The Mood of the Team
Again, this week this one of the most popular subjects of every e-mail I received. In talking to more than 7 players, I gathered that there was somewhat a sense of relief after last Saturday's win over Middle Tennessee State. A convincing win was just what the doctor ordered to help build the confidence level of this team after a tough opening season loss to Georgia.
Heading into Georgia Tech, the team is expecting another closely contested game. Certainly, the last 7 years would verify that statement as 6 out of those 7 contests have been decided by exactly three points.
The Tigers would storm out to a 24-6 lead last year before holding on for dear life in a 24-19 victory. However, not one player on this team will let last year's game enter their mind Saturday. This team has the utmost respect for Georgia Tech, and they are expecting nothing short of a 60-minute war for the ages Saturday evening.
If last week's mood was "a quiet storm," this week could best be described as "focused determination."
The Gameplan for Saturday
We told you last week that the offense would open up significantly against Middle Tennessee State, and we are hearing the same thing echoed even more so this week.
Don't think that the coaching staff didn't note that Georgia Tech's defense began to wear down against Florida State last weekend. The fact remains that FSU could have put another touchdown or two on the board had they brought their "A-game" for the entire second half.
Look for the offense to run at an even faster pace Saturday evening, especially considering that Georgia Tech will be trying to disguise their alignments and coverages before the ball is snapped.
Last week the Blue Raiders would stay in the same defense even after Charlie Whitehurst would get the play in from the sideline after the coaching staff had a chance to evaluate the field. This week, it may not serve much of a purpose to do that considering Tech's defense could mutate into a different from one second to the next.
Regardless, look for a lot of shotgun Saturday night, and surprisingly, the Tigers may not throw out of that formation as much as you may think. Deception will be the name of the game against the Yellow Jackets.
The Concern on Defense
Georgia Tech will likely have some success in the running game. If the Tigers can limit the big play from P. J. Daniels, their chances of pulling off a win will increase 10-fold. This may be the single most important aspect in winning this football game.
Obviously, containing freshman quarterback Reggie Ball will also be important, but I will say this: the Clemson secondary feels as though they can bait him into throws that he may not feel comfortable with. And I'm not just talking about Justin Miller either. In fact, I think Toure Francis could be in a position to make some big plays for this defense this week.
Ball is an athlete that has only begin to uncover his true potential. Fortunately, Clemson is on the schedule earlier in the season rather than later.
His decision making on the ground and through the air could dictate whether or not this game becomes higher scoring than what most people are suggesting.
As I've maintained all week long, I tend to think that we'll see some points on the board Saturday evening.
The Offensive Line
Don't be surprised to see Roman Fry see more snaps than William Henry at left tackle Saturday night. Marion Dukes will also push for more playing time at right tackle.
Make no mistake, this unit is playing better, but the overall theme of "improvement every week" will have to continue if anything is going to happen with the running game.
Running back...What's the Story?
From what I've heard, Duane Coleman is still the guy that this staff feels the best about longterm. Tommy Bowden was estastic when he broke that quick swing pass for a 34-yard touchdown last week, and now all he needs to see is more of that to regain his starting spot.
Sure, Kyle Browning ran hard last week, but to expect him to get more than 15 carries in a game may be a little much at this point. The three-headed monster in the backfield of Browning, Merriweather, and Coleman will continue to be used, but Coleman is still my leading candidate to get the job done.
On a side note, Reggie Merriweather was one step away from breaking a long touchdown run against Middle Tennessee State last week. If he makes that play, then I'm changing my story. Stay tuned, because one of these backs is going to break a long run soon.
The Importance of Winning
Surprisingly, hardly a soul in the media talked about the overall importance of this game during the weekly press conference at Clemson.
Let's not fool ourselves for one second. A look at the schedule clearly reveals that the loser of this game will likely finish in the lower half of the ACC this year.
Even with Tech's success against FSU and Auburn, no other road game in the conference may be as winnable as this one. The Tigers travel to N.C. State, Wake Forest, and Maryland this year. If you can't beat Tech, who are you going to beat out of those three? Don't tell me Wake Forest, because if you say that, then you don't follow college football.
A loss Saturday night would be nothing short of devastating. A win could be the stepping stones for a turnaround year, and the start of a four game stretch where the Tigers could possibly go 2-2 or 3-1 against the toughest part of the schedule.
Simply put, this could ultimately be the defining game of the Tommy Bowden era.
Pulling Out All the Stops
I'll sum this up in one sentence. Look for a huge trick play- when you absolutely least expect it.
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