Game Preview: #12 Virginia Tech poised for upset of #2 Clemson?

If ever #2 Clemson looked vulnerable, it was last week at home against unheralded Boston College, who took the Tigers into the fourth quarter in a 34-7 loss that didn’t play at all like the score would seem to indicate.

virginia tech sportsclemsonMaybe it was a Louisville hangover, after the defending national champs feasted on reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals in a 47-21 beatdown.

Maybe coach Dabo Swinney played the BC game a bit vanilla, not wanting to give Virginia Tech anything additional to key on in the film room.

Whatever is the case, it sure feels like the opportunity is there for the taking for the Hokies (4-0), who haven’t been tested since a Week 1 31-24 win over West Virginia at FedEx Field.

Could that lack of a recent test be an issue? Since the win over the Mountaineers, Tech has pitched two shutouts, over FBS Delaware and ODU, and pummeled an ECU team that had already been blown out at home by defending FCS champion JMU.

On the bright side, the Hokies come into the game with Clemson healthy, and with all three units seemingly hitting on all cylinders.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson has been lights-out through the first third of the season, throwing for 1,127 yards and 11 TDs, with just one interception, while completing 65.2 percent of his passes.

His favorite target, senior wideout Cam Phillips, has thrived in his move from the slot to flanker, hauling in 34 balls for 523 yards and five TDs, averaging an absurd 130.8 yards per game.

The run game is a by-committee group that is getting the job done, gaining 218.3 yards per game and 4.5 yards per attempt without anybody averaging more than nine carries per contest.

The Tech D has been as stout as ever, giving up just 311.3 yards per game, and holding opponents to a measly 3.2 yards per rush attempt, playing into defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s scheme in making offenses one-dimensional.

Clemson, on its side, has the stat profile of a team that hasn’t played anybody yet, despite the fact that the Tigers’ pelts thus far include those of two teams, Auburn and Louisville, considered possible playoff contenders when the season started.

The Tigers are holding foes to 227 yards per game, and just 2.5 yards per rushing attempt, while the offense is purring along, piling up 510.2 yards and 37.8 points per contest.

Quarterback Kelly Bryant has taken over the reins for Deshaun Watson and done a good job in his first year as the starter, throwing for 873 yards and completing 67.9 percent of his pass attempts, and also gaining 268 yards and scoring seven touchdowns on the ground.

It’s the ground game where Clemson will gash you this year. The Tigers are putting up 272 rushing yards per game this season, and gaining 5.9 yards per attempt.

The ESPN Power Index gives Virginia Tech a 29.4 percent chance, which might not sound like much, but it’s actually the best odds for any of the Tigers’ remaining opponents this season.

Lane Stadium will no doubt be rocking for the 8 p.m. kickoff, after a long day beginning in the morning with a visit from the ESPN GameDay crew.

This one could very well signal the return to prominence for Virginia Tech football.

Story by Chris Graham

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