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2011 Virginia Tech Football: What to Watch in the ACC Championship Game vs. Clemson

BLACKSBURG, VA - OCTOBER 1: Logan Thomas #3 of the Virginia Tech University Hokies is sacked by Andre Branch #40 of the Clemson University Tigers on October 1, 2011 at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)
BLACKSBURG, VA - OCTOBER 1: Logan Thomas #3 of the Virginia Tech University Hokies is sacked by Andre Branch #40 of the Clemson University Tigers on October 1, 2011 at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)
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If our friend and consigliere Joe from The Key Play represents the ego of Virginia Tech fans, I probably represent the super-ego. Joe's the brash one, the confident one. I'm not. I'm skeptical and cynical, sometimes overly so. Therefore, whenever the Hokies look like they can do no wrong, that's when I look for nothing to go right.

That brings us to Saturday's game against Clemson, the same team that provided the Hokies with the only blemish on their record. Since that cold, miserable night in Blacksburg the Hokies have rolled through the ACC, culminating with a 38-0 steamrolling of UVa. And since that night, Clemson has looked anywhere from mediocre to downright awful down the stretch and now sits at 9-3.

The Hokies can do no wrong. The Tigers can do nothing right. Just the kind of game I always get nervous about. Throw in a Dabo Swinney rant directed at South Carolina and it adds fuel to the fire. Clemson's falling apart, they'll say. What if sticking up for his team fires them up, I'll say.

We'll know very quickly what we're in for in this game. Maybe as soon as the first two drives. Is Virginia Tech overconfident? In Clemson motivated to prove its naysayers wrong? Are the Hokies on fire? Are the Tigers firmly in the tank? We'll know pretty soon if this is going to be a rout or a slug-fest between the conference's two best teams. Until then I'll be nervous, skeptical and cynical about the Hokies punching their ticket to a fourth Orange Bowl in five years. I'll leave the chirping to Joe and all of you.

It's late. I'm tired. This will be quick. Besides, everyone else has already done a good job of previewing this thing.

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Clemson Defense

  • The difference needs to be the quarterback run game with Logan Thomas. That aspect of the Hokie offense has matured since the first meeting and he needs to be able to take some of the load off David Wilson, who had a very solid game the first time against these guys.
  • Maryland, Wake Forest and South Carolina all saw success running the ball out of the shotgun against Clemson. They used the Tigers' speed against them. I'm interested to see how much zone read we run with Thomas and Wilson and if we see any new option wrinkles like the one we saw on the early touchdown by Thomas against UVa.
  • These plays are one way we can try to mitigate the damage caused by Clemson DE Andre Branch, who was a menace in the first meeting. Ends who can speed rush have given us fits all season, especially on the left side of the line.
  • One of the reasons he was able to be so effective was that the Hokies faced a lot of passing downs on third down. Since then, the Hokies have been able to stay in manageable third-down situations, one of the many reasons they've won seven games in a row since then. That trend has to continue.

Virginia Tech Defense vs. Clemson Offense

  • Pass coverage is going to be everything in this one. It was solid against Clemson and it's been a little iffy since then. With Sammy Watkins closer to 100 percent, look for Clemson's passing game to be better than it has been late in the season.
  • One guy who killed us in the first meeting and still has the ability to kill us is TE Dwayne Allen. We don't have anyone who can match-up with him and if we aren't able to get pressure on Tajh Boyd, he'll be able to find Allen in the middle of the field. I'm interested to see what Bud Foster will dial up to try and take away the success they had with Allen and what effect that will have in other parts of the field.
  • Tech's ability to get to Boyd will start with stopping Andre Ellington. They were able to do it in the first game have historically done well against team that run the ball out of the shotgun. If we're able to stop him, especially in the red zone, we'll be in good shape.
  • A lot of the criticism of the Tigers has focused on intangibles. That the Tigers are soft and getting beaten at the point of attack. That wasn't happening in the first meeting and that's why I'm worried about this game. Clemson's problems are more psychological than they are physical or than they are X's and O's. Those problems are harder to fix, but they can be fixed. You just never know when or if they will be.

Watch the Box Score

  • Turnovers
  • Clemson YPC
  • Virginia Tech Sacks Allowed
  • Virginia Tech 3rd Down Conversions

Virginia Tech Players to Watch

  • 3 - Logan Thomas, So., QB
  • 54 - Nick Becton, Jr., LT
  • 98 - Derrick Hopkins, So., DT
  • 15 - Eddie Whitley, Sr., FS

Clemson Players to Watch

  • 83 - Dwayne Allen, Jr., TE
  • 23 - Andre Ellington, Jr., RB
  • 40 - Andre Branch, Sr., DE
  • 42 - Corico Hawkins, Jr., LB

Final Score

Virginia Tech 21, Clemson 20