And when we write "trick play" we don't mean the the double reverse halfback pass. We mean the forward pass. Georgia Tech runs the ball so effectively at times it lulls opposing defenses to sleep, creating unexpected opportunities in the passing game. Clemson's cornerbacks have to provide run support but they can't be fooled when Nesbitt pulls the ball out of Jonathan Dwyer's chest and goes deep. It happened last year on what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a 24-yard pass to a wide open Demaryius Thomas, as well as another play in that drive. It can't happen again Thursday night.
For the record, Tech attempted just 12 passes against the Tigers a year ago, completing five for 91 yards and a touchdown.
"We can't get lulled to sleep," senior corner Chris Chancellor told CUTigers.com Tuesday afternoon. "We know how their offense works - it's one yard, two yards, minus two yards, then 60. As corners we always have to be ready."
Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer rushed for 1,395 yards in 2008 on his way to being named the ACC's Player of the Year. 110 of those yards came in Tech's 21-17 come-from-behind win over Clemson. (Getty Images)
One of the more frustrating aspects of Georgia Tech's offensive game plan, outside of the misdirection running game, is time of possession. By keeping the ball on the ground so much, Tech eats up chunks of time with each first down it pounds out. That means possessions of the football are at a premium. If and when the Tigers are in the red zone Thursday night, touchdowns, not field goals, have to go on the scoreboard. The stupid penalties that have negated Clemson touchdowns in its past two trips to Atlanta have to be a thing of the past and the Tigers have to figure out a way to pick up first downs in short-yardage situations, or touchdowns once inside the 10.
"We've shot ourselves in the foot so many times down there," senior tight end Michael Palmer said. "We just have to control the things we haven't in the past this year."
The spotlight here is also on the offensive line and Kyle Parker. Consistency up front and Parker making plays, either with his arm or his legs, will be critical for Clemson's red zone success.
#1. CONTAIN NESBITT
It's natural to become enthralled with Jonathan Dwyer after he was announced as the ACC Player of the Year last season, but the key to this game may not rest with his production. Simply put, Dwyer will probably get his 100 yards on 20-25 carries regardless of what happens. QB Josh Nesbitt however, is a completely different story. Nesbitt was critical in extending drives a year ago in Death Valley, rushing for 98 yards (without the tackles for loss) and a touchdown. Now a year deeper into understanding Paul Johnson's system, he has a better understanding of the offense and what must happen against anything he sees across the line of scrimmage.
The Tigers have to limit his ability to convert third downs with his legs while punishing him when the opportunity presents itself. Clemson's front four certainly must answer the call here, led by ends Da'Quan Bowers and Ricky Sapp. The speed and athleticism are both there, but the discipline each needs to play with has to be there as well Thursday evening in Atlanta.