Friday, October 28, 2011

Is Clemson the Real Deal?

The Clemson Tigers are one of the most surprising teams of the 2011 college football season. Currently they are ranked 5th in the Bowl Championship Standings and have a perfect record at 8 – 0. Football gambling guru Phil Steele had the Tigers ranked 37th in the preseason and they did not make the list of his “Surprise” teams. This sentiment was generally accepted throughout the preseason and even into the first part of the season. Most thought the Tigers would improve over their 6 – 7 record from 2010, but nobody gave them a shot at making noise on the national stage in regard to being a possible BCS game contender. In previous years Clemson has been a team that drops a couple of games a year that are real head scratchers, but I think this group has gotten over that hump and look extremely focused each week. At this point in the season it does not seem like the talk of a MNC has any effect at all on the Tigers players who come to play each and every week.

This week take the Clemson Tigers take their perfect record on the road for a primetime conference matchup against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Clemson is led by sophomore quarterback Tahj Boyd and stand out freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Boyd is completing almost 62% of his passes and has amassed almost 2,400 hundred yards in the first eight games while throwing for 24 touchdowns and only 4 picks. Boyd’s favorite target is far and away Sammy Watkins who has over 800 yards receiving and 9 touchdown catches. The Boyd to Watkins connection has led to the Tigers being the 15th ranked offense nationally with 482 yards per game in offensive production. The suspect unit for the Tiger’s is their 60th ranked defense nationally, which is only ranked 9th in rushing defense in the ACC. The saving statistic for the Tigers is that they seem to have a nose for the football being ranked 12th nationally in turnover margin. These extra touches each game has enabled them to keep their perfect season rolling.

What can I say about the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets that I have not already said in previous articles. One thing that I think should be pointed out is that maybe their schedule just caught up with them. Their 6 – 0 start was a little misleading because the only real test was against North Carolina which they won 35 – 28. Their last two games have come against a quickly improving Virginia team and Miami who always will have superior athletes to the Yellow Jackets. These games resulted in losses and the Yellow Jackets are reeling at this point in the season. For the Yellow Jackets to be successful against Clemson they must execute their offense to perfection. When their running game is clicking it is hard for any team to stop, but it seems this season, that when faced with a talented opponent the offense is not producing like prior seasons.

The x-factor in this game may be the Clemson coaching staff. Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele has shown that he knows how to stop the Georgia Tech offense. Last year Clemson held the Yellow Jackets to only 13 points, their second lowest output of the season. I think that you have to go with Clemson in this game, the biggest challenge they may face is the growing expectation for success around their program. If they can come out in primetime and quickly take the Georgia Tech crowd out of this game look for them to cover the 3.5 points they are giving up on the point spread. Because of Georgia Techs ability to run the ball I think they will score points as well, my predictions is a score in the neighborhood of 34 – 24.

If Clemson can come out of Atlanta with a win, then I think you will have to start thinking about this team having a seat at the table come season’s end when we discuss a National Champion.

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