It’s never easy for a team to open a season on the road against a conference opponent. Even worse is when that conference opponent is also the defending national champion, but that’s the situation Georgia Tech finds itself in when it opens the 2019 campaign playing at No. 1 Clemson Thursday night.
The Yellow Jackets come into the game with a new head coach in Geoff Collins, who comes to Tech after two seasons with Temple in which he took the Owls to two bowl games. Clemson is coming off its second national title in three seasons, and coach Dabo Swinney has plenty of firepower back to make a third title in four years a potential reality. The Tigers averaged 44.3 points per game as season ago, including a 49-point explosion against the Yellow Jackets.
The Tigers are a 36-point favorite in their home opener, with the over/under for the contest set at 60.5.
Looking For Hope
With a potent offense lining up for Clemson, the Yellow Jackets will try to keep the ball on the ground and eat up some clock as much as possible. It’s hard to know who will get a bulk of the carries since Collins doesn’t want to name starters prior to the game, but junior Jerry Howard Jr. is coming off a 564-yard rushing season a year ago.
Defensively, the Yellow Jackets are going to have a lot to try to cover against the Tigers. The Georgia Tech secondary does have experience coming back, with cornerback Tre Swilling (24 tackles, six passes broken up) and safety Tariq Carpenter (55 tackles) leading the way. They’ll need to come up big in this one or Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence could carve them up early and often.
Start Of Another Run
The Tigers will celebrate their national title during this game, but then they’ll focus on the task of a second straight title. Lawrence is getting the majority of the headlines when people talk about Clemon’s offense, and rightfully so after he threw for 3,280 yards and 30 touchdowns as a true freshman in 2018. But the Tigers’ engine is running back Travis Etienne (1,658 yards rushing, 24 touchdowns), who should get plenty of carries early on in this one.
The Clemson defensive line was the most dominant part of last year’s defense, but all four of last year’s starters are gone from that unit, leaving some fresh faces to fill some holes up front. Senior Nyles Pinckney and junior Justin Foster will provide some experience up front, while junior linebacker Isaiah Simmons (89 tackles) will come up and make plays as well.
Clemson is without a doubt one of the best teams in the country this season, and they’ve been chomping at the bit to get out on the field and defend their national title. With that in mind — as well as Georgia Tech playing its first game under a new regime — a large winning margin is very much in play for the Tigers. Despite the sizable 36-point betting margin, I’m going with Clemson to start its season with a bang.