Tech must overcome its recent woes on defense in order to have a chance in this game. The Jackets gave up 49 points at home to Middle Tennessee State last week, and allowed their running back to rush for 217 yards and five touchdowns. The week before, they surrendered 609 yards to the Hurricanes, including 436 through the air. Missed tackles have plagued this defensive unit that will have its hands full trying to slow down a red-hot Clemson offense.
The Jackets have fared well against the Tigers, but this squad is coming off two tough home losses: one in an overtime thriller against Miami, and another in the 49-28 loss to MTSU. With the Coastal Division crown seemingly slipping out of reach, the Jackets hope to make a statement this Saturday by upsetting the Tigers in Death Valley.
The Jackets will rely on their option attack to get back on track to power the offense. Tech is ranked No. 3 in the nation in rushing with 329.4 yards per game and has scored 23 touchdowns on the ground. Redshirt senior quarterback Tevin Washington will make his 22nd straight start under center and figures to get most of his team’s carries. He leads Tech with 14 touchdowns and is always a threat in the open field. Sophomore B-back Zach Laskey will be Washington’s first option, pounding the ball at Clemson’s front seven. Washington and his backup, redshirt freshman Vad Lee, will also look to stretch the field to sophomore receiver Jeff Greene, who is averaging 21.1 yards per reception.
The No. 15 Tigers return home after two conference road tests to play host to the Jackets on Saturday. The team split those ACC matchups, losing a hard-fought battle 49-37 at No. 4 Florida State and rebounding with a 45-31 win at Boston College.
The Tigers will look to junior quarterback Tajh Boyd and their high-powered offense to lead them to victory. Boyd is second in the conference in both touchdown passes and quarterback rating and third in completion percentage with a 69.4 percent mark. He has thrown for an average of 270 yards per game this season and does not make mistakes often, having thrown only three interceptions to date. His main target will be wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who leads the conference in receptions, yards and touchdowns, with 42, 604 and six respectively. Hopkins is a deep threat, averaging 14.38 yards per reception and drawing extra defenders to open the field for his fellow receivers. Clemson also boasts one of the ACC’s top tight ends in senior Brandon Ford. The 6-foot-4 Ford is a force in the red zone, having scored three touchdowns when his team is inside the 20.
Senior running back Andre Ellington leads the ACC with 103 rushing yards per game and has scored six touchdowns. Overall, this offense amasses 511 yards per game and scores an average of 40.2 points per game, which will be quite a challenge for the Tech defense to stop.
Prediction: Tech 35, Clemson 45