Aug. 17, 2012
By Jon Cooper
2011 Finish: 10-4 (6-2, first in Atlantic Division)
Final Ranking: 15th (BCS), 22nd (Coaches), 22nd (AP)
Won 38-10 in ACC Championship Game vs. #3 Virginia Tech
Lost 70-33 to #23 West Virginia in Orange Bowl
2012 Prediction: Second in Atlantic Division, third in ACC Championship votes (13)
Sept. 1: Auburn*
Sept. 8: Ball State
Sept. 15: Furman
Sept. 22: @Florida State
Sept. 29: @Boston College
Oct. 6: Georgia Tech
Oct. 20: Virginia Tech
Oct. 25: @Wake Forest
Nov. 3: @Duke
Nov. 10: Maryland
Nov. 17: NC State
Nov. 24: South Carolina
* Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic to be played at Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.)
Who’s Back: Clemson is loaded on both sides of the football. An offense that set school records for points, touchdowns, passing offense and total offense, brings back junior quarterback Tajh Boyd, a First-Team All-ACC performer, who set an ACC record by being responsible for 38 touchdowns (33 passing, five running). Boyd has help with six of the team’s seven top rushers in 2011 coming back, including senior running back Andre Ellington (Second-Team All-ACC), eight of its top nine receivers, including Sammy Watkins, National Freshman of the Year and First-Team All-ACC, and junior DeAndre Hopkins. Also returning are center Dalton Freeman, a 2011 Rimington Award Finalist, and junior left tackle Brandon Thomas. Defensively, under new DC Brent Venables (formerly at Oklahoma), the Tigers return six of their top eight tacklers, including senior DE Malliciah Goodman and free safety Rashard Hall. The linebacking corps returns in tact as well as their entire secondary. Special teams gets a boost with First-Team All-ACC place-kicker Chandler Catanzaro back for his junior year.
Who’s Gone: The Tigers will lose some stability on the offensive line, as they lose four starters from last season, including the entire and the entire right side of RT Antoine McClain and RG Landon Walker and LT Phillip Price (Walker and Price were Honorable Menntion All-ACC in 2011) and First-Team All-ACC tight end Dwayne Allen. On the defensive side, the Tigers must replace Second-Team All-America defensive end Andre Branch and Second-Team All-ACC defensive tackle Brandon Thompson as well as defensive tackle Rennie Moore. Special teams must also replace punter Dawson Zimmerman, an Honorable Mention All-ACC selection.
The Last Time We Met: Georgia Tech scored 24 unanswered points in the first half and forced four turnovers for the game in upending No. 6 Clemson, 31-17, last Oct. 29 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Tech Quarterback Tevin Washington ran for a game-high 176 yards and a touchdown, including a three-yard plunge at the end of the first half that capped a 17-0 second quarter and the Jackets a 24-3 halftime lead. In the second half, the Jackets held off Clemson, with freshman Jemea Thomas ending the Tigers’ final two fourth-quarter drives with interceptions, one at the Georgia Tech 10, the other at the Tech 49. A-Back Orwin Smith had touchdown runs of one and three yards, with his first giving Tech a 7-3 lead in the first quarter. It followed a Louis Young forced fumble, recovered by Rod Sweeting at the Clemson 19. Smith’s second score capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive and opened up a 17-3 bulge. David Sims’ 11-yard burst in the fourth-quarter answered a Tigers score and extended Tech’s lead to 31-10. The score came two plays after Washington rambled for 56 yards on a third-and-six play from the Jackets’ 27. Sammy Watkins was outstanding for Clemson, catching 10 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. He also completed a pass for nine yards. Tech rambled for 383 yards, its second-highest total of the season, and raised its record to 2-0 against ranked teams in 2011 and 8-4 all-time under Paul Johnson.
All-Time Series: Georgia Tech leads, 50-25-2 (6-10 at Memorial Stadium)
Five Things You Need To Know about Clemson:
Clemson ended the 2011 season turning the ball over 16 times in its last six games after committing a total of eight giveaways in its first eight games. The carelessness with the ball began with the four-turnover game against Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech has won seven of the last nine meetings with Clemson, and has held its own on the Tigers’ home field, splitting the last four meetings. The Jackets will try to avoid the first losing streak at Memorial Stadium since dropping four straight (1991, ’93, ’94, and ’96). Those four losses came by a total of 18 points, with three of them decided by a field goal or less. Tech and Clemson didn’t meet for the first time at Memorial Stadium until 1974, the 44th overall meeting between the schools.
The Tigers are coming off a special season in 2011, the season-ending 70-33 squashing by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl notwithstanding. Clemson not only won the school’s league-leading 14th ACC Championship and first since 1991, but beat four top-25 teams for the first time (three of them ranked in the top 11), won three straight weeks over ranked teams, beat a pair of top-10 teams on the road, and had its first perfect home slate (7-0) and 10-win season since 1990. By the way, in 1990, when the Tigers went 10-2, their only losses came at Virginia and at Georgia Tech, with the Yellow Jackets handing the Tigers their final loss of the season.
Clemson is one of three schools in the nation returning a 3,000-yard passer (Boyd, 3,828 yards), a 1,000-yard rusher (Ellington, 1,178 yards) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Watkins, 1,219 yards). The other two schools are Southern California and Fresno State.
Memorial Stadium’s nickname, “Death Valley,” can be attributed to former Presbyterian Head Coach Lonnie McMillian and dates back to 1948, when McMillan remarked to a reporter that he was taking his team to “Death Valley” to play Clemson. Here’s an idea of how lopsided the series has been between the South Carolina schools that are separated by about 70 miles, and why McMillan thought of the game the way he did. The Tigers and Blue Hose have met 40 times, beginning in 1916 and most recently in 2010. The Tigers hold a 33-3-4 edge, and have posted 24 shutouts. Of the 40 games, 39 have been in Clemson. The lone game played in Clinton, in 1940, ended 38-0. McMillian, actually was relatively successful in the series, going 1-12, and although his teams were shut out from 1944-48, they also scored in double-digits four times, and earned a 13-12 win in 1943.