Here is a look at what it will take for the Tigers to get a much needed win Saturday.
#1-Regain That Intensity
Clemson looked about as focused and motivated last Saturday night in Athens as you could ever expect a team to be. A ton of credit is due the entire coaching staff for having the Tigers in the frame of mind that allowed them to put themselves in position to win the game.
Saturday's job in motivation will be a little harder to accomplish.
Louisiana Tech is squeezed between two huge games on the schedule for the Tigers. As much as the Georgia game was viewed as a big game for the Tigers, the Georgia Tech game in 2 weeks is pivotal to the Tigers ACC standing priority…and their potential bowl future. La Tech happens to fall right in the middle.
The good news is that La Tech is more than ready for the Tigers after the ending to the Humanitarian Bowl fiasco last year, which should perk up the ears of any Tiger coach or player that is caught looking forward to the Yellow Jackets. Or, at least, we better hope so.
#2-Run, Run, Run…As Fast As You Can
Clemson ran the ball below average in Athens behind Bernard Rambert's 35 yards, Chad Jasmin's 30 Yards, Yusef Kelly's 17 yards, and Derrick Hamilton's 18 yards. That net rushing yardage totals right at 68 yards…nothing to brag about by any means.
That number must increase dramatically Saturday if the Tigers want a solid win over the Bulldogs. In addition, that stat must improve minus Rambert, who is expected to sit out with tendonitis. Kelly expects to get the major load, but expect Tye Hill to get some touches to see what he can do with the ball.
But the biggest key of them all may be Jasmin. The fullback from Louisiana has shown sparkles of major potential at fullback in the preseason and in Athens. His average of 6 yards per carry against Georgia cannot be ignored for long, and the up the gut threat of Jasmin can hearken back to the old days of Tracy Johnson and Chris Lancaster.
#3-Catch The Dang Ball
As brutal as the drops last Saturday night were by Currie, Hamilton, and Youngblood, you must keep faith that it was an aberration…not a trend. We will find out which Saturday afternoon.
The speedy Tiger receivers found multiple ways to get open against Georgia, and they should find the sailing just as easy against La Tech. But, just like in Athens, the drops cannot be tolerated. Tolerated drops become habits…and this offense cannot afford those kinds of habits to manifest.
The good news is that I think it was just an unlucky series of bad breaks. All of the receivers have shown steady hands over their short tenures at Clemson. But this doubt does not need to loom over the Georgia Tech game, so putting to rest any question of steady hands Saturday will be important to the receivers…and to Willie's confidence.
#4-Seconday Passes The Quiz…Now Let's Take The Test
The Tiger secondary, without fault, was impressive Saturday night in Athens against some very talented receivers in Fred Gibson and Terrence Edwards. Not just relatively impressive as compared to last year…but impressive in the very sense of the word.
And while La Tech does not offer up the talent at wide receiver that Georgia did, the challenge will be more daunting Saturday afternoon. First, Luke McCown is going to throw the ball as if it were going out of style. La Tech flew the ball around the field versus Oklahoma State, and expect as many as 60+ passes from McCown Saturday. And add to that fact this: McCown is a better pure passer than either David Greene or D.J. Shockley will ever want to be.
This will be a true test of just how far the secondary has come and just how much depth is really back there. The loss of Toure Francis compounds the situation, thrusting true freshman Justin Miller in a backup role to Kevin Johnson. Word out of preseason camp is that Miller is going to be special. He needs to be Saturday.
#5-Go For The Throat
Clemson should win the game, no doubt about that. Seeing if the Tigers can dominate the game from start to finish is the big question mark. Now, make no mistake, La Tech can win this game if Clemson does not come out firing on all cylinders. But, assuming the Tigers can come ready to play, does this team have the ability and determination to put a team away if given the opportunity?
This is the type of game that can send a message to the players, coaches, fans, and pollsters if the Tigers can win by 20+ points. Achieving that goal, however, is another thing all together. La Tech is ready for this game…is Clemson?
I don't expect Clemson to walk through this one easily. There is too much animosity coming out of the La Tech camp for them to simply roll over. A letdown for Clemson is almost assured, the question remains is what that means in terms of how Clemson plays.
Many will suggest a much easier game than I do. This one does not scare me enough to think Clemson will lose, but I feel certain it will be a lot tougher win than most of us would like.
Clemson 34, Louisiana Tech 23
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