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Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Clemson Tigers Preview and Prediction

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Has the party stopped at Clemson? Probably not. The Tigers vaulted up the rankings to No. 6 with a 24-22 victory over Notre Dame and are now firmly in the national championship discussion. That is a reason to celebrate.

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The Clemson defense was great against Notre Dame’s big offensive line and they completely shut down the Notre Dame running game. This week will be a bit different as they face Georgia Tech and their triple option.

The Yellow Jackets have had a rough few weeks. After blowing out Alcorn State and Tulane, Paul Johnson’s team has dropped three in a row. Last Saturday the Yellow Jackets blew a 21-0 lead and lost to North Carolina 38-31.

Georgia Tech and Clemson have played 78 times dating back to 1902 and the Yellow Jackets lead the series 51-25-2.

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Georgia Tech at Clemson

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

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TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2

Spread: Clemson -7

Three Things to Watch

1. Back to Earth, Clemson

The Tigers should feel good about themselves after the win over Notre Dame. But after spending the week listening to people tell them how great they are, Clemson needs to shift into game mode. That is not something that is easy to do, especially when facing a team that has just dropped three straight. The coaches can talk all they want about how Georgia Tech is a good team that has had some bad breaks and how the Jackets beat Clemson 28-6 last year. It's difficult to turn to the next page when what you want to do is keep reading the previous one.

2. The Georgia Tech Passing Game

In Johnson’s system, it’s about rushing yardage. But one thing that made the 2014 Georgia Tech offense so dangerous was quarterback Justin Thomas’s ability to hurt teams with his arm. Last fall, Thomas completed 51.3 percent of his passes for 1,719 yards and 18 scores. The Jackets often would get big yardage pass plays when opponents were so focused on the run. This season, the completion percentage is down to 45.6 percent and Thomas is on less than a 1,400-yard pace. Also, the longest pass play has been 40 yards. For Georgia Tech to compete with Clemson, they will have to hit a big pass play or two to keep Jayron Kearse and the talented Clemson safeties honest.

3. Clemson’s Ability to Avoid the Cut Blocks

Clemson faced a good running team in Notre Dame last week. They also faced an option team in Wofford to open the season. This is not the same as either of those games. Clemson’s front seven is bigger, stronger, and faster than the Georgia Tech offensive line. But they were last year when the Jackets ran for 251 yards. Or the year before when they ran for 248. Or they year before that when they piled up 339 yards on the ground. Clemson has had trouble containing Johnson’s offense at Tech and part of their problem has been getting past the cut blocks. Shedding these blocks and forcing Thomas to make decisions quicker than he likes is a recipe for Clemson success.

Final Analysis

The most important aspect of this game has nothing to do with schemes or offense or defense. It is all about whether Clemson can come down off the emotional high of last week. The Tigers are more talented and though they have not had a whole lot of luck stopping Georgia Tech in the past, the blueprint for slowing down the Yellow Jackets has been laid out. The atmosphere at Death Valley will again be electric at the start of the game with the crowd welcoming their guys that conquered the Fighting Irish. That is not an issue. The questions are in the preparation leading up to the game and how sustainable the emotion is over 60 minutes of football. If this game was in Atlanta, I might call for the upset.  But at home Clemson will get by.

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Prediction: Clemson 31, Georgia Tech 27

— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.