GAME: No. 14 Virginia Tech (4-1, 1-0) at No. 22 Clemson (4-1, 2-1)
LOCATION: Clemson, S.C., Memorial Stadium (81,750)
TIME: 6:00 P.M. EST
SPREAD: Tigers by 5.5
COACHES: Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden is 64-39 (82-43 overall) in his ninth year at Clemson and 0-3 against Virginia Tech. Hokies head coach Frank Beamer is 160-83-2 (202-106-4 overall) in his 21st season at Virginia Tech and 4-3 lifetime against Clemson.
SERIES: Clemson leads the all-time series against Virginia Tech 17-11-1 but the Hokies have won the last four, including a 24-7 victory at Lane Stadium last season.
INJURIES: Clemson- RB Ray Ray McElrathbey (ACL) out, FB Chad Diehl (leg) out, Haydrian Lewis (ACL) out, WR Rendrick Taylor (hamstring) out. Virginia Tech - N/A.
CLEMSON KEY PLAYER: The Offensive Line. The Tigers had problems handling the pressure from Georgia Tech's front seven last weekend in Atlanta. Simply put, this unit needs to step up its play by giving Cullen Harper time to throw and opening holes for James Davis and C.J. Spiller to give Clemson a chance to win.
VIRGINIA TECH KEY PLAYER: QB Tyrod Taylor. This freshman signal caller is one of the most elusive quarterbacks Clemson has faced in the Tommy Bowden era. He'll need to play well to give Tech a chance to pull off the road win.
FORECAST: A few clouds early with a 30% chance of showers. High near 83 degrees. Winds out of the north at five to 10 mph.
CRAZY STAT OF THE WEEK I: Virginia Tech has gone 10 straight games without a 100-yard rusher. The last time it happened? Last year's 24-7 win over Clemson when Brandon Ore ran for 203 yards.
CRAZY STAT OF THE WEEK II: Under head coach Frank Beamer (245 games), Virginia Tech is 140-27-2 when outrushing its opponents and 19-56 when being outrushed.
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* On the Record: James Davis
* Hokies' Special Teams a Concern
* Wednesday Bowden Audio + Transcript
* Notebook: Special Teams, O-Line Updates
* What We are Hearing...
* Tuesdays with Vic
* Tommy Bowden's Press Conference
* NOTEBOOK: Tigers Look at Changes
* Game Notes
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* Depth Chart
* The Numbers Don't Lie
* 2007 Clemson Beat Pick 'Em
* On the Record: Mark Buchholz
WHAT TO WATCH: When Clemson has the Ball - One week after rolling up over 600 yards of total offense at N.C. State, Clemson shot itself in the foot time after time in a 13-3 loss at Georgia Tech. The main issues were with the offensive line, which gave up six sacks and the wide receivers- which had nine drops. Those issues must be corrected Saturday against a stingy Hokies defense. It starts at center, where the Tigers have given more reps to Thomas Austin this week in hopes of improved play, but the entire line must do a better job of finishing blocks. Defensively, look for Tech to stack the line of scrimmage, just as it did last year to see if Cullen Harper can consistently move the chains. If he can, the offense should open up nicely in the second half with play-action. Virginia Tech uses robber coverage, meaning a safety can often sneak up towards the line of scrimmage to become the eighth or ninth defender in the box to provide run support if needed. If Harper is ineffective through the air, expect a low-scoring defensive struggle that comes down to turnovers and special teams. The Tigers must also establish the ground game at some point with James Davis and C.J. Spiller. Davis rushed for just 30 yards on 12 carries last season against the Hokies while Spiller managed 40 yards on 10 attempts. While the running lanes will not be huge, Clemson should find it easier than last year's game in Blacksburg as the Hokies are not the same team at the line of scrimmage.
When Virginia Tech has the Ball - The Hokies have struggled all season long on the offensive side of the ball and currently rank dead last in the ACC in total offense, averaging just 285 yards/game. Brandon Ore, who was picked by many media members to be the ACC Player of Year has been ineffective, rushing for just 59 yards/game. But the real problem has been passing, where Tech has turned to freshman QB Tyrod Taylor to replace the ineffective Sean Glennon. Taylor has excellent mobility but has struggled through the air (41-of-81). The Clemson defense must play contain and force him into bad decisions to take advantage of his inexperience and limit big plays on the ground. The Tigers' front seven also must be fundamentally sound in tackling Taylor and Ore. Too many times last year Ore was hit behind the line of scrimmage only to bounce off for 10 or 15 yards.
Special Teams - After last week's debacle at Georgia Tech, it would be an understatement to write the Tigers need to stabilize their special teams. A blocked punt, four missed field goals and a fumble on a punt return secured the Yellow Jackets' 13-3 win. The Clemson coaching staff addressed all those concerns this week in practice but is that enough time to build confidence in a unit that has struggled so mightily this year? The Hokies are what you would expect on special teams - solid. Opposing teams have returned just eight of Virginia Tech's 36 punts this season and kicker Jud Dunlevy is perfect on all of his PATs (14) and field goals (5) this season. If this game is the close, low-scoring affair some think it could be, a special teams mistake could prove costly for Clemson.
Intangibles - While revenge is usually not as a big a factor as many think, it could be here considering what last year's loss in Blacksburg did for the rest of the season. The focus appears to be there as the players and Tommy Bowden have also said this has been their best week of practice to date. Also, the Tigers return home after road trips to Raleigh and Atlanta and should be rewarded with a significant home-field advantage. This is also a home night game on national television against a ranked team. Remember the last two times his has happened? (FSU earlier this year and Georgia Tech last season).
PREDICTION: Clemson 27 Virginia Tech 21
Clemson finds a way to run the ball and Harper does just enough in the passing game to lift the Tigers to the win. Defensively Ore will be held in check but Taylor will put two scores on the board by himself with his mobility. Virginia Tech adds a late score to make the game appear closer than the score indicates.
PRE-GAME SHOW INFO: The Tiger Pre-game Show with Roy Philpott and Scott Rhymer will be broadcasting live at the Lawn at Littlejohn from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM Saturday afternoon. 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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