Clemson University

Connolly’s pick: Georgia Tech offense better than any Clemson has faced recently

Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech will travel to face Dabo Swinney and Clemson on Saturday.
Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech will travel to face Dabo Swinney and Clemson on Saturday. Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson has had no problem slowing down Georgia Tech in recent years, but this Yellow Jackets rushing attack will provide more of a challenge than the ones that the Tigers have faced recently.

Georgia Tech is averaging 373 rushing yards per game through the first six games of the season and has scored 33 points or more in five of its six contests.

The Yellow Jackets put up about 260 rushing yards per game each of the past two years before making a big jump this season.

“Everything comes down to execution,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “They’ve been able to execute this triple option offense to perfection.”

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who has been the mastermind behind slowing down Paul Johnson’s triple option attack recently, said the Yellow Jackets are doing things a little differently this year.

“I think they’re probably running it a little bit more than they have in the past,” Venables said. “The line’s more mature. The receivers are more mature. It’s a group that’s kind of grown in their system.”

Georgia Tech also has a big play receiver in Ricky Jeune.

The senior has more than half of Georgia Tech’s receptions with 15 and is averaging nearly 18 yards per catch. He also has three of the Yellow Jackets’ five touchdown catches.

“He’s a challenge because again, it’s not like you can sit back and play a bunch of zone coverage on the triple option… So you have to play man coverage,” Swinney said. “He’s a big target. They don’t throw it a ton, but when they do it’s a big play. He’s a very good player. They’ve done a nice job of recruiting guys to come in there and play in their system.”

Even with Georgia Tech’s improvement, the Tigers still hold an edge in talent, especially up front.

Clemson’s defensive line with Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant should be able to gain penetration. And the Tigers have a strong linebacker core, including Yellow Jackets killer Dorian O’Daniel.

Georgia Tech will have more success than it has recently, but it won’t be enough as Kelly Bryant and the Clemson offense should make a few more plays.

Prediction: Clemson 28, Georgia Tech 21