Thursday/Friday Football Preview

September 10th, 2009

Thursday night delivers an ACC showdown that could very well be repeated in December. Clemson (1-0) visits Atlanta to take on #15 Georgia Tech (1-0) (7:30 PM on ESPN), and it's fitting that a Yellow Jacket team that rarely gets the national spotlight plays on national television...opposite the NFL season opener. Jonathan Dwyer and company made short work of Jacksonville State last Saturday, but they'll face a defense some think may be the best in the ACC. A stat to watch tonight: turnovers, which played a significant role in last year's meeting.

In the Tigers' first game under Dabo Swinney the two teams combined for eight turnovers (six for Clemson) in the 21-17 Georgia Tech victory. Coach Paul Johnson's option attack will put the ball on the ground, a definite risk for any option offense due to the increased ballhandling responsibilities. If Kyle Parker can't take care of the football Clemson will be in trouble. The sophomore has weapons to get the ball to as well, beginning with senior running back C.J. Spiller. Spiller scored the first time he touched the football in last week's opener, taking back a kickoff 96 yards. He and Dwyer are possibilities for the Heisman and the Doak Walker, and tonight provides a national stage on which to show their wares. 

Ten of the last thirteen games in this series have been decided by five points or less, meaning that there's a very good chance that this one won't be decided until late. The Yellow Jackets will likely win the time of possession battle due to their offense, but Clemson will have to do much better than their 2.1 yards per carry showing in last year's meeting. If they can run the ball with some consistency Clemson can steal one in Atlanta. But at the end of the day, Georgia Tech has the look of a better football team. 

Colorado @ Toledo (Friday at 9 PM, ESPN)

Out of necessity (Miami University pulled out of a home-and-home deal to play Kentucky in Cincinnati, losing said game 42-0) the Buffaloes make the voyage east to the Glass Bowl in hopes of rebounding from their loss to in-state rival Colorado State. The two have never met on the football field, and given what Purdue was able to do against the Rockets Colorado QB Cody Hawkins could be in for a good night. Colorado also has options in the backfield thanks to the presence of backs Demetrius Sumler, and Rodney Stewart. 

Purdue did whatever they wanted on the ground last weekend, rushing for 315 yards (8.1 yards per carry) in beating Toledo by three touchdowns. The yardage total had been reached just twice in the 12-year tenure of the retired Joe Tiller. The Buffs were a major disappointment last weekend, rushing for just twenty-nine yards on twenty-one attempts against CSU. Falling behind 14-0 early may have had something to do with that, but truth be told there's no excuse given the talent in the Colorado backfield. If CU comes out lethargic against Toledo they'll be in trouble once again.

Tim Beckman's Rockets can put some points up on the board and QB Aaron Opelt threw for 435 yards last weekend, so Colorado should be on notice. Toledo has the ability to get things done through the air, and the rushing game may prove to be better than it showed last week provided they not fall behind 21-0. Colorado won't be as explosive through the air, making it imperative that they run the ball effectively. Look for Coach Hawkins' team to survive a tough road test. If they don't, the heat under his chair gets turned up a bit.