Georgia Tech Football vs Clemson: Jackets look to start season with an upset

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 22: Travis Etienne #9 of the Clemson Tigers carries the ball against Jalen Johnson #23 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on September 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 22: Travis Etienne #9 of the Clemson Tigers carries the ball against Jalen Johnson #23 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on September 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets kick off their 2019 season on Thursday night as they look to upset No.1, the Clemson Tigers.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (0-0) at No.1 Clemson Tigers (0-0)

Cardinal Stadium (Louisville, Kentucky) – 8:00 pm – Weather

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are just hours away from kicking off the Geoff Collins’ era of college football and the opponent for that inaugural game of the new era, literally could not be any tougher. On Thursday night, the Jackets will take on the best team in all the land, the Clemson Tigers.

The Tigers, of course, are coming off their second national championship in three years and will look to repeat in 2019. But the Jackets are looking to make a statement themselves this season and a nice way to jump-start that would be an upset victory over the country’s top team.

The Yellow Jackets and Tigers are a rivalry series that often sees one team dominate for periods of time. At one point, the Jackets beat the Tigers 15 straight years but now it’s Clemson getting the last laughs, winning each of the last four matchups. The last time the Jackets defeated the Tigers was in 2014, a 28-6 victory. But the past does not matter on Thursday night, it’s a new season and two “new’ programs. The Jackets are in a new era of football and the Tigers saw a rather extensive roster overhaul on defense.

The Jackets enter 2019 with a lot of questions and not a lot of answers. There’s a lot going against the Yellow Jackets, to say the least entering the season and it going up against Clemson certainly won’t help answer any questions or solve any issues. Both the offense and defense will have their hands full going up against one of the country’s most talented programs and with star players on both sides of the ball, this game can be one that gets ugly quickly for the Jackets.

What they did last season:

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Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-6, 5-3):

The final season of the Paul Johnson era was one that mirrored much of what the era truly was. A series of ups-and-downs with a few great highs in between. The Jackets last season got off to an extremely rough start last season, losing three of their first four games. But from there, the Jackets would go on a run that allowed them to make the postseason, winning six of their last seven postseason games before losing their bowl game to Minnesota. Paul Johnson would announce he was stepping down in early December before coaching his final game against the Gophers on December 26th.

Clemson Tigers (15-0, 8-0):

Everyone knows what the Tigers did by now. The Tigers ran through their regular season schedule with rather easy, with just two scares really, one against Texas A&M and one against Syracuse. Outside of those two games, no one came close to beating the Tigers in the regular season. They would make a bowl game for the fourth straight year, routing both Notre Dame and Alabama en route to their second national championship in three years. They also became the first 15-0 team in college football history. The 2018 Clemson Tigers could very well be spoken as one of the best college football teams of all-time.

Odds and Prediction: Clemson Tigers (-37)

Georgia Tech goes up against one of their largest spreads ever as an underdog on Thursday night as they will most likely be somewhere between a 36 and a 38-point underdog at kickoff. Last season, the Jackets struggled at covering the spread, whether it was in a victory or a loss. That being said, on Thursday night, covering the spread may be a little easier for the Jackets.

A near 40-point spread between two power five teams is almost unheard of and rarely do you see those spreads covered. Now, while Clemson may be a team that should be a 40-point favorite over a team in the midst of a program overhaul like the Yellow Jackets, there are a few things going for the Jackets on Thursday night.

The first thing going for the Jackets is the fact that it’s the season opener. Historically, Clemson “struggles” early in the season like most teams who are looking to gel. The Tigers needed to replace some key talent on both sides of the ball, especially defensively, so there may be a bit of a drop off from last season, that being said, they’re still the top team in the country. But if there’s a time to catch the Tigers, it’s early in the season.

The second thing going for the Jackets in terms of covering the spread is that the Jackets are facing the Tigers before two of their biggest games of the season. In weeks two and three, Clemson takes on two of their toughest opponents this season, Texas A&M and Syracuse. With those two games coming up, the Tigers are likely to pull their starters earlier than usual on Thursday night if they get out to a big lead. If the game stays close then the starters will likely stay in but once it reaches the four-to-five touchdown range in the second half, I wouldn’t expect to see Clemson’s first-string offense and defense out there. That should help the Jackets cover in Thursday night’s matchup.

Now, for our predictions for Thursday night’s game. Lead expert Dylan Callaghan-Croley is going with Clemson to win but the Yellow Jackets to cover (by the slimmest of margins), a final score of 45-17. Long-time contributor Lee Cagle is showing a little more confidence in the Jackets offense, going with a high scoring affair but Clemson winning by a final of 56-31. Finally, our newest contributor Bronston Tankerly is a predicting a closer game between the two rivals, with Clemson winning 38-24.