In their 83rd meeting, one of the oldest rivalries in the Atlantic Coast Conference is set to meet down in Atlanta as Georgia Tech will host the #3rd ranked Clemson Tigers. Clemson enters this matchup undefeated at 3-0, off a 38-7 victory over Georgia Southern, but Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney knows that they have not traditionally played well in Atlanta.
“We’re excited about the 2nd quarter and the challenge that comes our way in Atlanta, a place that we really haven’t had a ton of success you know but this senior class has a unique opportunity,” Swinney said. “Georgia Tech is a good football team, I know they’re 1-2 and a lot of times, that’s where people make the mistake, as they just kind of look on a piece of paper and see a record and go oh well, it doesn’t work that way. Georgia Tech is one of the most difficult teams you will play.”
Clemson comes to Atlanta with a defensive line that many people regard as one of the best in the decade. Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant all passed on the NFL Draft in order to chase a second national title in three seasons, and a fourth straight ACC title. Dexter Lawrence is eligible to turn pro after this season.
However, Georgia Tech has had a very difficult time as of late, dropping two straight after a promising victory of Alcorn State for the opening contest. Tech has not shown the ability to stop the run and after getting behind early against Pitt the defensive changes brought about by new Defensive Coordinator Nate Woody have not shown positive gains yet.
Against South Florida, Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall threw two interceptions and running back Qua Searcy lost a fumble, while South Florida (and former Alabama Crimson Tide) quarterback Blake Barnett’s play contributed directly to four offensive touchdowns. Finally, the Tech special teams unit allowed two kickoffs to be returned for touchdowns.
Tracing the history again, Swinney is 6-5 lifetime against Georgia Tech, although they have won the last three, also Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson is 18-7 against Atlantic Division foes. It is not clear why it is so difficult for Clemson in Atlanta, but it does give a glimmer of hope to a Tech squad that needs a big win.
“We knew going in that we had a very tough schedule,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “We’ve still got nine games left. We’ve still got a chance. But we’ve got to go one game at a time. You don’t give up. You just keep plugging. It’s like I told the team this week: our challenge is to play better, play consistent and get better. We’ll see what happens with the result. That’s all you can do.”
Clemson is heavily favored because of what they bring to the game in all three phases, however, some keys to a Tech victory are the following;
- Neutralize the line of scrimmages on both sides of the ball. Tech must use their zone blocking scheme to control the dynamic front four for Clemson on offense. On defense, they must account for the run game by getting penetration.
- Tech on offense must control the clock. They are a “Triple Option” attack, therefore, they must stay ahead of the chains and keep Clemson off the field.
- Tech must create big plays and stop big plays for Clemson. The “X-factor” in the wins for Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd is the timely big play. Clemson has some dynamic offensive weapons that will score. Tech must match and surpass that to steal a victory from the 2nd ranked Tigers.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 in what hopes to be an exciting cross-divisional contest.