Another daunting test lies ahead of the reigning national champs this weekend. The Tigers will travel to Blacksburg for a Saturday night showdown with the #12 Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium. The game will be the third ranked match up for Clemson and the second for Virginia Tech. Each team is coming into the game undefeated at 4-0 and the winner will add a high quality piece to their Playoff resume.
The last meeting between the two ACC powers came in last year’s ACC Championship game, which saw Clemson pull out a 42-35 victory. Both teams have new looks this year after losing starting quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Jerod Evans to the NFL. They both will look towards their stifling defenses to carry them to prominence. The Tigers come in with the third ranked scoring defense in that nation giving up 9.3 points per contest, while the Hokies are following them up ranked sixth and only allowing 10.3 points per game. The game has the same feel as the Clemson vs. Auburn match up earlier this season that saw a total of twenty points scored during the entire game.
Clemson starting quarterback Kelly Bryant will be making his second road start for the Tigers after an impressive showing last week in Louisville. Bryant threw for over 300 yards and scored three total touchdowns as the Tigers routed last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and the rest of the Cardinals. Bryant also played well enough in the win against Auburn, and a win against the Hokies would certainly solidify him as a new household name for college football.
The Hokie offense is spearheaded by a new starter, freshman QB Josh Jackson as he has taken over for Evans. Jackson has been rather impressive through four games and has only thrown one interception on the year. He led the Hokies to a Week 1 victory over #22 West Virginia and with a win Saturday night, he could launch the Hokies right into Playoff contention. A win Saturday night could also be Jackson’s coming out party as a Heisman dark horse.
The match up almost feels more like a classic SEC showdown rather than an ACC contest, with the defenses clearly holding the spotlight and scoring opportunities likely coming in short supply. The X factor will likely be the quarterback play, for one of the two will have to put up some points against a strong defense. Bryant has the better supporting cast and is backed by a better defense, but Jackson would seem to be the better player. Clemson showed last week that one man won’t beat them, but crazier things have happened. Look for Jackson to come out aggressive and give the Tigers their toughest challenge yet.