Clemson vs. Virginia Tech Preview
Clemson held on for a win against Florida State to improve to 4-0 on the season. The Tigers have a chance to prove their worth on the road this Saturday when they head to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech in Lane Stadium. It's Clemson's first road game and the Hokies' first game against tough competition, so both teams have something to prove. Let's see how the teams match up.
Clemson offense vs. Virginia Tech defense
Clemson's offense continues to shine as Tajh Boyd has now compiled more than 1200 yards passing and 13 touchdown passes. Sammy Watkins is still defying all freshman-based logic and putting up numbers a senior could only dream of. The Tigers would like to see Andre Ellington perform better, as he still looks hesitant to hit the hole and generally not at 100 percent. Boyd is doing a great job of spreading the ball around, keeping Dwayne Allen and DeAndre Hopkins involved and not allowing teams to key on Watkins. Hopkins is battling an injury and will not be at full strength on Saturday. The offensive line has improved after looking shaky early in the season and Boyd has been able to get more comfortable in the pocket. Virginia Tech will provide the stiffest test Clemson's offense has seen this season. The Hokies are big up front, and brothers Derrick and Antoine Hopkins will look to clog the middle and stuff Ellington. The linebacking corps is good as well. Bruce Taylor is the star, but sophomore Tariq Edwards is showing that he may be the best player. The secondary is anchored by Jayson Hosley, who may be the best cornerback in the nation, and safety Eddie Whitley.
Key matchup: Clemson receivers vs. Virginia Tech secondary
Clemson has all kinds of offensive weapons and has used them well so far this season. Virginia Tech has a very good secondary, and how effectively they contain Watkins, Allen, Hopkins and others will go a long way in determining who wins this game.
Virginia Tech offense vs. Clemson defense
The Hokies have been pretty mediocre on offense thus far against less than stellar competition. Quarterback Logan Thomas has been decent, but inconsistent. It doesn't help that his receiving corps is banged up with Dyrell Roberts out for the season and Jarrett Boykin not at full strength. Expect to see Thomas looking for Danny Coale and D.J. Coles to make plays. Virginia Tech has the conference's fastest running back in David Wilson, who is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball. Clemson's defense has been subpar, and Virginia Tech may be able to cure some of its offensive problems at the Tigers' expense. Clemson is simply giving up to many big plays, and what they accomplish on some plays is often offset by a huge gain on the next play. That has to stop against Virginia Tech or it will be a big problem. Safeties Rashard Hall and Jonathan Meeks have to improve their play, which has been less than ideal so far. These two have been the reason for many of the big plays opponents have had.
Key matchup: Wilson vs. Clemson linebackers
If Wilson gets to the second level on a carry, he is gone. It's pretty simple. Corico Hawkins and Co. have to keep Wilson from getting up to top speed and not allow the game-breaking runs he is capable of.
Virginia Tech is usually as solid as they come on special teams. That's not the case this year, however. Both of these team's kickers have struggle to be consistent. Clemson punter Dawson Zimmerman was injured against Florida State and nobody knows how he will perform. Virginia Tech doesn't even know who they want to punt for them. Hosley and Wilson provide dangerous kick return threats for the Hokies, as do Watkins and Ellington for the Tigers.
We've seen Clemson riding high before only to fall flat on its face in big road games. This game feels different, though, and Virginia Tech's lack of early-season competition will hinder them more than Clemson's lack of road appearances will hurt the Tigers. This should be an entertaining, high-intensity game, and I think Clemson finds a way to push its record to 5-0.
Clemson 28 Virginia Tech 24