Seventh-ranked Clemson has had two weeks to dwell on its stunning loss at Syracuse, but the defending national champion finally gets to turn the page when it hosts Georgia Tech for a key ACC clash on Saturday. Both teams are playing catch-up in their divisions and can’t afford another setback if they want to reach the ACC Championship.
The Tigers still have a shot at playing their way back into the College Football Playoff, but they’ll face tough tasks the next two weeks against the Yellow Jackets and at No. 15 N.C. State. “The story is all about how you respond, how you grow, how you develop,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told reporters. “When you get beat, it’s an awesome opportunity to teach.” Georgia Tech is a pair of one-point losses – to Tennessee and at Miami – from being in the playoff discussion as well, but the team’s triple-option offense has had a tough time moving the ball against Clemson in recent years. The Tigers have won four straight meetings at home and four of the last five overall.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2. LINE: Clemson -14
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH (4-2, 3-1 ACC): There’s no mystery about what to expect from the Yellow Jackets, who rank second in the nation in rushing. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall (704 yards, 11 touchdowns) and running back KirVonte Benson (652 yards, five TDs) lead the powerful option attack, but the combination of Marshall and receiver Ricky Jeune can keep defenses honest. Georgia Tech’s defense often is overlooked but ranks in the top 20 in the nation in total defense and is especially tough against the run.
ABOUT CLEMSON (6-1, 4-1): The big question for the Tigers is the status of quarterback Kelly Bryant, who played on an injured ankle against Syracuse and was knocked out of the game just before halftime with a concussion. Bryant is expected to start, but leading rusher Travis Etienne (hamstring) might not, in which case Tavien Feaster would have to carry the load for the ground game. Clemson’s defense has been outstanding against the run all season and has held the Yellow Jackets to 166 yards on 80 carries over the last two meetings.
1. Marshall has thrown more touchdown passes (five) than Bryant (four) despite 125 fewer pass attempts.
2. Clemson has won 51 straight games when holding opponents under 23 points, a streak that dates to 2010.
3. Georgia Tech has not committed a turnover on its last 156 offensive plays spanning 25 series after committing eight on its first 284 offensive plays this season.
PREDICTION: Clemson 27, Georgia Tech 20