GAME NOTES: The 24th-ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will play their final
home game of the season on Saturday afternoon, as they welcome the 18th-ranked
Clemson Tigers to Bobby Dodd Stadium for a marquee Atlantic Coast Conference
Clemson came into the season with high expectations only to fall off the radar
with losses in two of its first three contests. Since then however, the Tigers
have built themselves back up into a contender with six straight victories –
most recently a 34-20 triumph at Wake Forest – to improve to 7-2 and 6-1 in
“We’ve got three (games) left and we need to be our best in the month of
November,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “That’s when good teams kind of
separate from the pack.”
Georgia Tech spoiled a fast 5-0 start with back-to-back losses in October to
Duke (31-25) and North Carolina (48-43), but it has since rebounded nicely
with three straight victories to rejoin the likes of the nationally ranked.
The Yellow Jackets downed NC State last Saturday (56-23) to improve to 5-2 in
the ACC, a game behind Duke (4-1) in the loss column in the ACC Coastal
“We have been talking to (the team) all week about controlling what we can
control and not worrying about anyone else,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson
said. “If you can find a way to keep winning, the games will get bigger and
The Yellow Jackets have a 50-27-2 advantage in the all-time series with the
Tigers, although Clemson won 55-31 at home last season for its second straight
win in the series.
The Tigers’ offense (32.4 ppg, 431.4 ypg) has been impressive this season, and
after treading water over the past month they will welcome back their dynamic
starting quarterback from injury.
Although Cole Stoudt (.634 completions, 1,425 yards, five TDs, five INTs) was
adequate under center in over the last three-plus games in Deshaun Watson’s
absence, the offense is at peak form with Watson at the controls. In six games
this season, Watson has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,176 yards, 12
touchdowns and just two interceptions while adding solid rushing totals as
well (147 yards, three TDs).
Watson will return to one of the ACC’s best receiving duos. Artavis Scott is a
great possession guy with 53 receptions, 624 yards and five touchdowns, while
Mike Williams is a big play waiting to happen with 772 yards and four
touchdowns on just 38 catches (20.3 ypc).
The rushing attack has not been great, averaging a mere 3.3 yards per carry.
Wayne Gallman is the top dog in the backfield with 95 carries for 405 yards
and two scores.
Clemson possesses one of the nation’s best defenses, allowing 18.4 ppg and a
mere 252.0 ypg (second in FBS). The unit stepped up its play of late, allowing
20 points or fewer in five straight.
Stephone Anthony is one of the unit’s top playmakers with 57 tackles, 8.5 TFL,
2.5 sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles. All-American Vic Beasley is
an elite pass-rusher with 12.5 TFL and 8.0 sacks. Robert Smith and Jadar
Johnson each have two interceptions, although Smith is expected to miss the
first half of this matchup while serving a suspension.
Georgia Tech’s outstanding offense (38.8 ppg, 481.3 ypg) was clicking on all
cylinders its last time out in matching a season-high 58 points while picking
up an astonishing 479 rushing yards.
The Yellow Jackets have grown accustomed to a potent ground attack, as their
335.6 rushing yards per game ranks second in the nation behind only Navy
(350.4 ypg). Justin Thomas orchestrates the triple-option attack from under
center and leads the team in rushing with 781 yards and five touchdowns. He
only averages 13.4 pass attempts per game, but he’s still thrown for 1,294
yards and 14 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
With Zach Laskey (595 yards, five TDs) out indefinitely with a shoulder
injury, Synjyn Days (503 yards, three TDs) has stepped up as the primary
tailback and rushed for 157 yards and a score in last week’s win.
DeAndre Smelter has just 27 receptions but the majority of them have resulted
in big plays, as he’s racked up 594 yards and six touchdowns. His 22.0 yards-
per-catch average is seventh best in the country.
While Georgia Tech’s defense hasn’t been as strong as Clemson’s, it has still
been impressive in its own right, yielding just 25.9 ppg while forcing 21
Seven players have created multiple takeaways. P.J. Davis has a team-high 77
tackles to go with 7.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks, an interception and three forced
fumbles. Quayshawn Nealy (65 tackles) has forced three fumbles and picked off
two passes. Other defensive standouts include Jamal Golden (38 tackles, three
INTs, two FF), KeShun Freeman (8.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks, two blocked kicks) and D.J.
White (53 tackles, two INTs, FF).
Both teams are desperate for quality wins at this point in the season, and
their respective strong defenses should beat up on one another. Even with
Georgia Tech holding the homefield advantage, the return of Watson should be
enough to lift the Tigers to victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Clemson 24, Georgia Tech 23