This one felt over by the first quarter. No. 5 Clemson went into Bobby Dodd on a Thursday night game against Georgia Tech, who entered holding a five-game win streak against Clemson in Atlanta, one that dated all the way back to 2003. GT head coach Paul Johnson was also 5-0 in Bobby Dodd against ranked opponents when Georgia Tech is unranked, per CBS Sports.
But the Tigers went into Bobby Dodd and proved that this wasn’t the same Clemson team that lost the last five on the road to the Yellow Jackets. Clemson would dominate things throughout and win easily by a score of 26-7.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson got things going on the Tigers’ very first possession, marching downfield for a nine-play scoring drive that took all of three and a half minutes.
And they didn’t let up there. Clemson’s defense smothered Georgia Tech’s usually menacing triple option offense and forced the Yellow Jackets to negative total yardage in the first quarter alone.
Clemson would have another touchdown in the first quarter to go up 14-0 and then piled on a 16-0 lead after Georgia Tech intercepted Watson in the end zone. Tech defensive back Lance Austin tried to make a play out of it and wound up fumbling in his own end zone, giving Clemson a safety.
The Tigers would score another touchdown to enter halftime up 23-0.
Even in the second half, the triple option was completely ineffective against Brent Venables and the Clemson defense. In the third quarter, Georgia Tech was able to muster just two drives that resulted in punts — drives that totaled 18 yards combined.
So it's going very well. pic.twitter.com/g09bBEgagV— Wreckin' the Wreck (@STSouthland) September 23, 2016
Tech was on the verge of suffering its first home shutout since 1957, according to ESPN’s broadcast, but Georgia Tech’s offense finally got going in the fourth quarter on an 11-play scoring drive to get the Yellow Jackets on the board.
The Tech defense, which gave up a monstrous total of 442 yards, was no match for Watson and the Tiger receivers, who had 304 yards in the air on the night. Clemson scored a field goal in the fourth quarter to put the game on ice and win easily on the road, 26-7.
So, what did we learn here? Yeah, it looks like Clemson is, despite having shaky outings against Troy and Auburn to open the season, absolutely still a Top 5 team, as well as a legitimate College Football Playoff contender. The Tiger offense looked efficient, much of the time.
And what the Tiger defense did is much scarier. They held Georgia Tech to just 125 total yards of offense. This is an offense that typically picks apart defenses on the ground. The Yellow Jackets entered this game averaging a whopping 398 total yards over three games.
Now don’t get me wrong, on the flip side, there’s still a lot of football left to be played. The Tigers still have No. 3 Louisville next week, a road game vs No. 13 Florida State, and games against Pitt and South Carolina remaining. Obviously to win the ACC, they have to beat both Louisville and FSU. Clemson hasn’t faced an offense so far this season that has a quarterback even lightyears close to the level Lamar Jackson is currently playing at.
Yes, it’s only week four and yes, Georgia Tech may just wind up not being all that good when the season’s all said and done. But one thing’s for certain — Clemson should be far from being written off for an ACC and national title at the moment.