Photo by Sara Schmitt

They lost to Syracuse. Can Tech take down Clemson?

Bruised Bryant?

With previous Clemson star quarterback Deshaun Watson drafted by the Houston Texans this past April, Kelly Bryant has taken over at quarterback for the Tigers this year. He has done well, leading his team to a 6-1 record, but in the Tigers’ most recent game against Syracuse, Bryant suffered a concussion. He has since cleared the concussion protocol (he has had two weeks to heal up since last week was Clemson’s bye week), but the team might limit his practice repetitions.

Additionally, Bryant re-injured his ankle against Syracuse, which he had originally rolled in a game against Wake Forest. An ankle injury can limit Bryant’s effectiveness as a mobile quarterback and render his game one-dimensional, and he has recently admitted that his ankle is still not 100 percent. While Bryant is ready to play against Tech this Saturday, his nagging injuries may hinder his ability as a dual-threat quarterback thus making him easier to defend.

Test for Offense

Coming into this game, Clemson’s defense is ranked No. 10 in the country in total defense, a statistic that combines allowed yards per play, allowed yards per game, allowed points per game and other relevant defensive performance details. This is by far the best defense the Jackets have faced all year, and it will be a telling test as to how the Tech offense adapts and remains effective during
the game.

Usually, the Tech offense is able to run the ball so efficiently that it rarely finds itself in a position where it needs to throw. However, expect more third down situations in this game, especially third-and-long situations where Tech will be forced to throw the ball to move the chains.

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has had the Jackets’ number in the last few contests. His highly athletic defense is less vulnerable to Tech’s tricky scheme. That scheme will have to provide the Jackets an edge.

Blame it on the bye

Clemson is coming off a bye week after a devastating loss against Syracuse, and that bye week came at a perfect time for them. Firstly, it gives players a chance to rest and heal up if they are injured, such as Kelly Bryant. After playing seven consecutive games, having an extra week to rest and not get hit helps players feel refreshed and recharged. Football teams tend to perform much better after their bye weeks, so unfortunately for the Jackets, they will be playing against a healthier and replenished Tigers team.

This bye week allows the Tigers to recuperate and mentally overcome the defeat rather than dwell on the loss and play worse as a result. Clemson’s bye week also allows them to prepare more for their next opponent: Tech. Given that Tech plays a unique style of football, particularly on offense with the triple option, an extra week of preparation for Clemson might give them an edge, not that they really needed another one.

Keys to victory

For Tech, the key to winning is being able to play consistently throughout the game. With an opponent as tough as the Tigers, Tech will not be able to dominate in this game like it did against Pitt and North Carolina. It should be a close game that comes down to the wire, but the Jackets have faltered in two close games this season, giving up leads to lose by one point in the end. Overcoming a double-digit deficit against Wake Forest is a start in bucking the trend of late-game failure.

For Clemson, the key to winning is playing quickly and intelligently on defense. Given the potential quarterback concerns of Clemson, they need their top-tier defense to step up to the plate and contain Tech’s dynamic offense. Yes, the Tigers stopped the combination of Justin Thomas and Dedrick Mills last year in impressive fashion. TaQuon Marshall and KirVonte Benson bring a different style of play. Clemson will have to shut them down early.