The Clemson Tigers are in an unfamiliar place as their ACC opener approaches on Saturday. They will be looking to get themselves above .500 for the first time this season in week three. A winning record usually isn’t an issue for Dabo Swinney’s team, but following a loss Georgia and a blowout of S.C. State they sit at 1-1. The Tigers have plenty of time to bounce back from their one loss. They face rival Georgia Tech in their ACC opener this weekend. Aside from the anomaly that was Notre Dame being a conference opponent for the 2020 season, Clemson has won 27 regular season games versus fellow ACC teams.
Clemson Tigers Shift Focus to ACC Opener
The Tiger defense has been dominant over the first two weeks of the season, just as many suspected it would be in 2021. However, the offense is still trying to find a groove, and that process could take a while. It could be accelerated this Saturday. Clemson has won six straight over the Yellow Jackets, by a combined score of 267-83. Georgia Tech is also 1-1, but they have yet to play a Power Five opponent. Things are not looking good in year three under Geoff Collins. They don’t figure to look much better after this weekend either, especially based on recent results.
Up To Standard
D.J. Uiagalelei has not had the most prolific start to the 2021 season. The entire offense struggled in week one. While the numbers improved in week two, the quality of opponent makes it hard to gauge how much that means moving forward. The sophomore signal caller has the unenviable task of living up to the standard set by his predecessors. Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence arrived on campus with loads of hype and played at a high level from the start. Uiagalelei is not only trying to lead this team, but to play at the level set for this very successful program. The California native is extremely talented, but his second year in orange and purple needs a jumpstart.
One of the issues that Uiagalelei has had is that the running game has not been his friend through two weeks. He currently leads the Tigers in rushing attempts but has only one yard because of sacks. Clemson could get nothing going on the ground against Georgia. As their ACC opener approaches, they will need one of there stable of backs to step up. The offensive line has also not played particularly well so far. They need to pick things up and control games at the line of scrimmage to give Clemson’s play makers time and room to work. Will Shipley, Kobe Pace, and Lyn-J Dixon are the main guys in the tailback rotation.
Shipley is a highly touted freshman who can be a game changer. He showed flashes of that ability against S.C. State averaging 10 yards a carry and scoring twice. Now he needs to do it versus a better level of competition. Pace is a solid option as well, but still needs to show he can produce on a consistent basis. Dixon is the enigma of this group. He was excellent as Travis Etienne’s understudy his first two years on campus. Last season he saw his carries plummet despite appearing in ten games. He now sits third on the depth chart behind the aforementioned ball carriers. Dixon is the most experienced of the three backs, and if he could regain the form of his freshman and sophomore campaigns is would greatly benefit the Tigers offense.
The Standard Is The Standard
While the offense has scuffled to start the 2021 slate, the defense is dominant once again. They have allowed just 491 yards and 13 points during the first two contests. The pass defense has been especially good with the aggression of the defensive line and the play making in the secondary. Brent Venables unit is the strength of this team again and should carry them through the conference slate.
The Tigers will want to make a statement in their ACC opener. That doesn’t bode well for the Yellow Jackets. This once fierce rivalry has been completely one-sided as of late, and that shouldn’t change this weekend. Georgia Tech has run the ball well through two games, and they will need to rely on that ground game is they hope to keep this one close. Unfortunately for them, Clemson’s strength is in the trenches on defense, and they have a veteran linebacker group to back that up. The Tigers will try to use this contest as a chance to get some things figured out on offense, and hopefully get Uiagalelei and the running game both some rhythm.