No. 5 Clemson pays a Thursday night visit to Georgia Tech, as the Tigers try to keep (or find?) a rhythm for the second quarter of their season. They're 3-0 and still very much in the College Football Playoff discussion, but they looked just uninspired in their first two games before a rout against FCS South Carolina State. That was a weird afternoon.
Georgia Tech has gotten off to an encouraging start. The Yellow Jackets are 3-0 after a 38-7 thrashing of Vanderbilt last weekend, and an upset against one of the ACC's top teams, while unlikely, could be a springboard. They've had success so far with a balanced rushing attack, led by quarterback Justin Thomas and young running backs Dedrick Mills and Marcus Marshall. As a team, the Jackets are averaging 5.4 yards per carry, although they earned just 2.7 against Boston College's stout defense in their opener.
Clemson could use a resounding win. Georgia Tech could use an upset, and it should be interesting to see how the Jackets try to crack Clemson's formidable front.
How to watch, stream, and listen
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. The broadcasters are Dave Flemming (play-by-play), Jesse Palmer (analyst), and Laura Rutledge (sideline).
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Spread: Clemson opened as an 11-point favorite.
Three big things to know
1. Clemson's offense needs to be firing. The Tigers can probably win this particular game even if the offense isn't great, but for the purposes of building confidence and keeping up appearances, they need to stay on schedule. The Tigers haven't run the ball well against FBS competition, and it's set them back. They were good against an FCS team a week ago, but how they do against a decent run defense now will be telling.
2. Georgia Tech's spread option will test the Tigers. Clemson starts a couple of young defensive ends in sophomore Christian Wilkins and freshman Clelin Ferrell. They'll have to be strong in containment against a Thomas-led spread option that thrives on edge running and beat down what was supposed to be a good Vanderbilt defense last week. Clemson can stop the run and has seen Paul Johnson's system before, but this run game is a different animal than most.
3. DeShaun Watson's still getting there. Watson had a rough first two weeks, especially by his lofty standards. It was smooth sailing against S.C. State, but you can't learn much from a game like that. Georgia Tech's been good at preventing big plays against the pass, but teams have been efficient moving the ball through the air at shorter distances. We'll see if Watson can find the best of both those worlds.