Do Your Job. This was the phrase used over and over this morning in Dabo's press conference as he previews this weeks game against Georgia Tech. Discipline will be key this weekend if Clemson is to have success stopping the triple option. Last time the Tigers traveled to Atlanta, it wasn't pretty from a defensive perspective, as the Yellow Jackets accumulated 400+ yards and 30 points (24 of which came in the first half) and Clemson wasn't able to overcome a 17 point halftime deficit. We cannot afford to get behind again this year, and have to limit the big plays if we are going to be successful defensively (everyone remembers the Anthony Allen 82 yard run early in the first quarter).
Their offense, everyone is familiar with. They lead the nation in third down. They're usually one of the top rushing teams. The big thing about them is that they have thrown the ball more. The big plays, that's a concern. It's the biggest concern I have in going against their offense. They've had eight, one-play touchdown drives. We have to do a great job of being disciplined. Everyone has to get locked in on their keys and do their job. The big play is something we have to minimize.
When you think of a Paul Johnson led team, you think of the triple option offense. Until you look it up, you don't realize that Georgia Tech's defense ranks 1st in the Conference in Pass Defense and 4th in Total Defense. The 24 points given up to the Hurricanes last weekend? Not the complete result of an Al Groh defense. Quite the contrary, as it was the Georgia Tech offense that turned the ball over three times leading to scoring opportunities for the Canes.
If Clemson can some how force a turnover or two like they did this past Saturday, they can really do some damage to this Georgia Tech defense. The Yellow Jackets seem most susceptible on the ground, where they rank behind Clemson as the 10th best rush defense in the conference, giving up 170+ yards a game. I guess the bigger question is, can Clemson exploit the shaky Georgia Tech run defense with a banged up Andre Ellington who will be limited in practice this week and two freshman running backs (one of which has been inconsistent holding onto the ball)?
Their defense, I'm impressed with them. They've gotten better. In ACC games, they're leading the league in total defense. They're stout and don't give up a lot of big plays. You have to earn what you get from these guys. For us, it's about us and have a great week of preparation. Today and tomorrow are critical days from a scout team perspective. We've played with great effort each week. We've done a good job of creating turnovers.
When looking at this matchup, some pundits have sort of made a big deal over the Wofford game earlier in the year, because the Terriers run a similar offense to Georgia Tech. Clemson certainly struggled defensively in that game, giving up almost 400 yards and 27 points. Much like the Georgia Tech/Clemson game in 2009, the Tigers gave up big plays early to Wofford including a 27 yard run, and a 66 yard pass, both in the first quarter, and both resulting in touchdowns. After that, Clemson only gave up one more touchdown the rest of the game. If the Wofford game is any indication of how things will play out on Saturday, Clemson will need to limit the big plays early against the Yellow Jackets to avoid getting behind and having to battle back on the road.
Forget everything we've taught you all year because it has nothing to do with our normal defense. It's a game within the season that is totally different. We try to expose our players to things in camp they're going to see. It's not the same type of pass skeleton during the week. It's assignment football and it's a game plan for this opponent. When the game is over, you can put it on the shelf for next year.
As coaches and players, there are going to be distractions as the season unfolds. With Clemson, in the past it has been the College Football world writing off the Tigers for poor starts or its inability to finish games. This year, it's completely different. Clemson is 8-0 and the darlings of College Football right now. Everywhere you turn Clemson is on ESPN and it seems Tajh or Sammy is winning some kind of award every week. Props to Dabo and this staff for keeping this team focused. The last thing we want this team to do is get a big head and lay an egg in Atlanta this weekend. Keeping this team focused and grounded will only continue to get harder if this team keeps winning football games. It will be up to the coaches and team leaders to make sure we stay hungry and humble.
It's great for Clemson. I love being 8-0. Heck yeah. I'd rather be 8-0 than 4-4. It's great for our program, it's great for the Clemson brand, absolutely. But it doesn't have anything to do with beating Georgia Tech. I know there is a lot of talk but our goals are right over there. We have a division championship, a state championship, an ACC championship, those things before we can even thing about the BCS.
Paul Johnson will have his team prepared this weekend. This is a Conference rivalry game for both teams. It's always dangerous facing a team that has its back against the wall as the Yellow Jackets do after losing two straight. Paul Johnson knows that if they are to have any shot at getting to Charlotte, they have to win on Saturday. Clemson hasn't won in Atlanta since 2003. And the last time Clemson started the season this strong, they beat North Carolina to go 8-0 only to drop their ninth game the following week to Georgia Tech.
This is certainly a different Clemson team from the 2000 version. However, Clemson will need to play it's most complete game of the season to win this weekend. The offense cannot turn the ball over, this defense must avoid giving up big plays, and the Tigers have to prevent getting down early like they did in 2009. Buckle up, I think this is going to be a dogfight.