GAME: Georgia Tech (5-1, 2-1) at Clemson (3-3, 1-2 ACC)
LOCATION: Death Valley (81,500)
TIME: 12:00 PM EST
SPREAD: Jackets by 2
SERIES: The Clemson vs. Georgia Tech series has been the most competitive series in the ACC over the last 12 years. Nine of the last 12 games have been decided by five points or less, including a six-game streak between 1996-01 in which every game was decided by exactly three points. Georgia Tech has a 46-24-2 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. In fact, Clemson won the first four games of the series, including games in 1902 and 1903 when John Heisman was at the helm.
COACHES: Clemson interim head coach Dabo Swinney will be coaching his first game against the Yellow Jackets Saturday. He replaces former head coach Tommy Bowden, who resigned on Monday. Paul Johnson is 5-1 in his first year as the head coach of the Yellow Jackets. Like Swinney, he has never been a head coach against Clemson.
GEORGIA TECH KEY PLAYER: RB Jonathan Dwyer. In Tech's close games this year, Dwyer has been the difference, including a 79-yard touchdown catch last week in a lackluster 10-7 win over lowly Gardner-Webb. He has lethal combination of speed and power and is the linchpin of Georgia Tech's wacky triple-option offense.
CLEMSON KEY PLAYER: QB Willy Korn. The redshirt freshman is making his first career start and will be depended on to make plays in the downfield passing game as well as on his feet. Clemson need sto find a spark on offense to have a chance to win this game- the coaching staff is hoping Korn is it.
INJURIES: RB C.J. Spiller (hamstring) out, DT Jamie Cumbie (wrist) out, DT Rashaad Jackson (knee) out, OT David Smith (ankle) out, OG Barry Humphries (knee) questionable, OT Cory Lambert (foot) questionable), WR Tyler Grisham (ankle) probable, OG Mason Cloy (knee) probable.
CLEMSON QUOTE TO NOTE: "All I can tell you is the guys that run out there every Saturday, for the next six weeks, they are going to be playing with their hair on fire. We are going to unify this group. One heartbeat- everybody playing together. That's our only chance. I told them today, if you can't do this, this and this, get on out of here. But if you show up on the practice field tonight you're all in." - Interim head coach Dabo Swinney.
GEORGIA TECH QUOTE TO NOTE: "I wouldn't have taken it." - Paul Johnson when asked if he would have taken a 5-1 record before the season started after six games.
FORECAST: Partly sunny in the morning...Then becoming mostly sunny. Highs in the mid 60s. Northeast winds 5 to 10 mph.
[ Updated Forecast ]
* Harper Debates Options
* Info on Tiger Walk
* Tigers Must Go "All In" Against Tech
* Wednesday with Vic
* A Coming Out Party?
* SWINNEY: Goes In-depth on Offense
* Tigers Go to Three-Point Stance
* NOTEBOOK: Normalcy Returns, Kind Of
* SWINNEY: More Toughness Needed
* What We are Hearing...
* Korn Weighs In
* New Sheriff in Town
* Hello Dabo
* Harper Answers Tough Questions
* Depth Chart
When Clemson has the ball - The Tigers have to be more creative on offense compared to their first six games, getting the ball downfield with more intermediate passing routes. QB Willy Korn makes his first start and will be depended on heavily with the new downfield passing game as well as on the ground. Simply put, he has to make plays when the pocket breaks down, turning what would have been negative plays with Harper into positive plays or even first downs. Georgia Tech's front four is as good as any front four the Tigers will see this year, which puts even more an emphasis on Korn's mobility. With C.J. Spiller out, freshman running back Jamie Harper gets his chance and should touch the ball as many as 15 times Saturday. Clemson has also gone to a three-point stance on the offensive line for the first time in more than three years - which help in the running game. New interim head coach Dabo Swinney will call the plays and will be assisted by Billy Napier.
When Georgia Tech has the ball - The Yellow Jackets run the triple option and are led by RB Jonathan Dwyer (575 yards/4 touchdowns) and QB Josh Nesbit (290 rushing yards, 269 passing yards). Defensively, Clemson must play assignment football and not over pursue, which puts tremendous pressure on young players like LB Brandon Maye, DE Da'Quan Bowers and LB Scotty Cooper. WR Damaryius Thomas is Tech's lone weapon at wide receiver ... literally. Against Duke earlier this year he caught nine passes for 230 yards and a touchdown. He was the only Yellow Jackets' receiver to catch a pass in the game.
Special Teams- Clemson senior kicker Mark Buchholz has been perfect this season, converting on all six of his field goal attempts with a long of 33 yards. The return game could be a critical aspect against Georgia Tech as the offense tries to get its feet underneath itself with a new quarterback, a new play-caller and in the absence of C.J. Spiller. That means the spotlight will be on Jacoby Ford- who has yet to break a long return this season. Scott Blair, Georgia Tech's placekicker has been up and down, converting on just 16-of-18 extra points and 6-of-10 field goals.
Intangibles - Dabo Swinney has fired up the Clemson nation unlike any coach in recent memory as he tries to pick up the pieces of a disappointing start to the 2008 season. He's inspired the fans throughout the entire week, challenging his team's toughness and approach to game and has tried his best to eliminate the negativity that has engulfed the team since the season-opening loss to Alabama. What will that mean for Saturday? It's anybody's guess. Certainly the team will be riding an emotional high when it comes running down the hill and for the opening kickoff- but then the real game begins. Will the Tigers be a fractured unit, still reeling from the news earlier this week? Or will they respond and ignite a mid-season turnaround with the toughest part of the schedule coming up?
PREDICTION: Georgia Tech 21 Clemson 20
TIGER PRE-GAME SHOW INFO: The Tiger Pre-game Show with Roy Philpott and Scott Rhymer will be broadcasting live from the Lawn at Littlejohn from 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM Saturday morning. Tune in to 104.9 WCCP FM in upstate South Carolina or on the world wide web at wccpfm.com as we celebrate our 69th consecutive game broadcasting on location covering your Clemson Tigers.
CAPSULE: Expect the Unexpected
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