Georgia Tech (6-3) at Clemson (8-1) Nov. 14, 7:30, ESPN
Why You Should Give A Hoot: Georgia Tech and Clemson get a national stage on which to showcase the 78th chapter of an underrated rivalry that's been played every year since 1983.
The Tigers have regrouped since their lone loss to Florida State, which essentially ended any hopes for an ACC or a national championship. In back-to-back road wins over Maryland and Virginia, they scored 99 points in comfortable victories to move to 8-1. If Clemson can close out the regular season with wins over the Yellow Jackets, The Citadel and South Carolina, it should nab an at-large BCS bowl bid. Tech has been an up-and-down team this season, starting 3-0, losing the next three and then piecing together its current three-game winning streak. While still mathematically alive in the Coastal Division, losses to Miami and Virginia Tech likely have the Jackets' postseason ceiling peaking at the Sun Bowl.
Why Georgia Tech Might Win: This is not the same Yellow Jacket defense that was struggling a month ago. Tech went through a rough patch in early October, but has allowed just 35 points over the last three games. Plus, it's yielding only 3.4 yards per game, and has been generating plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd will have to be on the lookout for DE Jeremiah Attaochu and CB Jemea Thomas, the Yellow Jackets' top pass rusher and cover corner, respectively.
Why Clemson Might Win: This is the best offense that Georgia Tech will have faced all year. The Tigers bring speed and balance to Thursday night, with the veteran Boyd at the controls. Clemson averages close to 40 points a game, fueled in large part by the big-play ability of WR Sammy Watkins and the tough running of Roderick McDowell. If the Tigers can apply a foot to the gas pedal, the Yellow Jackets won't have the firepower to keep up. They've been more down than up on offense, and don't have the kind of attack built to keep up with a team like Clemson.
Who To Watch Out For: Watkins vs. Thomas promises to be a terrific game-within-the-game. Both players are tremendous all-around athletes, though Watkins does enjoy an edge in size.
- To beat the No. 8 team in the country on the road, Tech will need QB Vad Lee to be more than just a runner this week. He has to stretch the defense occasionally, with help from 6-3, 220-pound WR DeAndre Smelter, who's averaging 16.4 yards per catch.
- The edge pressure of Clemson ends Vic Beasley and Corey Crawford will be somewhat neutralized by the fact that Georgia Tech throws the ball an average of just 14 times a game. Both players must adapt to a system that'll force them to defend pitches and maintain gap integrity.
What Will Happen: At its best, Georgia Tech can be a dangerous football team. But it's going to take a superior effort to take down one of the country's best teams in their building. The Jackets won't have that type of a game in them. They'll make the Tigers earn their yards, but Boyd and Watkins will eventually break through with the big plays needed to build a cushion.
Prediction: Clemson 34 … Georgia Tech 21
Line: Clemson -10.5 o/u: 59
Must See Rating: (5 The Challenger Disaster – 1 MTV EMAs) … 3.5
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