Georgia Tech and Clemson both entered the win column in Week 2 by overwhelming FCS opponents. The Jackets cruised by Kennesaw State 45-17, while the Tigers dismantled South Carolina State in a game that Clemson could have scored as many points as it wanted.
For the third time in four seasons, the ACC crossover rivals will open up their league schedules by facing one another. This rivalry features a lot of history, and Georgia Tech leads the all-time series 50-33-2. But Clemson's recent national success has carried over into this annual matchup. The Tigers have won the last six meetings, including the last three by a combined score of 174-42.
Georgia Tech at No. 6 Clemson
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 18 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Clemson -28.5
When Georgia Tech Has the Ball
The first question that has to be answered is this: Who starts at quarterback for the Yellow Jackets? Jeff Sims suffered a left arm injury in the opener against Northern Illinois and was replaced by Jordan Yates. Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude indicated to the media that he was expecting Sims to play against Kennesaw State, but Yates took the snaps. Making things interesting is that Yates has played well in the first two games, completing 29 of 41 passes for 389 yards and five touchdowns with nary an interception.
Yates seems to have developed a good rapport with receivers Kyric McGowan and Malachi Carter. Plus, second-year running back Jahmyr Gibbs is once again proving to be an effective threat catching the ball out of the backfield. Along with Jordan Mason, Gibbs has also given the Jackets production on the ground, but Clemson poses a massive challenge.
The Georgia Tech front, while opening up some holes for the backs, has allowed seven sacks and this week will be going up against one of the best defensive lines in America. Running the ball against Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy isn't easy, and it will become even more difficult if tackle Tyler Davis returns after missing the first two games. The Tigers only have two sacks in the first two games, but that number should go up considering the talent on their front seven.
When Clemson Has the Ball
It has been a slow start to the season for the much-hyped D.J. Uiagalelei. The sophomore quarterback had obvious difficulties versus the aggressive Georgia defense, and while he expectedly improved in Week 2 against the other Bulldogs, his numbers weren't all that spectacular. To be fair, Uiagalelei is still getting on the same page as his receivers, and the offensive line has to do a better job than it did against Georgia. Still, Uiagalelei doesn't look as decisive in 2021 as he did in his two starts last season.
The line did flex its muscles against South Carolina State, and the running game was the big beneficiary. After totaling just two rushing yards in Week 1, Clemson ran for 242 in its first victory. Freshman Will Shipley led the way with 80 yards, and Kobe Pace chipped in with 68. The Tigers haven't had a consistent running game since 2019, and that is something they need as they enter ACC play.
While the Georgia Tech defense is much better than South Carolina State, the Yellow Jackets certainly aren't Georgia either. One of the troubling stats from the season-opening loss to Northern Illinois was that Tech gave up 165 rushing yards to a team that finished 99th in America in that department last season. And though the Yellow Jackets dominated Kennesaw State, the Owls still had 157 yards on the ground. Slowing down Justyn Ross, Joseph Ngata, and the Clemson passing game will be tough enough. If Tech can't harness the Tigers' running game, it could be a long day for the defense.
Both of these teams still have the Week 1 losses on their minds; wins over FCS schools won't erase those memories. A victory to open up ACC play would be a nice way to provide some optimism for what lies ahead. Unfortunately for Georgia Tech, positive thoughts will have to wait. Clemson's defense will shut down the Georgia Tech running game and force whichever Yellow Jacket quarterback into a couple of mistakes. The Tigers' offense will show great balance, with Uiagalelei having his best game of the young season. The margin may not be quite as wide as it has been the past couple of years, but Clemson will seize control early on and cruise to an easy win.
Prediction: Clemson 41, Georgia Tech 17
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— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.