Perhaps Georgia Tech’s supreme challenge awaits in the fourth game of the season. That’s when Clemson, a favorite to win the College Football Playoff, will come to Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The game holds particular allure for Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall.
“Oh, definitely,” Marshall said. “I love to compete.”
Marshall and the Tech offense’s ability to prepare and compete figure to be tested to their fullest by Clemson’s defensive line, a foursome that could all be first-round picks next spring – ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant and tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence.
“If they stay healthy, they’re by far the best d-line in college football, in my opinion, and I’m sure other people will say the same thing,” Marshall said. “They’re the best group you’ll see to come through this game.”
They were at the heart of Clemson’s 24-10 win last season, when Tech averaged 4.1 yards per play and punted nine times in 13 possessions.
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Three of the four started in Clemson’s 2016 win at Bobby Dodd, when the Jackets averaged 2.4 yards per play in a 26-7 loss to the eventual national champions. It remains the lowest yards-per-play average for Tech in coach Paul Johnson’s 10-season tenure.
With eight returning starters (depending on method of tabulation, it could be considered 10), the Jackets figure to be more prepared this time.
“I’m really excited to play against those guys,” Marshall said. “They’re some of the best, and I love playing against some of the best of the best.”
Marshall even has an ideal setting in mind for the September 22 matchup.
“I’m hoping it’ll be a 7 o’clock game, primetime,” Marshall said. “A night game at Bobby Dodd is one you cannot beat.”
Memories of coming up far short against the Tigers clearly do not faze Marshall. It didn’t last year, either. Marshall recalled how, on the way home from Clemson last year, Johnson showed him game video of opportunities missed.
“He told me at that moment, he’s like, I really hope we play these guys again (in the ACC championship),” Marshall said. “I said, ‘Coach, I honestly hope we play ’em again, too.’”
It’s not the situation that Marshall envisioned for a rematch, but he’ll have his chance.