Virginia Tech is back in the ACC Championship for the first time since 2011 against the heavily-favored Clemson Tigers who are one win away from returning to the College Football Playoff for the second-straight year. Virginia Tech enters this game with nothing to lose as the underdog against the Tigers in a game that many across the country will have their eye on to see if Clemson locks up their playoff spot or if the Hokies cause chaos. With that said, Henry Skutt gives us our three Hokies to watch Saturday night.
The storylines leading up to the ACC Championship game have all been about Clemson and their star quarterback in Deshaun Watson. During the teleconference this week, Jerod Evans was often referred to as “Jared.” Additionally, Evans didn’t even get honorable mention to the offensive All-ACC teams. In my opinion, all of these types of factors will add up and should lead to an inspired performance on Saturday night.
Look for Evans to make a statement on the national primetime stage on Saturday night. He will be presented with opportunities to show off his abilities — which have flown under the radar this season so far. I will be looking to see how he starts the game, and whether he can get into a good rhythm early, which is key if the Hokies want to pull off the upset. He’s going to have to play almost mistake free, as any type of turnovers will vastly decrease any hopes Virginia Tech has.
Baron was the lone Hokie player to be honored with First Team All-ACC honors, and he deserved it. He has 17 1/2 tackles for loss this season, something which is very impressive given how he’s been a little bit of a quieter presence for the defensive line over the past couple seasons. To make it even more interesting, Baron has been awarded the #25 jersey this week as well — an honor that always seems to bring out a little something special from the player.
Look for Baron to be disruptive all night. He’ll be in the backfield, making his presence known — whether that be him sacking Watson, or just pressuring him in general. If the Hokies want to stand a chance against the high-powered offense of the Tigers, they’re going to need to pressure Watson and stop the run. Clemson thrives on 3rd and short situations. Pay attention to the pressure that Coach Foster dials up, and expect for Baron to be in the middle of it throughout the game.
Not a single player, but this unit is going to have to perform on a high level for Virginia Tech to stay in the game on Saturday night and because of that, I’m including all of the defensive back group as one of the “players” to watch against Clemson. They have performed well all season, and it sounds like Greg Stroman will be making his return — something that will only improve them. The secondary has missed Stroman the past couple weeks, especially against Notre Dame.
Look for Coach Foster to have lots of faith in his defensive backs and put them on islands against the Clemson wide receivers. If he’s able to do that, he can bring more blitzes against the offensive line and Watson, something that can be good for causing disruptions in the backfield and as I said before, the Hokies are going to need to create those disruptions to stand a chance against the offense of the Tigers.
However, given all of that, the defensive backs need to be ready to stop the running ability of Watson. Running quarterbacks always seem to be the kryptonite of the Hokies defense, but hopefully that isn’t the case on Saturday night.
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