The 2019 season finally gets underway for Tiger fans Thursday night when Clemson hosts their cross divisional rival Georgia Tech. The defending national champs come in as 36.5 point favorites and have won four straight in the series, and seven of the last nine.
The Yellow Jackets will be debuting a new look offense to the nation after spending most of the past decade running the triple option under former coach Paul Johnson. New head coach Geoff Collins comes over from Temple and is bringing a more traditional, spread offense with him.
Collins hasn’t announced a starting quarterback but conventional wisdom says Lucas Johnson will be the choice. He’s a dual threat guy and by all accounts is the better passer amongst the quarterbacks on the roster. Last year’s starter, Tobias Oliver will likely see time too in certain situations and packages.
Collins generally likes to have a more balanced offensive attack. However, it’s probably not very realistic to expect a balanced attack in this one. It’s more likely they use their stable of running backs to attack the Clemson front four, which consists of four new starters. Expect to see them trying to run the ball inside and trying to attack the perimeter on runs, and use play action to take some deep shots. They’ll also try and use the backs in the screen game and on some wheel routes.
Tech lost one of their best OL from 2018 to transfer and has seen a lot of reshuffling on the offensive line. Going from the cut blocking associated with the option to the more conventional blocking schemes is also a big adjustment. How that group up front holds up against the Tigers new look defensive line will go a long way towards deciding how competitive the Yellow Jackets can be.
The wideouts will be a work in progress as the receiver position was never a high priority in recruiting under the former regime. The Jackets did bring in grad transfer Tyler Davis from UConn at TE, but outside of him do not return much production from 2018. Davis is capable of flexing out wide but shouldn’t be that big of a threat against the experienced Clemson secondary.
On defense Tech is replacing seven starters, including their top three tacklers from 2018. New defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker will hope to generate more pressure with the Tech defense this season. It’s an area they weren’t very good at last year, finishing with just 17 sacks.
Where that pressure will come from is still up in the air seeing as the defenders that do return had just four sacks combined in 2018. Antonneous Clayton, a talented DE that transferred in from Florida is one guy to watch for, but after him there’s a lot of unanswered questions.
There’s not one area that Georgia Tech holds an advantage in. The Tigers have more talent at every position on the field and hold huge advantages in the trenches, on both sides of the ball.
This one should serve as nothing more than a tune up for Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers offense. Travis Etienne and Lyn J Dixon should have plenty of room to run, so expect big nights from both before they give way to Darien Rencher and one of the freshmen running backs.
Tigers win and win big, but don’t cover the number, 45-10.