ATLANTA – Second-ranked Clemson’s quest for a fourth consecutive ACC crown begins when it opens conference play against host Georgia Tech on Saturday. Clemson has won three straight meetings and is trying to match its longest winning streak in the series, but the home team has won eight of the last nine matchups.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Clemson -16.5
The Tigers struggled with Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack early in coach Dabo Swinney’s tenure at Clemson, but after giving up 841 rushing yards in his first three games against Paul Johnson’s option offense, the team has limited the Yellow Jackets to 868 in the last five meetings thanks to additional year-round preparation. ”I learned real quick that if we’re going to have a chance, we’re going to have to make this a part of what we do," Swinney told reporters. "If you don’t, you’re going to be behind the 8-ball." Clemson got a taste of what to expect by facing an option team in Georgia Southern last week and allowed only 80 rushing yards on 43 carries in a 38-7 win. Georgia Tech is 0-2 against FBS opponents after falling into a 21-point hole en route to a 24-19 loss at Pittsburgh to open ACC play last week.
ABOUT CLEMSON (3-0)
The Tigers rolled up 595 total yards in last week’s rout of Georgia Southern, as Travis Etienne (269 yards, four touchdowns) gained a career-high 162 on 16 carries to surpass 1,000 rushing for his career. Quarterback Kelly Bryant, who has passed for 405 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 125 and two, is expected to start after leaving last week’s game with a chest injury, but freshman Trevor Lawrence (424 yards, five TDs) will continue to see action. The Tigers possess an outstanding defense that has registered 30 tackles for loss and 12 sacks.
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH (1-2, 0-1 ACC)
Despite their lackluster start, the Yellow Jackets rank in the top 25 in the nation in both total offense and total defense. They have a dynamic quarterback in TaQuon Marshall, who has passed for 353 yards and two touchdowns while leading the nation’s top rushing offense with 293 yards and four TDs. The Yellow Jackets have been excellent against the pass, but they’ve had a tough time versus the run the past two weeks and will face a Tigers team that has a potent ground attack.
1. The Tigers are opening ACC play on the road for the seventh consecutive season.
2. Georgia Tech has topped 400 rushing yards in six of its last 14 games, including two of three this year.
3. Clemson has forced a turnover in 11 consecutive contests, its longest streak since a 15-game run spanning the 2012 and 2013 campaigns.
PREDICTION: Clemson 34, Georgia Tech 20