CLEMSON — Clemson will host a Georgia Tech team Saturday that is down and looking to recover from a rough start.
The Yellow Jackets came into 2015 as the Coastal Division favorite and a popular pick to contend for a playoff spot. Tech got off track after a tough loss at Notre Dame. The Yellow Jackets followed that loss up with an uninspired effort at Duke, losing by two touchdowns. But it was against North Carolina they really came off the rails, falling to the Tarheels after building a 21-point lead.
This seems to be a trend with Paul Johnson’s team. They will have a great season out of nowhere and then fall off the map when expected to compete for a conference championship. That doesn’t mean they’re out of it just yet, though.
Johnson holds the edge against Clemson, winning 5 of his 8 matchups with the Tigers. Last year, Clemson’s defense was able to stifle the Yellow Jackets and hold them to 13 offensive points. The Yellow Jackets still found a way to win, returning two of Cole Stoudt’s three interceptions for touchdowns.
It will likely be up to the Tiger defense again if Clemson is to reverse their fortunes this week. They have looked good, and they did stuff a triple option team in Wofford. Wofford and Georgia Tech, however, are completely different beasts.
The Yellow Jackets have a quality quarterback in Justin Thomas who can both run Paul Johnson’s spread option offense and has the capability to throw with natural ease.
That hasn’t been the case so far in 2015 though. His quarterback rating has dropped significantly after losing several key contributors from last year, including top two receivers and four of the top five rushing threats.
While Clemson’s defense has lived up to, and in some eyes improved upon, the hype surrounding them, the offense has struggled to get anything going. Wayne Gallman has worked wonders behind an inexperienced line, but struggled early against Notre Dame.
This has a lot to do with Clemson’s lack of a down field threat. With Mike Williams injured, Clemson’s passing game has relied on short routes which serves to help opposing defenses against the run. Deshaun Watson has struggled, having little time in the pocket and being forced to use his feet to move the chains.
The Tigers have found ways to get things done, however, and head coach Dabo Swinney says that speaks to the character of his team. In a quote that has gone viral, Swinney said “Tonight was B.Y.O.G. – bring your own guts.”
He commended his team for not quitting in the fourth quarter, especially in the face of such a frantic attempt by Notre Dame to come back. While Georgia Tech brings plenty to the table this week, Swinney is sticking to his mantra that it’s about Clemson, not the other team.
Reach James Inabinet at 803-635-4016.