Tag Archives: clemson

Clemson Preview and Prediction

The Terror Dome is back! Here we are. Hokies took care of business over the last four weeks and now they get an undefeated showdown against Clemson. Don’t kid yourself. Clemson is not overrated. They deserve to be ranked in the top two in the country. While the offense is still trying to get to the same level as last year’s, the defense might be even better than last year’s group. This team is for real and will pose a huge challenge for the Hokies.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 20th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 56th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 11th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 58th

Clemson

Overall S&P+ ranking: 6th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 25th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 3rd
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 108th

I’ve tried to think of a bigger home game than this one and you have to go all the way back to Boston College in 2007 to come up with anything as close to this one. Yes, the Hokies played the reigning national champs in 2015 but they weren’t ready to take Ohio State’s best punch. This time, the Hokies have a real chance to compete and win.

Let’s talk about the Terror Dome for a second. I can think of a few high-profile night games against top 5 teams since 2000 and this is how they have gone:

Miami 2003 31-7 Hokies
Miami 2005 27-7 ‘Canes
BC 2007 14-10 Eagles

The crowd was jacked up for each game but with very different results. For Miami 2003, the team fed off the crowd and Miami didn’t have a chance. The game snowballed on a super-talented ‘Canes team and the Hokies rolled to victory. That was a special night.

In the 2005 Miami game, the atmosphere was just as good or better than the 2003 game but it didn’t produce a winning result on the field. Whereas the 2003 team used the energy and momentum to ride to victory, the 2005 Hokies shrank when things started to go south. The crowd had almost no impact on the game. The ‘Canes controlled it from start to finish.

And in the 2007 BC game, the Hokies defense rode the electric crowd to an incredible defensive performance… until the last drive. All you can say about big games at Lane Stadium is that you never know what to expect or if the Hokies can use the crowd energy to their benefit. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. Most important is that the Hokies get off to a good start.

Now on to the game itself. The Hokies can have success against the Clemson offense if they can stack the box and force Kelly Bryant to beat them with his arm. They also can’t let Kelly Bryant beat them with his legs. Containing Bryant on the ground will be key.

The Clemson defensive line is the best the Hokies will play all year. The starting line features four players who will likely be selected in the first three rounds of the NFL draft in the coming years. They will pose a huge challenge for the Hokies to block. Look for the Hokies offense to use misdirection, screens and read option to keep them off Josh Jackson. Don’t expect a huge game from the running back position. Yards will be hard to come by against this defensive line.

If there is an area that may be a weakness for Clemson, it’s in the secondary. They are a banged up group. Cam Phillips and the other receivers may be able to find some space. If opportunities present themselves, it’s important for Josh Jackson to make them pay by connecting on his intermediate and deep passes. The Hokies need to get big chunk plays when they can find them.

More than most games, the Hokies must win the turnover, special teams and hidden yardage battle. If the Hokies play Clemson even in these areas, Clemson will likely win. Virginia Tech needs to exploit any advantages they have over Clemson because all things being equal, Clemson has more talent. That means winning in the kicking game and forcing turnovers. If the Hokies can win there, they can win this game.

This is a no-lose situation for the Hokies. Win and it’s an incredible accomplishment over a top team. Lose and it’s expected. That means the Hokies are playing with house money. The Hokies need to play loose and easy because they don’t have anything to lose. Win or lose, what’s most important is for the Hokies to look like they belong. Just like they did in the ACC Championship Game. That will go nearly as far as winning the game itself. Whether the Hokies win or not, we know that Justin Fuente is building something special whether we see the results on Saturday night or in the future. But winning this game on national TV in front of a ton of highly-ranked recruits would be a huge springboard for the program.

The Hokies have what it takes to win. They can play with Clemson but picking this game objectively, I have to go with Clemson. They just have too much firepower across the board. But it will be a good game and the Hokies should be able to keep it competitive all the way until the end. This game has all the ingredients of a classic. So sit back, relax and enjoy watching the Hokies in the national game of the week. And who knows? Maybe we’ll see some Terror Dome magic.

Prediction: Clemson 27, Virginia Tech 21

ACC Championship Game Preview and Prediction

Hokies took care of business in a big way against UVA. There were some who had serious discussions last year about which school had the better hire. I think the early returns are pretty lopsided. At this point it seems like both programs are going in very different directions.

The Hokies are back to the ACC Championship Game for the first time since 2011. That’s a big deal in Justin Fuente’s first season as head coach. The Hokies are “ahead of schedule” as the experts like to say. I expected a 6-6 season this year because it’s difficult to go through a coaching change. I guess when it’s as smooth as Virginia Tech’s was, it’s not so difficult after all.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 27th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 58th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 16th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 50th

Clemson

Overall S&P+ ranking: 4th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 8th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 6th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 77th

Clemson is a beast. They deserve their #3 College Football Playoff ranking. This team is loaded on both sides of the ball. They don’t have many weaknesses. The Hokies are good but the Tigers are great. It’ll take the Hokies A+ game to knock off the Tigers.

Clemson has NFL talent all over the field. Everyone on the offensive side of the ball stands a good chance of being drafted in the next couple of years. Same with the defense except for maybe one or two players. Remember a lot of the names from the Clemson roster, because you’ll be hearing those names in the NFL in the coming years.

Are you tired of me fawning over Clemson yet? Me too. Where are Clemson’s weaknesses? Their turnover margin is not particularly good. When Deshaun Watson does throw the ball, he’s been known to throw interceptions. He has 14 on the year. Bud Foster is a master at forcing quarterbacks into mistakes. If the Hokies can make the Tigers one-dimensional by slowing down the run, they may be able to force some mistakes. Remember that Deshaun Watson is a dual-threat quarterback. He could give the Hokies a lot of trouble on the ground, if they call designed runs for him. In a championship game, I’d expect Clemson to take more chances with Watson on the ground.

Clemson’s special teams are only so-so. The Hokies would be wise to make some plays on special teams in this game. Either in the return game or on a blocked kick. This is an area that the Hokies can look to exploit and possibly change the trajectory of the game.

The reality here is that Clemson is just a better team. Maybe after a few good years under Fuente and some good recruiting classes, the Hokies can be on that level. But they just aren’t right now. There is a big-time talent and depth advantage for Clemson. Can the Hokies win? Sure. Pitt beat Clemson this year. But it’ll take a great effort from the Hokies and some fortunate plays/bounces/calls. I think this game will be like the 2011 ACC Championship game. Close in the first half but Clemson runs away with it in the 2nd half.

Prediction: Clemson 34, Virginia Tech 20

ACC Predictions

These predictions are also featured on allsportsdiscussion.com here, here and here.

Coastal Predictions

Georgia Tech 8-4 (6-2)
Duke 9-3 (6-2)
Virginia Tech 8-4 (5-3)
Miami 6-6 (4-4)
Pittsburgh 6-6 (4-4)
North Carolina 6-6 (3-5)
Virginia 2-10 (1-7)

Everyone is saying that the division will come down to the Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech game on November 12th. I tend to agree but I could see Virginia Tech winning that game with 12 days to prepare but lose three games in the rest of ACC play to still hand the division to Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech definitely has the easier ACC slate only having to face Boston College and NC State from the Atlantic division. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, has to face Clemson and Florida State (yikes!).

I see Duke keeping the momentum going under David Cutcliffe. I think we will continue to see Duke be a thorn in the side of other Coastal teams for years to come. I call them the Stanford of the east. Miami will have another Miami-like season, not bad but not great. Probably not enough to save Al Golden’s job. North Carolina will continue to put up points like usual but I’m not sure I trust that defense to show up. I’m not really sure what to expect from Pitt under new coach Pat Narduzzi. I could see them being really good but more than likely they’ll have an up and down season.

And finally Virginia. I actually feel bad for Virginia. Seems like most have already jumped ship on Mike London’s future there and then they get handed a murderer’s row non-conference schedule (@UCLA, Notre Dame & Boise State). Not good.

Atlantic Predictions

Florida State 11-1 (7-1)
Louisville 10-2 (7-1)
Clemson 10-2 (7-1)
Boston College 7-5 (4-4)
North Carolina State 5-7 (2-6)
Syracuse 3-9 (1-7)
Wake Forest 2-10 (0-8)

Florida State still is one of the most talented teams in the country. They have plenty of talent to choose from and will reload in 2015. They will not, however, go undefeated in 2015. The Atlantic division will be a three team race between Florida State, Clemson and Louisville. Clemson has the best quarterback in the league to go along with an improving defense under Brent Venables.

Louisville’s defense will be good enough to keep them in every game. As long as they can find competent quarterback play, they will be a force to be reckoned with. Boston College will continue to be a tough out for anyone they play but that schedule is brutal. Even with raised expectations, I expect NC State to take a step back. I’m not buying the hype there. Syracuse and Wake Forest are a step below the rest of the division.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, the ACC has more than two good teams! I think the ACC will get some respect this year. Between Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Duke, the ACC has six potential top-25 teams. This is the year to expect the unexpected. Both divisions will have razor thin races going into November. You can look as far as the six games between the teams listed above to decide both divisions. I could even see some crazy tiebreakers go into effect in those division races. It’s been awhile since the league had ranked teams battling it out in each division. Should be an exciting season.