We are heading into the fifth week of the college football season, and most teams are diving into their conference schedules. There are only three match-ups this weekend between ranked teams. The biggest game of the weekend is an ACC showdown. The second ranked Clemson Tigers travel to Blacksburg, VA to face off with the 12th ranked Virginia Tech Hokies.
Both teams head into the match-up at 4-0, having already beaten a ranked opponent. The Tigers are already 2-0 in the ACC, but this will be the Hokies first conference game of the season.
About Virginia Tech
After a victory in a back and forth contest over #22 West Virginia in week one, the Hokies have cruised in their past three games. They are outscoring opponents 133-41 through four games, including shutouts of Delaware and Old Dominion. Virginia Tech ranks in the top 35 nationally in both rushing and passing yards per game. This, however, will be by far their toughest test of the year.
The Hokies are led by freshman quarterback Josh Jackson. He has thrown for 1,127 yards and ran for an additional 144 yards. Jackson has been very efficient, completing 65% of his passes and has 11 touchdowns to only one interception. He will need to be at his best to produce against a talented Clemson defense. Jackson’s favorite target has been senior Cam Phillips. The Maryland native has 34 receptions for 523 yards and five touchdowns through four games.
The Hokies run game is handled by committee. Jackson used his legs effectively in the opener against the Mountaineers, but hasn’t needed to do it much since. Travon McMillian, DeShawn McClease, and Steven Peoples all have between 31-36 carries, ranging from 133 to 162 yards on the year. The Hokies will need to get at least one of their backs going this weekend, against a defense ranked in the top ten against the run.
Lunch Pail Mentality
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has been leading the Virginia Tech defense for decades. Most college football fans know about the lunch pail on the Hokie sideline. It represents their mentality of hard work at all times. The hard work is paying off this season. They are allowing 10.3 points per game thru four contests. Foster’s unit is holding opponents to 311 yards of offense a game. They will get their toughest test of the season on Saturday. This will be a true measuring stick of how good this Hokie defense can be.
Tigers Looking Ahead?
Clemson struggled for three quarters against Boston College last weekend before pulling away for a 34-7 win. Perhaps the Tigers were looking past BC to their ACC showdown in Blacksburg this weekend. Coach Dabo Swinney‘s team scored four rushing touchdowns after entering the 4th quarter tied at 7. The defense was its usual dominant self, and the offense was eventually able to make some big plays.
Big Play Guys
Speaking of big plays, freshman Travis Etienne has now made a habit of breaking long runs for touchdowns. He is quickly becoming a big play waiting to happen. In two ACC games, he has 15 carries for 211 yards and three scores. His is averaging 12.7 yards a carry for the season. The Tigers have six touchdowns of 39 yards or more so far this season. While their offense is still searching for consistency, the ability to make big plays can mask those issues at times.
ACC Showdown- Who is The Top Dog?
The Tigers are currently on a run of ACC dominance that is nearing the level of Florida State in the 90s. Clemson is 23-3 since 2014 in ACC games. They are looking to claim their third consecutive ACC title. FSU sits at 0-2, and has lost their starting quarterback. Louisville lost at home to the Tigers in conference play in week three. Miami is a hard team to get a read on since they have only played two games due weather cancellations. Virginia Tech now has the best chance to dethrone Clemson this season. The Hokies get this ACC showdown on their home field, as they try to stake their claim as top dog in the conference.