The first half of the 2012 season hasn’t been as kind to Virginia Tech as fans have become accustomed to.
September non-conference losses to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati were devastating, but seen as speed bumps for a team that’s been known to slip up early and still run the table in the ACC.
But a loss at North Carolina on October 6 all of the sudden put this team’s 19-year bowl streak in jeopardy, as Tech sat at 3-3 after six games.
Last week’s 41-20 victory over Duke brought hope back to Hokie nation — a win over Clemson this weekend would be serious reason for celebration in Blacksburg.
But it won’t be easy. The Tigers have scored 40 points four times this year, thanks to a spread option offense that racked up 780 yards in two games against the Hokies last season.
Make no mistake about it — Clemson is the favorite here, and with good reason. But Tech fans know better than anyone that upsets are always a possibility.
That being said, the Tigers are still a very, very dangerous football team. Here’s why I’m afraid of Clemson:
Boyd torched the Hokies in the ACC Championship Game last season to the tune of 240 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ 38-10 victory. He ranks second in the ACC this season in passer rating (159.2) and first in passing yards per game (291.3). He’s also run for 224 yards and two touchdowns through six games. Stopping him — or, slowing him down, rather — will be a huge key to this game.
The senior running back has also seen success when facing the Hokies in the past, compiling 165 yards on the ground and two touchdowns against Tech last season. Ellington has rushed for 2,952 yards and 31 touchdowns during his time at Clemson; so far this year, he’s run for 597 yards six touchdowns, both good for third in the conference. The Hokies didn’t have much success stopping another talented running back — North Carolina’s Giovanni Bernard — two weeks ago, and Clemson is no doubt aware of that.
DEANDRE HOPKINS/SAMMY WATKINS
While Watkins took the nation by storm last year as a true freshman, his numbers haven’t been quite as flashy this season (118 receiving yards, 99 rushing yards in four games played). However, he’s still arguably the most dangerous player in the country when he gets in the open field. Hopkins has been anchoring the Tigers’ receiving corps all season, hauling in 49 passes for 777 yards and eight touchdowns. Both of them are extremely good at what they do, and could cause problems for a Tech defense that’s struggled in weeks past.
The Tigers haven’t lost at home in almost two years. Memorial Stadium is one of the most storied, intimidating venues in the country, and Saturday will be no exception. While the Hokies historically have a fantastic ACC road record, they’re 0-3 away from Lane Stadium so far this season. If they come away with the victory, it’ll be that much more impressive.
This game’s a tough one to predict, seeing as I’m not sure which Tech team will show up on Saturday. If the play the way they did the last 45 minutes of last week’s game, it’ll be a fun one to watch.
Here’s why I’m not afraid of the Tigers:
It’s safe to say Thomas has had his fair share of ups and downs this year. However, he has seemed to progress over the last few weeks, throwing for a career-high 354 yards against North Carolina, then following that up with an impressive performance in the comeback victory over Duke. Thomas struggled mightily against the Tigers in both games last season, and you can bet he has his heart set on turning that around. If he gets time to throw, he should be able to have success doing just that.