Posted by Chip Patterson
CLEMSON WILL WIN IF: The Tigers play their game. Clemson has displayed a wealth of offensive talent in recent weeks that suggests there are no teams in the ACC that should out-duel the Tigers. Focusing on Sammy Watkins leaves DeAndre Hopkins open, and even when Andre Ellington and Mike Bellamy are on the sideline freshman D.J. Howard has shown he can be just as effective. Clemson is able to jump out to leads and force the opposition to play catchup. That's when the Tigers unleash Brandon Thompson and Andre Branch, two pleasant surprises in the pass rush game for defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. The biggest key down the stretch for Clemson is to maintain their focus and not look past any opponent. With 20+ true or redshirt freshman taking the field every Saturday, youth seems to be the only concern left on the schedule for the Tigers.
GEORGIA TECH WILL WIN IF: They can possess the ball for at least 40 minutes of game time. With an offense as explosive as Clemson's, the best defense is to keep Tajh Boyd and Co. off the field. Luckily, Paul Johnson's option based offense - when run effectively - gives the Yellow Jackets an opportunity to dictate the pace of the game. Georgia Tech has struggled in their last two games to keep drives alive, converting on less than half of their third downs in both losing efforts. The other key to the long, time-consuming drives is turning them into touchdowns. Georgia Tech has struggled in the kicking game this season, and field goals are not enough to hang with Clemson. Every A-back and B-back needs to be a threat, and Georgia Tech needs to turn long drives into seven points to pull the upset.
X-FACTOR: Georgia Tech's linebackers. The unit started off the season much-improved in their second year of Al Groh's 3-4 scheme. They were able to frustrate opposing offenses by using the extra linebacker to disguise blitzes and make plays in coverage. But the start of conference play lined up with injuries to starting linebackers Daniel Drummond and Jeremiah Attaochu. Both are finally have been deemed "100 percent" after suffering leg injuries against N.C. State on Oct. 1, and must play the best game of their seasons in order to knock off the Tigers. North Carolina was able to find some success in the first half by sending an extra rusher to get in the face of Tajh Boyd. Attaouchu has been the best pass rusher on the team this season, and needs to show up for the Yellow Jackets to have a chance.
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