For one final briefing before tonight’s big game against No. 5 Clemson, take a look at some of head coach Dabo Swinney’s pregame quotes in a recent interview from the ACC. Swinney remarks a couple of his points of emphasis leading up to the Tech game, including forcing turnovers and keeping Tech out of manageable late-down play distances. The turnover point in particular is something that Paul Johnson and the Tech coaching staff are unquestionably preaching themselves; the odds of beating a top-five team while losing the turnover battle are not great. One could be survivable only if everything else is clicking, but any more errors — especially one of the unforced variety, like a botched pitch — would be catastrophic. Deshaun Watson’s accuracy and decision making are among the best individual traits in the nation, so betting on him handing you the game is not a smart way to play. Tech has to maintain possession itself to have a shot.
Another interesting thing to watch for tonight will be the distribution of time of possession between the hurry-up Tigers and the take-your-time Jackets. Clemson likes to focus on keeping opponents off-balance to create big plays, while Tech more or less makes sure to be more prepared for every play than the opponent. It’s a part of why we get to see such amazing death marches (though not so much since 2015), but also why the team is prone to calling timeouts to save delay of game penalties (again, more so in 2015). Would a hurry-up triple option system be fun to watch? Absolutely. But the slower pace that Paul Johnson prefers to play with is much more advantageous for his team.
Let’s go three-for-three on Clemson coverage by taking a look at this well-written article from ESPN detailing what each team needs to do in order to win tonight’s game. For Clemson, winning entails shutting down Tech’s rushing game — which they accomplished last season, allowing just over 70 yards rushing to Tech’s offense — while also containing the passing threats in Qua Searcy and Ricky Jeune that we’ve seen emerge this year. As ESPN’s Matt Fortuna says:
Unfortunately, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables happens to be one of two coordinators who has found a decent way to stop Tech’s offense in the past (the other being Bud Foster at Virginia Tech). I suppose that Todd Grantham did it a bit at UGA, but it has been all Foster and Venables for the most part. Someone needs to make the pair an offer they can’t refuse in the Pac-12 just to get them away from Paul’s three options.
Have a great Thursday!