JacketsOnline - JOL Previewing: GT vs #1 Clemson
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JOL Previewing: GT vs #1 Clemson

Georgia Tech hosts the #1 team in the country on Saturday and it will be a tall task again for the Jackets in the annual ACC assigned crossover rivalry game. The Tigers are loaded up again and a quarter of the way toward a playoff berth while the Jackets are showing major signs of growth in year two under Geoff Collins.

Clemson gave Tech the stiff arm in the season opener last year in Death Valley
Clemson gave Tech the stiff arm in the season opener last year in Death Valley (Adam Hagy/USAToday)

Clemson (4-0, 3-0 in ACC) at Georgia Tech (2-2, 2-1 ACC)

Date and Time: Saturday, 12 p.m.

TV: ABC, WatchESPN

Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan/Sirius 134/ XM 194

Last Game: Georgia Tech won 46-27 vs. Clemson last Friday (Oct. 9); Clemson won 42-17 vs. Miami last Saturday (Oct. 10)

Series History: Georgia Tech leads 50-32-2

Last Meeting: Clemson won 52-14 at Clemson on Aug. 29, 2019

Stat Comparison: Points per game (Georgia Tech 25.8, Clemson 42.3), Points allowed per game (Georgia Tech 31.5, Clemson 13.3), Total offense (Georgia Tech 453 yards per game, Clemson 495.5 yards per game), Total defense (Georgia Tech 448.8 yards per game, Clemson 279.8 yards per game)

GEORGIA TECH Key Offensive Players: Jeff Sims (QB, Fr.), Jahmyr Gibbs (RB, Fr.), Zach Quinney (RS-Jr., LT)

CLEMSON Key Offensive Players: Trevor Lawrence (QB, Jr.), Travis Etienne (RB, Sr.), Jackson Carman (LT, Jr.)

GEORGIA TECH Key Defensive Players: Antonneous Clayton (DE, RS-Sr.), Quez Jackson (LB, Jr.), Juanyeh Thomas (FS, Jr.)

CLEMSON Key Defensive Players: Baylon Spector (LB, RS-Jr.), KJ Henry (DE, RS-Soph.), Lannden Zanders (S, Soph.)

Game Preview Analysis: The Jackets showed what they are capable of when they protect the ball and play opportunistic defense last Friday in a 46-27 win over Louisville On The Flats. Georgia Tech won the turnover battle 3-0 and put together some clutch offensive drives to dominate the second half to the tune of 32-6 advantage against the Cardinals in the win. They will have to do all that once again and a whole lot more this Saturday to stay in the game because they will welcome a team that is playing on a completely different level as the five-time defending ACC champion Clemson Tigers come to town.

Clemson looks like a team with few holes once again as Dabo Swinney has built a juggernaut that simply reloads with top talent year after year. It all starts in the backfield as Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne are not only the top quarterback-running back combo in the nation this season, but one of the best in recent memory. Add to that a deep and explosive receivers group and some big, athletic tight ends and you have yourself a close to unstoppable offense. The weakest point, if at all, is on the offensive line where the Tigers have four new starters, but to this point in the season, that group has looked nothing but stellar as well.

On defense, the Tigers have playmakers at all three levels with their best position group probably being the defensive line led by end KJ Henry and two impressive true freshmen, end Myles Murphy and tackle Bryan Bresee. Baylon Spector is the team’s leading tackler as he and James Skalski are now seasoned players at linebacker, and the secondary is stout as well with long, athletic defensive backs all across the field.

Georgia Tech is much-improved on both sides of the ball with the offense making the biggest leap so far in 2020. QB Jeff Sims and RB Jahmyr Gibbs, both true freshmen, have made their share of highlight plays, but those could be hard to come by against a disciplined Clemson defense. What the Jackets’ offense must do in order to stay in Saturday’s contest is lean on their improved offensive line and deep running back group. They must commit to the run and stay with it even if it doesn’t produce success early. Trying to control the clock with effective, time-consuming drives is the recipe with the highest likelihood of success. Attempting to get in a shootout with Lawrence, Etienne and company is not the route the Jackets want to go.

The key for Tech’s defense is simple…they must get a big-time effort from their defensive line. That front four must push the pocket and do their best to hold their ground in the trenches because using extra bodies to blitz Lawrence will leave Tech’s defensive backs vulnerable for huge plays.

The Jackets will compete, show progress and have some positive things to take away from this game, but Clemson is just too much in the second half as they pull away for a comfortable win.

Prediction: Clemson wins, 40-20.