Atlanta is a vibrant city, and if you're coming down for the trip there is plenty to do after the noon showdown. The College Football Hall of Fame is giving free shirts to Clemson fans wearing Clemson attire who make the trip this weekend. Maybe more fitting, and just three miles North on Marietta/Howell Mill, would be a trip to Monday Night Brewing where you can get a Nerd Alert ale.
As for the game itself, we caught up with Tyler Duke, a writer at From the Rumble Seat, SB Nation's Georgia Tech blog and learned a bit more about the Yellow Jackets and what we can expect in our toughest game left on the docket.
STS: Shakin the Southland
FTRS: From the Rumble Seat
STS: Georgia Tech’s offense is really running on all gears. 25-points is their season low, a mark Clemson has dipped below four times in their first nine games. That said, the Yellow Jackets have only faced one or two good defenses this season. How do you see Georgia Tech’s offense dealing with Clemson’s senior laden defensive line?
FTRS: The Clemson defense could certainly pose problem for the Tech offense. Virginia's bigger defensive line got in the backfield quite often against Tech two weeks ago and really limited the perimeter running game. With that being said, the B-Back has consistently ran well all year, and I expect the offense to run it behind Senior guard Shaquille Mason as much as possible. He may have a big role in blocking Grady Jarrett as much as possible.
The difference this year for the Jackets' offense is the versatility. Quarterback Justin Thomas is the best playmaker Paul Johnson has had, and he is able to make plays out of nothing and can throw the ball pretty well. That has allowed Tech to score pretty easily up to this point.
STS: Against Wake Forest, Clemson safety, Robert Smith, broke up a potential reception by putting his shoulder into TE Cam Serigne’s upper chest just a split second after he touched the ball. It broke up the play, but resulted in a targeting call.
Despite a review, an official on the field telling Garry Peters it would be overturned, and the ACC Commissioner of Officials saying during the broadcast that it would be overturned, it was not. Robert Smith was ejected and the ACC has stood by the call after the game. Because the play happened in the second half, Robert Smith will miss the first half of the Georgia Tech game.
My question is two-fold: A) If you saw the play, what did you think of the ruling? B) What is the strong safety’s role against Georgia Tech’s run game and what could they do to exploit youngster T.J. Green in the first half?
FTRS: I don't agree with the call. It's pretty obvious that he didn't lead with his head, and there didn't seem to be any violent intent in the hit. I was pretty surprised they upheld the call. I think one thing that causes the flag to be thrown more often with that is when the defensive players leaves his feet to make the hit. That's really the only thing I can think of.
As for exploiting the safety, I wouldn't expect Johnson to change anything up because of him being back there. If anything, Tech may take a shot deep if Green begins to creep up and react too much to the offense. The safety needs to be very disciplined and keep his head on a swivel since he often will be the guy needing to make a big tackle to avoid a huge gain. Clemson may play him up in more of a deep linebacker role like quite a few defenses do against the triple option. I'd be surprised if they left him back in the center field role.
STS: Georgia Tech B-Back, Zach Laskey, was out versus NC State, but they didn’t miss a beat. Will he be back against Clemson? If not, how does that affect their chances? If so, what does he bring to the offense?
FTRS: I would've said it would be a huge blow to the offense if you asked me that question a few weeks ago. Instead, former quarterback Synjyn Days has filled in wonderful for Laskey and hasn't shown any drop-off in production. Laskey practiced most of last week, and I expect him to be active against Clemson. Laskey brings hard-nosed running to the option offense, and he is a guy that almost always falls forward for at least a few yards when he gets the ball. He also has pretty good speed once he breaks out into some space. Having him and Days healthy and rotating in the offense will be a huge plus.
STS: Clemson has offered little by the way of a vertical passing threat for the past month, however, Deshaun Watson will return this Saturday. Georgia Tech’s defense has looked a bit better of late, but overall has been average at best. Do you think they can effectively shut down Clemson’s vertical passing game?
FTRS: I would be shocked if Tech shuts down the Clemson vertical passing game. The Jackets haven't shown much of an ability to shut down anyone, and it's not going to happen against Watson and Clemson. The best thing Tech can do is employ its bend-don't-break defense and force mistakes. The defense has been great at being opportunistic and forcing turnovers at crucial times. If the Jackets aren't able to do that, their best defense is the offense's ability to hold the ball for a really long time and score.
STS: Clemson hasn’t won in Bobby Dodd since 2003 and hasn’t looked impressive the past few weeks. Nevertheless they opened as 2.5 point favorites. What do you think happens this Saturday?
FTRS: I'm not surprised by the spread at all. I think Clemson is regarded as one of the better schools in the nation with Deshaun Watson behind center because of what he was able to do when he was given the chance and healthy.
If this game was in Clemson, I wouldn't hesitate picking the Tigers in this one. Fortunately for Tech fans, it's in Atlanta. A noon kickoff limits the home field advantage a little bit in my opinion, but I still expect a loud crowd that will help the team some. I don't see this one being as high-scoring as some people are talking about. As it does so often with Tech, I think it will come down to turnovers. A rusty Deshaun Watson turns it over in the 4th quarter, and Georgia Tech pulls out a close one, 31-28. It should be fun.