GAME: No. 13 Clemson (4-0, 2-0) at Georgia Tech (2-2, 0-2)
LOCATION: Atlanta, Ga., Bobby Dodd Stadium (55,000)
SPREAD: Tigers by 3
COACHES: Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden is 64-38 (82-42 overall) in his ninth year at Clemson and owns a 4-4 record against Georgia Tech. Yellow Jackets head coach Chan Gailey 39-29 at Georgia Tech (63-40 overall) and 2-3 against Clemson.
SERIES: Georgia Tech has a 45-24-2 lead in the series with Clemson dating to a 23-0 Tiger win in Augusta, GA in 1898, just the 11th game in Clemson football history. Clemson defeated the Yellow Jackets last year in Death Valley, 31-7. Georgia Tech won the last matchup in Atlanta, a 10-9 win in 2005.
CLEMSON KEY PLAYER: RB James Davis. Believe it or not, this is Davis' last trip to Bobby-Dodd Stadium. He's playing in front of his hometown and will have dozens of supporters on hand. Plus, his only other appearance two years ago saw him carry the ball one time because of a wrist injury. Think he doesn't want to have a big game?
GEORGIA TECH KEY PLAYER: RB Tashard Choice. Choice has been plagued with a hamstring injury the past two weeks but if Tech is to have any chance of winning, he needs to be on the field for four quarters Saturday. One of the most underrated backs in the ACC, Choice gives the Jackets firepower on an offense that has been ineffective the last two games.
FORECAST: Mainly sunny. High 81. Winds out of the ENE at 10 to 15 mph. (weather.com)
INJURIES: Clemson - RB Ray Ray McElrathbey (ACL) out, FB Chad Diehl (leg) out, DB Chris Wade (arm) probable, Rendrick Taylor (hamstring) questionable, WR Nelson Faerber (hip) out. Georgia Tech- RT Jacoby Lonowski out, ST Sedric Griffen out, DE Robert Hall out, OLB Shane Bowden out.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Their offensive line is probably as much improved as any part of their football team. I'm concerned because it's chop-block central. We could probably learn to tackle from some of those guys. They're doing differently on the offensive line than they've done with the way that they're blocking. It's a concern." -- Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning on facing Georgia Tech.
FAST FACT: Georgia Tech is looking for its first win over a ranked opponent at home since Sept. 6, 2003 when it beat 17th-ranked Auburn.
* O-Line Ready for Next Test
* What We are Hearing...
* 3 Keys to Victory
* On the Record: C.J. Spiller
* Monday Notebook: Georgia Power
* BLOG: Updated ACC Rankings
* Tommy Bowden's Press Conference
* Tuesdays with Vic
* Injuries, Losses Mounting for Tech
* On the Record: Cullen Harper
* AUDIO: Bowden Addresses Korn Rumors
* On the Record: Cortney Vincent
* Game Notes
* Monday Notebook: Georgia Power
* Depth Chart
WHAT TO WATCH: When Clemson has the Ball - Aside from penalties, the Tigers were nearly perfect in executing their offense last week against N.C. State. 608 yards later, Clemson found itself in control of the pesky Pack in a game that wasn't as close as the scored indicated (42-20). This Saturday, expect a similar game plan- pound the ball with James Davis and C.J. Spiller but throw the ball if Tech decides to crowd the box. Cullen Harper has proven he can move the chains through the air when needed and Aaron Kelly has become a lethal downfield threat. Harper will be tested more than he has all season against Tech's blitzing scheme. The spotlight will be on Clemson's offensive line, which played much better last week after giving up too many sacks against Furman the week before. The Tigers will do a number of things to offset Tech's aggressive scheme, including using screen passes and max protection with multiple tight ends. The Yellow Jackets have plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball, including potential All-ACC candidates LB Phillip Wheeler and safety Djay Jones. Tech is currently second in the league in scoring defense, giving up just 17.2 points per game and the Jackets have recovered eight fumbles on the season (tied for first in the nation).
When Tech has the ball- Much like last week with N.C. State's Andre Brown, expect a heavy dose of Tashard Choice Saturday afternoon. Choice will line up in the backfield as a running back and also as a quarterback taking the direct snap. An underrated back on the national landscape, Choice can run around or run through defenders. QB Taylor Bennett has failed to create big plays in the passing game (just one touchdown this season) to potent wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and James Johnson, but he hasn't made too many mistakes either (one interception in 111 attempts). The Yellow Jackets lead the ACC in rushing at over 200 yards per game, but those stats are somewhat skewed after putting up 69 points and 389 yards rushing on lowly Samford. By comparison Tech managed just 63 yards on the ground against Boston College the next week.
Special Teams- Mark Buchholz missed two field goals last week against N.C. State, but made four, including one from 46 yards out. Georgia Tech kicker Travis Bell is one of the best in the ACC, averaging a league best 11 points per game. Also, the Yellow Jackets lead the nation in punt return defense (.8 yard/return) and net punting (44/punt) thanks in part to the strong leg of Durant Brooks. The Yellow Jackets are also dangerous on kick returns averaging 28 yards per attempt which is good for ninth in the nation. Clemson has given up two kick returns for touchdowns this season, including one last week to Darrell Blackman. The other was called back due to a penalty against Furman.
Intangibles- This is the Tigers' second test on the road before returning home to face nationally ranked Virginia Tech next weekend. Can Clemson bring another workman-like approach to beat Georgia Tech? Has the team matured enough to recognize it can't simply show up and win? The Yellow Jackets are reeling after consecutive losses and need a win in the worst way to get back into the Coastal Division race. It's desperation vs. domination, but the Tigers need to carry the right mindset into Saturday's game to win.
PREDICTION: Clemson 31 Georgia Tech 21
The mindset of this team is different than any of the last eight under head coach Tommy Bowden. No longer focused solely on winning, this program is now looking to improve in every aspect of the game from week to week. Assuming special teams hold up, Clemson walks out of Bobby Dodd Stadium with a 10-point win. If Choice can't go the entire game, it could get worse.
PRE-GAME SHOW INFO: The Tiger Pre-game Show with Roy Philpott and Scott Rhymer will be broadcasting live Saturday morning from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM at Jocks-N-Jills in Midtown Atlanta. Tune in to 104.9 WCCP FM in upstate South Carolina or on the world wide web on wccpfm.com as we celebrate our 54th consecutive game broadcasting on location covering your Clemson Tigers.
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