Venturing into Blacksburg can cause even the best teams problems, but no matter how inspired Virginia Tech plays on Saturday this should be another road test Dabo Swinney’s Clemson squad can handle without too many problems.
Still, in terms of being pushed over the course of four quarters, the second-ranked Tigers should expect to get one of their toughest challenges of the season from the 12th-ranked Hokies. .Both teams are unbeaten through four games.
The difference is that Clemson already has two conference wins under its belt, while this will be the ACC opener for Justin Fuente’s Hokies.
And, as the Tigers again proved last week against Boston College, they have another gear when they are being threatened. It’s why most college football analysts have come to realize that despite the loss of quarterback Deshaun Watson from last year’s national championship team, the Tigers have proven that they have the makings of a team that is fully capable of making another postseason run.
With each passing week, Clemson sophomore Kelly Bryant is looking more comfortable throwing the football. And when he does struggle to find receivers, Bryant has the ability to tuck the ball and reach the end zone with his legs. Against BC last Saturday, he scored on a pair of runs and finished with 108 yards rushing on 22 carries. He added 140 yards passing, completing 17 of 26 throws, but did toss a pair of interceptions.
For the season, Bryant has just two touchdowns through the air with three interceptions, but he’s still completed 68 percent of his passes for 873 yards. Meanwhile, he’s rushed for seven touchdowns and another 268 yards.
Besides, a dominating defensive front four remains the Tigers’ ticket to the college football playoffs for a third consecutive year.
The Hokies’ Josh Jackson has passed for 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, but he’s unlikely to get his feet set against this Clemson defense.
It was just two weeks ago that the Tigers went to Louisville and frustrated Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, so it’s unlikely Va Tech’s QB named Jackson will create many problems for Swinney’s bunch.
As for a running game, the Hokies have five players who have surpassed 100 yards. None, however, have topped 200 yards.
Against the Tigers, they’ll find it even tougher to move the chains..
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Miami at Duke, Friday 6 p.m. CT, ESPN
North Carolina at Georgia Tech, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ESPN2
Syracuse at NC State, Saturday 11:20 a.m. CT, ACC Network
Florida State at Wake Forest, Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT, ABC
Clemson at Virginia Tech, Saturday 7 p.m. CT, ABC
- Clemson (4-0, 2-0): Last Week – W, Boston College, 34-7. The Impact – Tigers allowed BC to hang around until fourth quarter, then scored 27 points to take control. They’ll need to get off to a quicker start this week against confident Virginia Tech.
- Miami (2-0, 0-0): Last Week – W, Toledo, 52-30. The Impact – Hurricanes finally got back on the field after 21-day layoff and Mark Walton became just sixth player in last decade to surpass 200 yards rushing in a game on no more than 11 carries. He finished with 204, including an 82-yard jaunt. Not bad for a guy who missed nearly half the game with sprained ankle before returning.
- Virginia Tech (4-0, 0-0): Last Week – W, Old Dominion, 38-0. The Impact – Hokies have shut out two of three opponents, but Justin Fuente will be happy this week if his defense can hold Clemson to fewer than 30 points.
- Louisville (3-1, 1-1): Last Week – W, Kent State, 42-3. The Impact – Lamar Jackson now has school record 88 touchdowns and should have no trouble padding those numbers against 1-3 Murray State.
- Georgia Tech (2-1, 1-0): Last Week – W, Pittsburgh, 37-17. The Impact – Yellow Jackets piled up 426 yards rushing behind KirVonte Benson (196, 2 TDS) and TaQuan Marshall (112, 2 TDs), overpowering hapless Panthers.
6. N.C. State (3-1, 1-0): Last Week – W, at Florida State, 27-21. The Impact –Dave Doren’s Wolfpack finally held for an upset win, ending a 10-game skid to ranked teams. Ryan Finley’s 14-yard hookup with Jaylen Samuels provided a 27-16 lead to seal the deal.
7. Duke (4-0, 1-0): Last Week – was W, at North Carolina, 27-17. The Impact: Bryon Fields’ 61-yard interception return clinched win over Tar Heels and kept Blue Devils unbeaten.
8. Wake Forest (4-0, 1-0):Last Week – W, Appalachian State, 20-19. The Impact –If the Demon Deacons can beat struggling Seminoles, they’ll be 5-0 for the first time since the school won the ACC title in 2006.
9. Syracuse (2-2, 0-0): Last Week – L, at LSU, 35-26. The Impact – Orange looked lost in loss to Middle Tennessee but may have found an identity despite setback at LSU.
10. Florida State (0-2, 0-1): Last Week – L, N.C. State, 27-21. The Impact – Winless Seminoles get consolation prize of still be ranked at No. 25 in coaches’ poll, but writers booted them from rankings for first time in 89 weeks. In losing their home opener, Jimbo Fisher’s squad had only one TD in seven trips into red zone. 11. Virginia (3-1, 0-0):Last Week – W, Boise State, 42-23. The Impact: After losing 20 of 21 road tests, Cavaliers became surprisingly efficient warriors, handing Boise State its worst home loss in 16 years. It was also Virginia’s first win west of the Mississippi since 1991.
12. Pittsburgh (1-3, 0-1): Last Week – L, at Georgia Tech, 35-17. The Impact – Pitt got 80-yard punt return from Quadree Henderson to stay close early, but converted just 1 of 13 third down attempts to keep the pressure on its defense.
13. Boston College (1-3, 0-2): Last Week – L, at Clemson, 34-7. The Impact – Eagles need to focus on positives, and here’s one: punter Mike Knoll pinned Clemson inside 10 five times. The negative? Knoll had to punt nine times as Eagles converted only 4 of 16 third down attempts.14. North Carolina (1-3, 0-2): Last Week – L, Duke, 27-17. The Impact – Tar Heels have had fourth-quarter lead in all three home games and yet have lost all of them, including two by double digits.
(All times Central)
MIAMI at Duke, 6 p.m., ESPN
Rice at PITTSBURGH, 11 a.m., ACC Network
North Carolina at GEORGIA TECH, 11 a.m., ESPN2
Syracuse at N.C. STATE, 11:20 s.m., ACC Network
Central Michigan at BOSTON COLLEGE, Noon, ACC Network Extra
FLORIDA STATE at Wake Forest, 2:30 p.m., ABC
Murray State at LOUISVILLE, 2:30 p.m., RSN
CLEMSON at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m., ABC
Last Week: 8-2