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Monday Notes: Get Healthy and Get Better

Joshua S. Kelly-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Things will be quiet next weekend for the Clemson faithful, which is probably a good thing. Through six games this season, the Tigers sit at 5-1. This team is banged up and this bye week comes at a great time. Brandon Ford is battling an ankle injury, so is Bashaud Breeland. Anyone that watched the game Saturday could tell #2 isn't back to full speed either. For a guy that took over games his freshman year, Sammy was nowhere to be seen for long stretches on Saturday. This week Clemson can use this time to rest those three key players and prepare for the long stretch ahead.

As the Tigers hit a superbly timed open week, they have reason to be excited. Despite a shaky defense, Dabo Swinney’s bunch is 5-1, 2-1 in ACC play and poised to take advantage of a second-half schedule which features four of six games at home...The ACC won’t have a national title contender this season, but Clemson is firmly back in the hunt for a second consecutive league championship.

The good news? Clemson is 3-1 coming off a bye under Dabo. The even better news? Four of the final six games are in the friendly confines of Death Valley. The two road games are against a struggling Wake Forest team (that will be on the road the week before Clemson comes to town) and Duke, a team that has turned some heads this year, but has to face FSU in Tallahassee before the Clemson game. Clemson couldn't ask for a better second half of the schedule, and has no excuse not to capitalize on the generous slate.

Clemson heads to its bye week chock-full of good vibes with a Saturday victory against Georgia Tech that came with a couple of key supplemental intangibles. Not only did the Tigers take care of business against a pesky opponent that had defeated them four of five times during the Dabo Swinney era, but the victory also came prior to the team's bye week as it now has added time to heal and prepare for a home game with Virginia Tech in two weeks.

Clemson has survived some big games. It beat Auburn in the Georgia Dome, a house of horrors for this program in recent memory. It beat Boston College on the road, a game Clemson always seems to struggle with. And it beat Georgia Tech and Paul Johnson's triple option at home this past weekend, a game that any Clemson fan will gladly take a win in and move on, despite how ugly it was at times.

This isn't 2011. This is a different Clemson team that learned a lesson from last year's loss to Georgia Tech. Clemson was 8-0 last year when it went to Atlanta and was upset by the Yellow Jackets. This year, the No. 15-ranked Tigers avoided the letdown and were able to hang on for the 47-31 win. Georgia Tech gave Clemson a good scare -- and Clemson's defense gave its fans a good scare for the majority of the game -- but in the end, it was Georgia Tech's defense that came up short. Again.

Now it has two weeks to get ready for Virginia Tech, a team that is in a place it hasn't been in a long time, three losses by the beginning of October? Yikes. The Hokies looked mediocre at best on Saturday in Chapel HIll and awful during some stretches. While Logan Thomas hasn't exactly looked like Geno Smith so far, it's the Virginia Tech defense that has struggled something fierce. Giving up 48 points to UNC and getting gashed for 300+ yards on the ground is exactly what we have come to expect from a Bud Foster defense.

The Virginia Tech Hokies are 3-3, and as you can read above, they are not a good football team. They are the worst Virginia Tech football team of the last decade. Going into the season, I had more confidence in this team that any in recent memory. Logan Thomas was a known commodity ( saying that just makes me laugh at myself), the Tech defense returned nine starters off of a defense that ranked No. 10, and several important offensive playmakers returned. But I digress. Just know that this is not a good football team.

Going into this season it was clear their would be question marks on the VT offense with only 3 returning starters, and that the defense would once again carry this squad with the return of 8 starters. This defense was suppose to be one of the best five in the country going into this year, but instead sits at 64th in total defense and 98th in rush defense at the mid way point. Woof. Bud Foster is too good of a coach not to turn it around, but a lot of VT fans are left scratching their head at this point, especially with three losses already on the season.

t runs counter to everything Virginia Tech believes in — defense, running physically, controlling the clock. But this isn’t the defense the Hokies have had in the past, certainly not one that’s going to shut down pretty good offenses (of which there are many left on the schedule). And the running game hasn’t been up to snuff, so reverting to that run-first offense of Virginia Tech’s past is like banging your head against the wall. The Hokies might have to simply out-score opponents this year to win, and as they have shown, they move the ball best in the air.

As for Clemson? This will (hopefully) be a game where Clemson attempts to play its most complete game of the season. If last years two wins against the Hokies are any indication, that could very well happen. This Clemson offense carved up Virginia Tech twice last year, and the Virginia Tech pro style, vanilla offense did very little against a Clemson defense that gave up points and yards to everyone last year. And now Clemson gets Frank Beamer's crew at home, and well rested coming off a bye. Buckle up, this could be a fun second half of the season.