After what seemed like an eternity, it’s game week once again for Clemson.
The attention turns to Georgia Tech in the last non-divisional ACC game left for the Tigers in the regular season, and Clemson can’t afford any more slip-ups if its dreams of having a shot at repeating as national champions and making a third consecutive trip to the College Football Playoff are to remain alive.
The Yellow Jackets aren’t a pushover, either. They’re 4-2, but their two losses were by a single point each — one to Tennessee in the first week of the season, and another to eighth-ranked Miami on Oct. 14. As always, Georgia Tech’s rushing offense remains its backbone. Their triple-option offense ranks second in the country in rushing yards at 372.8 per game, more than 10 yards per game greater than the third-best team.
“This is a 4-2 team but truly, literally two plays away from being undefeated,” coach Dabo Swinney said at his Tuesday press conference, per TigerIllustrated.com. “[Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson] has done an awesome job getting them in a position to win. We’re in for a big fight.”
Quarterback TaQuon Marshall is the gear that powers the Yellow Jackets offense. In his first year as a starter, Marshall has run 144 times for 704 yards and 11 touchdowns, all of which lead the team. Running back KirVonte Benson is the only other player with more than 100 carries — he and Marshall combine to average 43.5 rushes per game, and no other player averages at least 5. Benson has run for 652 yards on 117 carries — 27 fewer than Marshall, but only 52 yards behind him.
To corral this two-headed monster, Clemson needs its defensive linemen to be efficient in open-field tackles, quick in making decisions and extremely disciplined, although that goes for the linebackers and defensive backs as well.
“Where they do a great job, when games are close, they start wearing people out late in the third, late in the fourth quarters doing the same things they’ve been doing,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said on Tuesday. “Because players get lazy-minded, they physically get lazy, and they’re not as desperate and fanatical about doing their job. And then they start trying to do too much, and then you’re going to run out of fingers and toes with all the holes that you’re going to open up.”
It doesn’t necessarily get any easier when you get Georgia Tech’s offense off the field.
The Yellow Jackets rank 20th in the nation in total defense, allowing fewer yards per game then traditional defensive stalwarts LSU and Florida State. However, the Jackets give up roughly 5.3 yards per play, so the opportunities for big plays are there if Clemson can sustain drives.
Swinney had nothing but praise for Johnson’s team on Tuesday.
“He is a great coach. Georgia Southern, Navy, Georgia Tech … he is a winner,” Swinney said according to TigerIllustrated.com. “He has been successful because he executes what he believes. They know how to execute. They’ve been able to run the triple-option offense to perfection.
“I feel sorry for teams that never play them. It’s a challenge. It’s assignment football at its finest. You have to have such great technique and discipline. They stress you from all angles. It never gets easy. He’s done it for so long. He’s got answers. I just have great respect for Paul and what they do.”
The road isn’t getting much easier for Clemson, but the Tigers’ destiny is in their own hands. The first test comes in Death Valley on Saturday night.
The post Clemson faces Georgia Tech’s triple option, but 2 main threats stand out appeared first on Diehards.