Virginia Tech and Clemson are starting to make their final preparations for Saturday’s night critical ACC showdown. Both teams know that the winner will become the ACC’s biggest threat to make the College Football Playoff while the loser will have no room for error the rest of the season.
With that said, here’s our by the numbers preview for Saturday’s showdown.
523: Number of receiving yards Cam Phillips has to lead the nation through 4 weeks.
Cam Phillips has become one of college football’s best receivers this season and is in the top 5 nationally in receiving yards, receptions, and receiving touchdowns. Phillips even received a vote in ESPN’s Heisman Watch this week, and was the only wide receiver to receive one.
Clemson has some depth concerns at cornerback as starter Trayvon Mullen suffered a concussion against Boston College and will likely be out while backup Mark Fields is questionable with an injury. Clemson still has their top cornerback Ryan Carter and may have Carter shadowing Phillips throughout Saturday’s game especially if Mullen and Fields are both out.
Teams have tried to find ways to take Cam Phillips out of the game, but the talented senior has been a nightmare for all of the Hokies’ opponents and is well on his way to having a historic season for a Virginia Tech wide receiver. Phillips has become more technically sound as a quality route-runner with underrated speed and great agility that has helped him develop into a difference maker.
Phillips will give Clemson problems on Saturday night, and show to the nation why he may be America’s best WR.
17: Number of sacks Clemson has through 4 weeks.
Clemson’s defensive line has been quite good over the first four weeks, especially against Auburn where they had 11 sacks. Their defensive line is loaded with talent that Justin Fuente called “an embarrassment of riches”.
Clemson’s performance against Auburn was extremely impressive but take that away and Clemson only has 6 sacks in 3 games. That’s not bad, but shows that there are ways to try and scheme Clemson’s elite pass rush out of the game.
Virginia Tech’s offensive line has been the best this program has had in years so far with only 4 sacks allowed through 4 games. However, this will be a major test and though they should have some success, it will be important for Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen to find ways to get the ball out of Josh Jackson’s hands quickly and into space down the field.
Expect the Hokies to use a lot of quick passes especially given how this receiving corps is dominant by smaller, speedy guys like Cam Phillips, Sean Savoy, CJ Carroll, and James Clark. If the Hokies can be effective with quick passes, they can neutralize the effect of the Clemson defensive line.
With all the talk of the great defenses, both the #Hokies and Clemson rank in the top 15 nationally in yards of offense per game
— The Tech Lunch Pail (@techlunchpaild) September 26, 2017
The focus has been on the defenses with these two teams, but both these teams have shown they have high-powered offenses. Both Clemson and Virginia Tech are in the top 15 nationally in yards per game while both are also averaging over 37 points per game through the first 4 weeks.
Now we shouldn’t be expecting a shootout between these two teams, but Josh Jackson and Kelly Bryant have proven to be talented quarterbacks that will be able to move the football some Saturday night. To think that this game will be like the old Alabama-LSU games or even the Clemson-Auburn game is a stretch at best.
However, these offenses will be tested by the toughest defensive matchup that either offense has faced yet this season. VT and Clemson have two of the most talented defenses in America, and will put these offenses to the test in this showdown on Saturday night.
4: Combined total of interceptions Josh Jackson and Kelly Bryant have thrown through 4 games.
Josh Jackson and Kelly Bryant have done a very good job at protecting the football with the pair of new starting quarterbacks having only 4 interceptions combined through the first four games. However, neither of these players have faced secondaries as talented as the ones that they’ll go against Saturday night.
Jackson has been particularly good at making smart decision and protecting the football with only 1 interception through four games. His interception against ODU was a rhythm throw where he made a poor assumption. Jackson knows that he can’t afford to make poor assumptions Saturday night, but he’s shown a great ability to progress through his reads and make smart decision so far this season.
Bryant hasn’t been as good protecting the football but 3 interceptions in 4 games isn’t too bad for a first-year starting QB. However, Bryant will go against an elite secondary and do so in one of the craziest environments anyone will face all season in college football. Bryant will be tested Saturday, and Virginia Tech’s secondary will make him pay if he makes a mistake.
12.7: Number of yards per carry averaged by Travis Etienne.
Travis Etienne has only had 23 carries through the first four games, but he’s been lightning in a bottle whenever he’s touched the ball averaging 12.7 yards per carry with 4 touchdowns. Etienne was a big reason for Clemson’s dominant fourth quarter against Boston College and finished that game with 133 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on only 9 carries.
Etienne has been one of the best freshman tailbacks in America and will likely see his role continue to grow especially with Adam Choice banged up for Clemson. Bud Foster and the Hokies’ defense will have a significant challenge against Etienne. If the Hokies miss an assignment when Etienne gets the ball, he will make the Hokies pay.