt less than 76 throws. Only New Mexico has played as many games as Georgia Tech.

Wide receiver Jeff Greene is tied with A-back Orwin Smith as Georgia Tech's leading pass catcher. Each has 10 receptions, but Greene is first on the team with 211 yards. A-back Tony Zenon is second among Georgia Tech receivers with 138 yards.

Clemson's defense has struggled to defend against the pass this season. The Tigers are 69th in the country in pass efficiency defense with a rating of 132.12. In pass defense they're 87th, giving up an average of 262.6 yards per contest.

The Clemson pass rush isn't much better, averaging 1.4 sacks per game, which is tied for 90th.

Given the infrequency that Georgia Tech throws the ball, it's hard to get a true gauge on which team may or may not have an advantage in this matchup on Saturday. So, we'll make this one a push.

ADVANTAGE:

CLEMSON FRONT SEVEN VS. GT RUN GAME
So far this season, Washington has been one of the top scores in the country. The senior quarterback has rushed for 10 touchdowns in the last three games, including a school-record-tying four touchdowns in last Saturday's loss to Middle Tennessee.


Senior defensive end Malliciah Goodman will be under the spotlight Saturday against the Jackets. (Roy Philpott)
Washington is first in the ACC and fourth in the country in scoring with 13.6 points per game. His 11 rushing touchdown total is second only to Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson.

With 29 career rushing scores, Washington is second all-time in ACC history. Former Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt owns the record [35].

Washington has a team-high 304 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns. B-back Zach Laskey is second among Yellow Jacket ball carriers with 303 yards while Smith is third with 245.
,br> Quarterback Vad Lee, Zenon and Robert Godhigh have all rushed for over 100 yards.

Ranked third in the country in rushing, Georgia Tech padded its stats in wins over Presbyterian and Virginia. Against the Blue Hose, the Yellow Jackets rolled up 469 yards on the ground. They gained 461 against the Cavaliers.

Outside of last weekend's trip to Boston College, the Clemson has struggled to stop the run. The Tigers are 85th in the country in run defense, having allowed an average of 177.4 yards per game.

That number is likely to increase after Saturday's game.

Clemson has faced Georgia Tech's wing bone option five times since Johnson arrived to Atlanta in 2008. The Yellow Jackets have rushed for an average of 299.6 yards against the Tigers.

In the two Clemson home games played over that period, Georgia Tech rushed for 229 and 242 yards. The other three matchups -- two in Atlanta and the other in Tampa -- saw the Yellow Jackets roll up over 300 yards.

Even if Clemson does hold to Georgia Tech to slightly less than 250 yards rushing, does that really mean the Tigers have the advantage? Probably not, so we're going with the Yellow Jackets here.

ADVANTAGE:

SPECIAL TEAMS
With Watkins back on the field, Clemson's special teams will receive an extra boost. When teamed up with Ellington, the Tigers' return game is one of the most formidable in the country. In last weekend's win over Boston College, Ellington racked up 129 yards in kickoff returns.


Chandler Catanzaro has been perfect this year with field goals and has now made 16 straight overall. (Roy Philpott)
Georgia Tech has a pair of viable options, too. Smith leads the team with 213 kickoff return yards while Greene is second with 87. Greene leads the Yellow Jackets with 87 punt return yards.

Both schools have struggled when defending against kickoff returns. Clemson is 101st while Georgia Tech is 85th, so there could be some fireworks there on Saturday.

The two school's kickers have hit all field goal attempts this season. Chandler Catanzaro is 8 of 8 and Georgia Tech's David Scully is 2 for 2.

Given their home field advantage, Clemson gets the nod here.

ADVANTAGE:

PREDICTION: Clemson 52 Georgia Tech 42


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