By Don Stone, Georgia Tech Express
To say that Georgia Tech has their hands full this weekend would be a vast understatement. Clemson comes in as a favorite to win another national championship and they sit in a good place to do that, ranked #1 in the nation.
And, in a series that goes back to 1898, they’ve handled the Yellow Jackets pretty easily over the last five seasons going 5-0 with a point differential of 194-76.
Four of those were under former head coach Paul Johnson and his triple option offense. And, last year, new head coach Geoff Collins was still in his first game of transition to his new system
Most teams might have a letdown in a game like this, especially coming off a big 42-17 win over previously undefeated Miami and playing in a noon road game.
But, Clemson has top notch leadership on the coaching staff and on the field and won’t let that happen with a 25 game ACC winning streak.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence will probably be the first player chosen overall at the top of the next NFL Draft. New York Giants fans are even pushing a “Tanking For Trevor” campaign to get the pick with the league’s worst record. The Falcons might contend for that as well.
Last week, Lawrence was 29-41 passing for 292 yards and three TDs.
But he’s also very accurate. Lawrence hasn’t thrown an interception since the first half of the Tigers’ win over Louisville a full year ago. He’s completed 70% of his passes for nearly 4000 yards and 43 touchdowns. If he adds 25 more against the Jackets, he’ll break Russell Wilson’s ACC record.
Another potential high draft choice is running back Travis Etienne, who rushed for 205 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s win over Tech. Etienne ran for 149 against the Hurricanes with two scores along with eight catches for 73 yards. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit is touting him for the Heisman. But teammate Lawrence is the presumptive Heisman favorite, 29-1 as a starter.
“Two of the elite players in all of college football,” said Collins. “We understand the work is cut out for us, not only in the passing game but in the running game.”
Tech will have some added confidence after pulling off their second upset of the season with a 46-27 hard fought victory last week over Louisville. The Cardinals were a five point favorite going into that one. This week, the Tigers are a whopping 26.5 point favorite. And last year, Clemson was an even bigger 37 point spread and even covered that!
GT true freshman QB Jeff Sims has settled down after tossing eight interceptions in his first three games, but none against Louisville. The ACC Rookie of the Week for the second time has thrown five touchdowns and rushed for three scores.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is impressed.
“The quarterback is their leading rusher. Got a really big arm. He’s a good one. He’s big, athletic,” he said. “He’s not afraid to push the ball downfield. He showed some toughness. They have done a nice job with equipping him with tools to be successful.”
Tech has totaled more than 400 yards of offense in every game this season.
Collins’ run first offense is averaging 213.8 yards per game. But that will be tested against a Tiger defense that ranks in the top 10 nationally, allowing just 89.8 ypg on the ground
When he’s passing the ball, a good target is Malachi Carter, who leads his team in receiving yards with 213, averaging more than 5 per catch. He’s also tied for first in receptions with 14.
For the defense, linebacker Quez Jackson leads in tackles with 33. The junior has 1.5 tackles for loss, an interception and a recovered fumble.
Opposing teams have averaged 189.3 yards rushing against the Tech D, putting them 11th in the conference. That has Etienne licking his chops.
This weekend, Georgia Tech will honor the 30th anniversary of the 1990 National Championship team.
Kickoff is at noon, nationally televised on ABC-TV.