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Georgia Tech at Clemson

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Editor’s Note: Joe Nelson is the top college football handicapper on VegasInsider.com (68%, +1922). Don’t miss out on his Week 12 Winners!
 
After two heavyweight games with major national implications last Thursday, this week’s slate  does not have the same impact. The ACC matchup between Georgia Tech and Clemson will be a meaningful game in the ACC Coastal division race and will impact the still alive BCS bowl berth chances for both teams and it was a very exciting competitive game last season despite a misleading final score.
 
Here is a look at the Thursday night college football game in the ACC. 
 
Matchup: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Clemson Tigers
Venue: Clemson Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina (grass)
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m. ET – ESPN
Line: Clemson -10½, Over/Under 59½
Last Meeting: 2012, Clemson (-10½) 47-31 at Clemson
 
With the shuffling of the ACC with the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech has to play at Clemson two years in a row. The Tigers stormed to near the top of the national picture with its opening week win over Georgia but the season goals went up in smoke with a blowout home loss on Oct. 19 to Florida State (51-14) that knocked them out of the national title picture as well as the ACC Atlantic race. While Clemson won’t win its own division, the Tigers would have a chance to go 11-1 and be in strong consideration for the team’s second BCS bowl bid in the last three years as an at-large candidate as they are currently 8th in the BCS standings. Clemson will need to win this week and then also win at South Carolina to close the season for that to be a possibility.

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Last season Georgia Tech represented the ACC Coastal division going up against Florida State in the ACC Championship game as a three-way tie on top of the division was handed to the Yellow Jackets with Miami and North Carolina ineligible for the postseason. After starting last season just 3-5 Georgia Tech rallied to finish 7-7, respectably playing with the Seminoles in a six-point defeat in the title game and then getting a notable bowl win over USC in the Sun Bowl. This season has featured another rocky start with three losses in a row at one point but with three straight wins Georgia Tech leads the Coastal division at 5-2. Virginia Tech and Miami also have just two losses and they have both already defeated Georgia Tech but Duke is also in the mix and potential tiebreaker scenarios could possibly work out for the Yellow Jackets if Duke would beat Miami this weekend.
 
Having the extra week to prepare for Georgia Tech’s unique offense can be an advantage and the Clemson defense has been good against the run this season, allowing 141 yards per game but on just 3.7 yards per rush. Only twice this season has Clemson been out-rushed, though that is almost certain to be the case in this matchup. Last season Georgia Tech had 339 rushing yards against Clemson and the Yellow Jackets average nearly 312 yards per game on the ground. Whether or not Clemson can run the ball in this game might determine the result as Georgia Tech allows just 103 yards per game on the ground defensively, holding foes to just 3.4 yards per rush. While the total yardage edges are significant for Clemson on offense and Georgia Tech on defense, the statistics are a bit misleading as Georgia Tech has been more productive on a per play basis on offense while Clemson has been slightly better on defense in terms of yards per play allowed.
 
While Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has fallen off the map after being a preseason Heisman Trophy contender, he still owns strong numbers with 20 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. He is completing almost 66 percent of his passes but he has not been quite as productive as last season in the air or on the ground as he wraps up what has been a fine career in the coming weeks. Leading Georgia Tech is sophomore Vad Lee who has thrown for over 1,000 yards while rushing for nearly 400 yards. In the triple-option Lee does not put up great conventional statistics for a quarterback with just 45 percent completions and just 2.9 yards per rush but he has been able to stay healthy this season and has become the leader for the offense even after facing some doubts and criticism on the losing streak earlier in the season.
 
Last Meeting: Last year’s game with Clemson was the low-point for Georgia Tech as they fell to just 2-4 on the season and 1-3 in ACC play before going 4-0 in the remaining conference games. While Clemson eventually won by 16, Georgia Tech actually led 31-30 in the fourth quarter. Clemson got a touchdown and a two-point conversion and then just seconds later had a safety that helped to put the game away, adding another touchdown in the final minute to cover the spread in what was a misleading final score. Clemson did post 601 yards of offense compared with 483 for Georgia Tech as the Tigers overcame two interceptions. Current NFL players DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Ellington did most of the damage for Clemson as Sammy Watkins had a quiet day and the big numbers for Tajh Boyd were padded with the big fourth quarter. Vad Lee did not play in the game as Tevin Washington was still the quarterback for Georgia Tech.
 
Series History: The home team has won and covered in the last three meetings in this series. These teams also played in the 2009 ACC championship game with Georgia Tech winning 39-34 as a slight favorite. Georgia Tech has won 11 of the last 17 meetings but Clemson is 13-7 ATS in the last 20 meetings going back to 1994. Since 1989 Clemson is just 4-10 ATS as a favorite in this series however, though they have won and covered in the last three meetings as a home favorite. This year’s spread is currently a point lower than last season’s closing number. Dabo Swinney’s first game as head coach of Clemson came hosting Georgia Tech halfway through the 2008 season with Georgia Tech winning 21-17.
 
Line Movement:  The line opened at Clemson -10 and has slowly climbed to 10½. The total is up to 59 after opening at 58½.
 
Georgia Tech Historical Trends: Georgia Tech is 11-5 ATS in the last 16 games as a double-digit underdog but Georgia Tech is just 4-7-2 ATS in the last 13 road games. Since Paul Johnson took over in 2008 Georgia Tech is 13-12 ATS as an underdog, winning eight times SU.
 
Clemson Historical Trends: Under Swinney Clemson is 18-17 ATS at home and 27-23 ATS as a favorite, going 14-13 ATS as a double-digit favorite. Clemson has failed to cover in four of the last five games as a home favorite and six of the last nine games as a double-digit home favorite.
 
Also on Thursday…

Marshall (-14) at Tulsa (FS1, 7:30 p.m. ET)
 
Tulsa has endured a rough 2-7 season and the Golden Hurricane sit at just 1-8 ATS on the year. It has been a steep fall for the 2012 Conference USA champions and it has been somewhat unexpected as many predicted Tulsa to repeat as at least the West division champion. Tulsa has been bowl eligible in seven of the last eight seasons and this program has won at least 10 games in four of the last six years but last week’s loss clinched a losing season in 2013. Tulsa has played better at home and this was a team that did not lose at Chapman Stadium last season. Quarterback play has been a big reason for the tough season as freshman Dane Evans has completed just 45 percent of his passes.
 
Tulsa won 45-38 last season at Marshall and the Thundering Herd are not the same team on the road. Marshall is 1-3 both SU and ATS in road games this season with only a one-point victory over Florida Atlantic in the win column. Despite winning at least five games five different years since 2005, Marshall has gone just 11-42 SU and 18-32 ATS in road games since the start of the 2005 season. Quarterback Rakeem Cato has excellent numbers with 23 touchdowns and just six interceptions but it has been a dramatic defensive improvement that makes the Thundering Herd a contender in Conference USA this season, allowing just 21 points and 359 yards per game this season after surrendering 43 points and 457 yards per game last season.
 
 

  
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