No. 8 Clemson has lost four of its last six against Georgia Tech, but is favored to beat the Yellow Jackets by more than 10 points Thursday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN. Here’s how the Tigers can get it done:
STRIKE EARLY AND OFTEN
In back-to-back weeks against Wake Forest and Syracuse, Clemson scored on its third play from scrimmage: a 64-yard throw to Sammy Watkins and 60-yard toss to Adam Humphries. Last game at Virginia, Tajh Boyd hit Watkins from 33 yards out on the team’s fifth snap. All three scores came in the first 90 seconds of those games. Clemson won those three games by a combined margin of 164-31. It’s not complicated.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
Georgia Tech loves to frustrate opposing quarterbacks — not just with blitz packages on the field, but by keeping them on the opposite sideline. The Yellow Jackets use their grinding running game (311.2 yards on the ground per game) to rank third in the nation in time of possession. Clemson averages 84.7 plays, but Georgia Tech opponents have gotten in 62.7 snaps per game. If they split the difference, the Tigers have to make the most of those 70-ish opportunities.
STYLE POINTS COUNT
When a reporter asked about Clemson redeeming itself after the Florida State debacle, head coach Dabo Swinney winced, shook his head and countered with Clemson’s two road victories since Oct. 19. The Tigers might have forgotten about the 37-point loss, but college football fans haven’t. Don’t forget, they were less than inspiring in their other Thursday night appearance, a 26-14 slugfest at N.C. State. The chances are Clemson’s looking at an Orange Bowl invitation if it gets to 10 wins and Florida State stays unbeaten. The Tigers can certainly impress the bowl representatives in orange jackets by thrashing the Ramblin’ Wreck.
Even if Memorial Stadium doesn’t fill to capacity by kickoff — Thursday night traffic plus very chilly temperatures equal lonely bleachers — the Tigers have to convince their visitor of who’s the better team. Because Tech lacks a consistent passing threat, the Jackets struggle to come from behind. In Paul Johnson’s seven years in Atlanta, his team is 36-5 when leading at halftime but 8-21 when trailing at halftime. By the way, Swinney’s Tigers are 39-6 with a halftime lead, 5-16 with a halftime deficit. A good start is paramount.
Clemson 35, Georgia Tech 24