Kickoff: Monday, Sept. 5 at 8 p.m. ET
Clemson will revive their annual rivalry with Georgia Tech in Atlanta, but not at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The two ACC rivals from across the divisions will be battling it out at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The series has seen seven consecutive wins for the fourth-ranked Tigers. This streak is the longest since the Yellow Jackets won ten straight in the series from 1953 to 1968. However, the contest last year was very competitive. Clemson won the game 14-8.
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Georgia Tech ranked just 12th in the ACC last season in total defense and 13th in scoring defense, so the defense was not very good, and it could be just as bad this season. Georgia Tech will replace its leading tackler in Quez Jackson and its leading sack man in Jordan Domineck. Despite losing Jackson, linebacker might still be the strength of this defense. Ayinde Eley, Charlie Thomas, and Tyriq Carpenter are all experienced and can play. Although reps have not been easy to come by, Myles Sims and Kenny Bennett are veteran players in the secondary. The Yellow Jackets shut down the Clemson offense last year by playing well above their heads, can they do it again this season?
On the offensive side of the ball, Jeff Sims will serve as Georgia Tech’s man behind the center for the third consecutive year. Sims has a poor supporting cast and has had a mixed career in Atlanta. However, he did a better job last season of eliminating turnovers. Sims is athletic enough and has a strong arm. Sims has almost 900 yards rushing and ten touchdowns running in two seasons. Sims will be joined in the backfield by Hassan Hall, a Louisville transfer. Hall will be taking on a lot of responsibility as Jahmyr Gibbs, the versatile back has left for Alabama. Hall will be sharing duties with Dylan McDuffie, Dontae Smith, and Hall and may also see some time in the return game.
Georgia Tech isn’t very deep, but it does have talent. After finishing last season with almost 500 yards receiving, Malachi Carter is back as the leading receiver. E.J.Jenkins, a South Carolina transfer, is back. Jenkins was quiet last season for the Gamecocks, but at 6’7 and almost 245 lbs, he could be an explosive weapon in the red zone. Jenkins was a St. Francis (Pa.) FCS school’s 2019 MVP with 13 touchdown catches. The Georgia Tech offensive line, which is still relatively young, will be dependent on three transfer starters, including Paul Tchio, a former Clemson Tiger.
Clemson’s 2021 strong finish was largely due to its offensive improvement. After scoring less than 20 points in regulation in their first six games against FBS opponents, the Tigers scored nearly 34 points in its six-game winning streak. DJ Uiagaleilei, the quarterback, had a less than stellar season last year and expectations were high after he filled in well for Trevor Lawrence the year before. Many consider Uiagaleilei to be a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate. However, he finished the season last among qualified ACC quarterbacks in passer rating and had nine touchdown passes and ten interceptions.
Clemson’s Uiagaleilei will be back, but the Tigers will not hesitate to turn to highly-regarded freshman Cade Klubnik if he fails again. After combining for almost 1,400 yards and 17 total touchdowns last year, running backs Will Shipley and Kobe Pace each return. Joseph Ngata, who finished second on the team with 438 receiving yardage, is the best returning receiver. The team’s average catch rate of 19 yards per game was its highest. Jordan McFadden leads the offensive line. The Tigers ranked 13th overall in the ACC for total offense last year.
On the defensive side, former defensive coordinator Brent Venables is now the head coach at Oklahoma, but talent is not an issue for the new coordinator, Wes Goodwin. After ranking eighth nationally in total defense and second in scoring defense last season, Clemson should again be one of the country’s finest defensive teams. That starts up front with a loaded group of defensive linemen that includes K.J. Henry, Myles Murphy, and Tyler Davis. The Tigers will have Xavier Thomas’ services later in the year. This Tiger defensive group can carry this team if the offense has an off-night.
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Picking a winner straight up in this game is easy; Clemson will win this game. The big question is can they cover the 23.5 spread? The Tigers defensive line will make this game a nightmare for Georgia Tech Quarterback Jeff Simms. I find it hard to see where the Yellow Jackets can score points here. With that being said, give the points and take the Tigers.
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If you are betting on the Tigers to cover, the payoff will be solid, not great, and I think the Tigers will cover this game. For example, the odds as of a few days before the game are averaging -110 if you are betting the Tigers to cover. If you bet 100 on the Tigers -23.5, the payout would be 90 dollars, which means you would get back the 100 you bet and the other 90 for winning the bet. To me, the best bet is betting the over.
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