As I sat in the corner of the endzone on Saturday in Chestnut Hill, I couldn't help but be nervous. It was cold, Boston College was coming off a bye, the stadium was almost half empty at kickoff, and Sammy was nowhere to be seen. This game had all the makings of a trap game, a game that Clemson clearly wins on paper, but for some unknown reason, ultimately struggles with when shoulder pads hit shoulder pads. It happened last year at Georgia Tech, and then it happened in Raleigh, and after an early touchdown by the Eagles on Saturday, that feeling felt all too familiar. The trap game wasn't to be though, and Clemson did just enough in the end to keep Boston College from legitimately getting back in the football game, heading back to Pickens County with a win under its belt. Phew.
The most important storyline in the ACC this afternoon was that Clemson avoided "pulling a Clemson." With Virginia Tech's second loss to a Big East team, and Georgia Tech's defensive disaster against Middle Tennessee earlier today (and see below for Virginia), the ACC couldn't afford to have one of its two ranked teams fall.
Clemson kept the league's hopes of two BCS bowl teams alive with its win over the Eagles. It also helped Florida State's strength of schedule in not decreasing the value of FSU's win in Week 4. Boston College, though, gave a gritty effort as expected. The Eagles' defense couldn't find an answer, though, for quarterback Tajh Boyd, who had four total touchdowns. BC is now 1-3, its lone win over Maine. Frank Spaziani didn't help himself with this one.
Winning on Saturday could prove to be critical in the end. Who knows what will happen with Florida State, perhaps they will start to appear more human as the season progresses, and drop a game or two. Even if they don't, winning in Boston on Saturday could very likely be the difference between a 10-2 type year and an 8-4 one. Lose to the Eagles and maybe players start to lose faith in the staff and go into a slide. This one was big, and provides some momentum heading into a game where Clemson will undoubtedly be out for revenge against Paul Johnson and company.
Georgia Tech has myriad problems to fix. It can do nothing about one of its biggest. The Yellow Jackets are playing Clemson, absolutely the wrong opponent after giving up more than 1,100 yards of offense in the past two games. First, the No. 15 Tigers can safely be assumed to be considerably more talented than Middle Tennessee State, which dealt Tech one of its worst losses in school history Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Second, Clemson will likely spend the week plotting its revenge.
This weekend, Clemson is back home, at a place where they usually perform much better than on the road, and that will be big when Georgia Tech comes to down. On Saturday, the Yellow Jackets looked, pedestrian at best, and awful at worst. Losing at home is never good. Losing at home to a Sun Belt team that were heavy underdogs is downright embarrassing. The Blue Raiders racked up 500+ yards against Al Groh's defensive unit, including 246 yards on the ground. Chad Morris will likely be licking his chops watching film this week based on a few things:
1) Clemson is back at home, and can run its offense without crowd noise
Tech has taken five of the past six games against the Tigers, including a 31-17 upset last October that dashed Clemson’s national championship aspirations. Saturday’s game will be a 3:30 p.m. kickoff at Clemson on ESPN. "I don’t care who Georgia Tech has played, beaten or lost to," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Sunday on his teleconference. "We have a tremendous amount of respect for their program, their coaching staff, the tradition of this game and all that stuff. You can just throw all that (overlooking Tech) stuff out the window."
Speaking of Sammy, it's hard to know much more than what has already been released to the public. He was sick this week and that's why he didn't make the trip. I guess the team didn't want to potentially subject other players to whatever he had by putting him on a plane in close quarters with lots of other people we would need on the field. It didn't bite us in the end, but there were certainly times on Saturday that we could've used Sammy, even at less than 100%. He says he will be back this weekend, and I sure hope so, Georgia Tech is always a wildcard than can put together long drives against teams, we will need all the weapons on offense we can get to counteract that.
The fans have become restless. With Georgia Tech sitting at 2-5 in their last 7 games, there's not a lot of reason to feel confident about this group going forward. I want to be confident and consider this game an outlier, but it's so hard to be confident in a group that can't win games it's supposed to. With a loss to MTSU, the Yellow Jackets leave September with 3 losses already. Want to hear something scary? We have 7 games left, and have to win 4 of them to go to a bowl game.
The line in Vegas opened at -10.5 this afternoon. A little bit higher than I thought where it would be (I figured 9 or 9.5), but that's probably in part to Georgia Tech's recent struggles. Also some bookmakers have expressed hesitation in a Paul Johnson squad coming off a loss, where they tend to continue to underperform. The public backed Clemson on Saturday against Boston College on the road and that is sure to be the case again this weekend in Death Valley. A cover would be nice, but at this point against Georgia Tech, a win and no injuries would still be a best case scenario.
Clemson is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games
Clemson is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games at home
Clemson is 10-1 SU in its last 11 games at home
Georgia Tech is 4-9-1 ATS in its last 14 games
Georgia Tech is 2-5 SU in its last 7 games
Back to Georgia Tech. We know what we are going to get this weekend. Paul Johnson will have his squad prepared, despite whatever has happened this season for his team. That team always brings their A game against Clemson and we can expect continued success against Clemson's defense until it proves that it can actually stop the triple option attack. The Clemson offense has proven it can score at will on just about any team it faces. If the defense can get a string of stops, or at least hold the Yellow Jackets to field goals instead of touchdowns, Clemson should win this game. Clemson has a lot to avenge from last year, lets hope thats the case five days from now.