The off week couldn’t have come at a better time for Clemson. The time away allowed the Tigers to come to grips with the loss at Syracuse and, perhaps more importantly, gave injured quarterback Kelly Bryant time to heal. Plus, head coach Dabo Swinney and his staff had more time to prepare for the next opponent.
And extra prep time is nice to have when going up against Georgia Tech. The 5-2 Yellow Jackets are four points away from being undefeated, and at 3-1 in the ACC, they remain a contender in the Coastal despite the loss to Miami.
Clemson and Georgia Tech have played 81 times with the Jackets holding a 50-29-2 series edge, though the Tigers have won four of the last five meetings.
Georgia Tech at Clemson
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC or ESPN2
Spread: Clemson -14
Three Things to Watch
1. Kelly Bryant’s health
It was clear early in the Syracuse game that Bryant’s ankle was still bothering him. It's difficult to say whether or not it led to the hit that caused the concussion, but it certainly did not help. Bryant has cleared concussion protocol and has said that the ankle that was originally injured against Wake Forest is much better. But we will not know for sure how well he can move until the game starts on Saturday night. Though Zerrick Cooper was serviceable against the Orange, Bryant’s ankle will be a major story going into the Georgia Tech game.
2. Avoiding the Georgia Tech cut blocks
It’s what the Yellow Jackets do: In the Georgia Tech blocking scheme, they take down defenders with low blocks. Some opposing coaches may complain that these chop blocks are dangerous, but they are perfectly legal and are a part of the game. Clemson’s defense is very quick, and it is tough to run to the outside against the Tigers because of their team speed. But if the Jackets can put the guys in Orange on the ground, it will open up running lanes. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables knows Georgia Tech’s offense well enough and will have his guys in the right spots. From there, it will just be a matter of execution.
3. Special teams
The early-season injury to kicker Greg Huegel was part of the story in Clemson’s 27-24 loss to Syracuse. The Tigers failed to add six points when Alex Spence missed kicks from 35 and 38 yards. On the other side, Georgia Tech has been terrible in punt coverage, and Clemson’s Ray-Ray McCloud is dangerous in the open field. The Yellow Jackets’ kick coverage is not great either, and though Clemson freshman Travis Etienne has not broken a return yet, he has the speed to do so at any time.
So much is dependent upon Kelly Bryant. Georgia Tech has a very formidable defense, but if Bryant is close to 100 percent, the Tigers will be tough to stop. Clemson is balanced offensively with Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster running the ball and a slew of talented wide receivers. The Clemson defense did not have its best game in the Carrier Dome, but the Tigers have held the Georgia Tech option attack under 100 yards rushing each of the last two years. Even though Yellow Jackets quarterback TaQuon Marshall (above, right) has developed into a premier signal-caller in Paul Johnson’s system, Clemson knows how to defend this offense and will do enough to come away with a victory.
Prediction: Clemson 28, Georgia Tech 17
— 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.