Friday, October 28, 2005

Football - GT / Clemson Game Preview

Don't have the time for a real detailed breakdown, but here are some thoughts without a lot of research........................

Ok, first things first. Saturday's game with Clemson has HUGE bowl implications........ for both teams........ Clemson is sitting at 4-3 (2-3 ACC) and the Jackets are 4-2 (2-2 ACC). For the Jackets, a brutal final stretch means that the best chance to reach 6 wins is to notch victories the next two weeks against the Tigers and Wake Forest. A slip-up in either of these games means an upset will be needed against either UVA, Miami or UGAg - do-able, but challenging. Let's also not forget that 6 wins does not necessarily equal bowl game.... even in Boise...... With only 6 bowl tie-ins during this ACC transition season, the middle-tier 6-win squeekers better hope the ACC can negotiate away other conference bowls when the time comes. Remember last year - there were only two bowl-eligible teams in the nation that stayed home - Clemson and USC - since they decided to have a good ole'fashioned brew-haha in their rivalry game.

So how does this game stack up? The bookies have the Jackets pegged as a 3-point home favorite. That means they don't have a clue and there is no clear advantage in their eyes. It's a toss-up. We all know the series has been nip-and-tuck and usually comes down to a last-second play. This year could be no different.

Clemson is a different team than we faced last season. Gone is that crazy shotgun alignment on every play and waiting 30 seconds before the play is sent in. Gone are both the OC and DC, in favor of new guys as the coaching pinwheel keeps spinning. The OC Rob Spence has been ok, but fans have been frustrated by a series of heartbreaking losses. The Tigers are coming off a strong 37-7 win over Temple, who by all rights should be playing high school ball..........

On offense, they are letting Charlie Whitehurst throw shorter passes and they aren't always trying to bust the backs up the middle all the time. In terms of the offenses, both teams have had similar success in the running game, although the Tigers will be mostly without the services of super-frosh TB James Davis. Davis was SSSOOO looking forward to juicing it up in his hometown of ATL. Maybe 2 years from now James. That certainly helps the Jackets, as Davis will be a fixture for Clemson in years to come. He's a good one.

The passing game is where the offenses diverge, as Clemson has had more success with the experienced Charlie Whitehurst. They are completing passes at a higher clip and for about 40 more yards per game. Of course CW is more of a pocket-passer, which means - say it with me - less rollouts, less balls thrown OB, etc. You remember the story right? That's why it's ok to have a 47% completion percentage. In all seriousness, there is no doubt that Reggie Ball has had a better season than last year. Say what you want, he has. Oh, he's no Peyton Manning, but he has made a step-up this year - although not a giant one.

Key stat - Charlie Whitehurst is completing 64.8% of his 3rd down passes, but the Jackets are 2nd in the league in preventing opponent 3rd down conversions at only 25.6%.

The defenses are both solid, but the Jackets have an advantage here. But the key is not tackling Whitehurst, it's tackling the guys who catch the ball. Especially Chauncy Stuckey, who is one of those razzle-dazzle playmaker type guys. The Clemson defense is just ok.


The Jackets have been feast or famine on field position. Our losses are littered with drive after drive starting inside our own 20 and the opponent having excellent field position. Clemson has the worst punting game in the league, with a net 29.3 yards/punt, while the Jackets are 2nd with 38.6. This could be important in the battle for position.

We like to pressure QB's. Send the army in. We like Chris Reis to cheat towards the line. We really like to do it with inexperienced QB's. We're not facing one of those. So CW is going to get rid of the ball and we're going to have to tackle. That means avoid big plays. J.Tenuta needs a solid gameplan that confuses Bowden's boys but doesn't expose our own.

Our #1 goal on defense - stuff the run. No James Davis is helpful, they have some experienced backs to give the ball to. On the other side, will PJ Daniels get back into early season form? Will the O-Line use their scheme blocking to advantage or will we have to turn to a pass-first offense - again? As always, he who wins in the trenches typicallys wins on the scoreboard.

Key stat - Clemson is #1 in the ACC in redzone offense, getting points 93.1% of the time. Georgia Tech is last in the ACC in redzone defense, allowing points 93.1% of the time. Not a good combo..............Travis Bell has not made a field goal is 40-something days. He's still 0-his-last-5.........

KET STAT - Clemson has scored more points in the 2nd quarter than any other BY FAR (almost double any other quarter). They've also given up the most points in the 2nd quarter. Georgia Tech opponents have scored the most points against us in the 2nd quarter as well.

As in every college game, turnovers will be critical in determining the outcome. Both teams are on the plus side on the season....Key stat - Clemson is 11th nationally in turnover margin at +1.14. Of course Tech is 8th nationally at +1.17...... Clemson is the only 1-A team who has not lost a fumble this season.

I have to go with the Jackets. I see a close game with a moderate score, both teams in the 20-30 point range. I see both teams struggling offensively at times but breaking out in stretches as well. I just don't see a methodical, paced game.

Jackets win 28-21.