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2011 Virginia Tech Football: What to Watch vs. Clemson

Virginia Tech Hokies (4-0, 0-0) vs. Clemson Tigers (4-0, 1-0)

We're going to learn a lot about this team this week.

When the schedule came out, we figured the Hokies would be sitting at 4-0 because of a toned-down non-conference schedule designed to allow for a large learning curve for its new starting quarterback. Clemson had no such room for its own redshirt sophomore QB from the Commonwealth. Yet despite back-to-back games against the defending national champion and the preseason pick to win the ACC, both Tajh Boyd and Logan come into this game at 4-0.

There is plenty to find out about the Hokies, who have looked less than sharp on offense and rode its defense to an undefeated September. And even with the two high-profile wins, there is still plenty to find out about Clemson, too. The Tigers looked ragged at times on defense and won with a fast-improving offense in the season's first month. Its quarterback will also make his first career road start in what will be one the most hostile environments he'll likely face in his time at Clemson.

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Clemson Defense

  • We may not know until game time who's going to be able to go for the Hokies at wide out. While Danny Coale and D.J. Coles have played great the last two weeks, those were two terrible secondaries they faced against Arkansas State and Marshall. Clemson's secondary isn't world-beaters, but it's still the best we've played this year. Odds are this game's going to come down to how well David Wilson and Josh Oglesby run the ball.
  • Clemson gave up big chunks of yards on the ground to two spread teams (Troy and Auburn) and one option team (Wofford) before shutting down a pro-style team (Florida State). Does that mean the Hokies should focus on running out of the shotgun? While I don't think it should be the focus, it should at least be mixed in. Auburn ripped off some big gains early in the game due to some overpursuit by the Tigers.
  • But mainly this will come down to Virginia Tech's ability to effectively run between the tackles with Wilson and Oglesby, keeping the Clemson offense off the field, its own defense refreshed the the Tiger defense on its heels. If Tech is again unable to be consistent on the ground and leave points on the field, this might not go Tech's way.
  • This will be the first time Boyd has played on the road, but it will also be the first time Thomas has played against a defense as good or fast as Clemson's. How well he performs and handles pressure will say a lot about the direction of the team beyond this game.
  • The guy to keep an eye on for Clemson on defense is defensive end Andre Branch. You'll see him standing up a lot at the line and will be a handful for our tackles.
  • Will the special teams gaffes finally cost us beyond just being something to complain about while undefeated? I hope not, but other than Justin Myer on kickoffs nothing has been a bright spot on special teams for Tech. If this is a close game (and it should be) it could be the difference.

Virginia Tech Defense vs. Clemson Offense

  • Clemson's offense is all about tempo, tempo, tempo. The defense (and the crowd) needs to keep the Tigers from getting into a rhythm and make Boyd as uncomfortable as possible. Clemson hasn't played on the road with their new offense, so it will be interesting to see what happens when Boyd has to change the play at the line. That's when the crowd needs to be at its fiercest.
  • Boyd throws a nice-looking deep ball and he's got guys who can stretch the field in Sammy Watkins and Nuk Hopkins. Those two against Jayron Hosley, Kyle Fuller and Cris Hill be the best match-up of the game.
  • What I think could kill the Hokies is that we have no one who can match-up with tight end Dwayne Allen. All the attention will be on the young guys, Hopkins, Watkins and Martavis Bryant, but Allen's the guy who can really do some damage against our defense, especially when we play nickel. Could look like the Stanford game all over again.
  • Clemson will throw a lot of motion at the Hokies, similar to what we saw last year against Boise State, trying to create as much confusion as possible for the defense.
  • Tackling will be at a premium. A lot of Watkins' yards have come after the catch this year. He'll also get the ball on jet sweeps when in motion. He's likely to bust one or two big plays in this game. The key will be minimizing the damage. 
  • Not a lot of time for me to go over stuff this week, so sorry about that. Mainly just basic stuff out of me this week (and unfortunately probably next week as well).

Watch the Box Score

  • Virginia Tech Sacks
  • Virginia Tech YPC
  • Clemson YAC
  • Average Field Position

Virginia Tech Players to Watch

  • 2 - Josh Oglesby, Sr., RB
  • 18 - D.J. Coles, Jr., WR
  • 99 - James Gayle, So., DE
  • 24 - Tariq Edwards, So., LB 

Clemson Players to Watch

  • 83 - Dwayne Allen, Jr., TE
  • 79 - Phillip Price, Sr., LT
  • 40 - Andre Branch, Sr., DE
  • 94 - Rennie Moore, Sr., DT

Final Score

Clemson 28, Virginia Tech 21