The Vanderbilt game was basically an equal combination of what I expected, and what I wanted. For the most part, sharp execution against a credible defense. And a comfortable win that was never really in doubt in the second half. But, of course, still a lot of bend but don't break against another sluggish offense. To be fair, the final numbers were pretty impressive for the defense, which is all we should really care about, but I've been really not very impressed with Vandy's offense. We'll know more about both in a few more weeks but my suspicion is Vandy moved the ball better than we should have let them.
I am concerned that we have so much trouble slowing down bad offenses. Clemson, oddly, really hasn't looked very intimidating on offense to date. After having one of the best offenses in college football in 2015, and returning the Heisman contender QB that everyone knows about and most of the rest of the talent, they are off to a thoroughly unimpressive start in 2016. That's college football, I guess.
Thursday is the first game since Week 1 that Clemson will be remotely motivated to play. So we could chalk up Week 1 to a pretty good and talented Auburn defense, and the fact that it was Week 1. And Week 2 to being flat? Sure they looked sharp against SC State but that's like us looking good against Mercer or Western Carolina. Doesn't tell you much.
I still believe Clemson is a loaded offense and our defense will have its hands full. Fortunately for us, Clemson is still mostly a finesse offense. I like our chances to stop that sort of offense much better than say... Alabama. We don't do so well with power. We don't do so well against any offense really, but, perhaps a better chance to make plays against a finesse, speed based offense that is mostly going to try to spread us out and throw the ball.
Defensively, they are loaded with great athletes again. The sort of defensive front that is just unblockable and could pose lots of problems. A similar defense to the one that came into Atlanta 2 years ago and held Paul Johnson's best offense to 1 TD and 3 FG's in 8 possessions. That was a battle between a great offense and a great defense. This should be a great defense. Remains to be seen whether our offense is close to that good (but last Saturday was encouraging).
So, yes, Clemson is loaded. We know that. I think if we play well, we have a perfectly good chance to keep this close and maybe pull the upset. But we are mostly going to have to hope that the Thursday night home crowd, GT as an underdog at home, and Clemson's jinx at Bobby Dodd Stadium - basically all the usual voo doo - comes together like it always seems to in the ACC and particularly when GT and Clemson play. Clemson tends to blow us out randomly when they aren't supposed to (2003, 2006, 2010). And GT tends to give Clemson fits when we aren't supposed to (2000, 2007, 2011, heck even the loss in 2012 went down to the wire). Plus just weird things happen in this series, like the punt fiasco in 2004, or the 24-0 start in 2009, only to have Clemson roar back to 27-24, and then choke the game away.
I could easily see this being another great one. Or I could see Clemson winning 38-3. We just haven't learned enough about these teams yet. I feel pretty confident saying that we aren't going to pull a Louisville and beat the ACC's other heavyweight by 50 points.
I'll say Clemson gets more than they want, but ends up winning something like 31-24. Hopefully I'm right about the first part and wrong about the second. As always, let's go Jackets!!