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Clemson Football

Keys to the Game: No. 3 Clemson at Virginia Tech

December 5, 2020

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Each week we give you a look at the game's history, three keys to success, plus Swanny’s prediction.

The Match-Up:

No. 3 Clemson (8-1 overall, 7-1 ACC) at Virginia Tech (4-5 overall, 5-4 ACC)

Clemson vs. Virginia Tech 2017

Series History:

Overall: Clemson leads 22-12-1
Home:  Clemson leads 9-6-1
Road: Clemson leads 9-4
Neutral: Clemson leads 4-2
Last Meeting: 2017 (Clemson 31, Virginia Tech 17)
Last Virginia Tech win: 2007 (Virginia Tech 41, Clemson 23)
Streak: Clemson has won five consecutive matchups.



Stat of the Week:

Head Coach Dabo Swinney is attempting to improve to 6-0 as a head coach vs. Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech is one of five ACC schools against which Swinney is undefeated as head coach, a list that also includes Wake Forest (12- 0), Louisville (6-0), Virginia (5-0), and Duke (3-0).

Chasing History:

The 2020 Clemson seniors (30-2 in ACC regular-season play from 2017-20) are attempting to surpass the 2018 and 2019 seniors (30 wins each) as the winningest class in school history in regular-season conference play and tie the four-year conference record of 31, set by multiple Florida State classes from 1995- 2000.

Last week marked the return of quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who completed 26-of-37 passes for 403 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in his first game action in five weeks. The Heisman candidate improved to 32-1 as a starter, tying the Clemson record for wins by a starting quarterback and improving his career winning percentage to .970, the best by an FBS quarterback with at least 30 starts since Division I split in 1978.

With a win tonight, Lawrence will become the winningest quarterback in Clemson history.

TEAM STATS Clemson Virginia Tech
Points Per Game 46.1 33.2
Points Allowed Per Game 19.2 32.6
Total Yards 512.2 450.1
Yards Passing 362.8 199.2
Yards Rushing 149.4 250.9
Yards Allowed 298.6 463.0
Pass Yards Allowed 196.0 273.8
Rush Yards Allowed  102.6 189.2


Courtesy of ACC Media Portal
Clemson’s defensive line is young and talented, lead by a versatile freshman in Bryan Bresee.


Key 1: Win the Line

Last week against Pitt, Clemson welcomed back a mostly healthy defense, and stud defensive lineman Tyler Davis was disruptive from his first snap. It’s been incredible to watch the Tigers navigate the COVID-19 Era so well, but the normal “wear and tear” injuries have seemed to be the larger issue.

Facing another versatile quarterback in Hendon Hooker, the Tigers hope to corral him while bringing tons of pressure to force throws into tight windows. One would expect that Clemson will win more of those battles than not on a chilly Blacksburg evening. Expect Bryan Bresee, Myles Murphy, and Davis to all make plays today, showcasing Clemson’s youth movement on defense.

Key 2: Spark the run game

Travis Etienne has been a monster his entire career, but in his final season at Clemson, the Jennings, LA native is averaging just 5.2 yards per carry. That's down significantly from his previous three seasons, where he rushed for 7.8, 8.1, and 7.2 on each attempt.

Etienne hasn’t had a 100-yard performance since Clemson's Oct. 10 matchup with Miami, a span of five games. Virginia Tech’s defense gives up almost 190 yards on the ground per game, so there is a good chance that Etienne heats up the ground tonight.

Carl Ackerman
Andrew Booth leaps for an interception last weekend against Pitt.


Key 3: DBU

I’m still marveling at the interception from former five-star Andrew Booth from last weekend. Heck, we are still marveling at his plays against Miami and Virginia as well.

Booth has quickly become a game-changing player on the backend for Brent Venables. Before the season started, Dabo Swinney said that Mike Reed was smiling all the time because of the talent that he’s got, and we are seeing it emerge. 

The Clemson secondary has had some tough moments this year, but injuries and rotation have allowed them to build more and more depth. Last weekend they had four interceptions, and the Hokies could be ripe for the picking. Keep your eye on this group tonight. If the defensive line does what I expect, the DBs could benefit and perhaps have another big day.


You’ve got to love cold weather December football! This almost reminds me of high school playoff football from my youth. I can’t wait to see the breath from players tonight pouring from their helmets-- that’s going to be awesome.

There was a time that I would have listed Virginia Tech as one of the top football programs in the league, but in five seasons, Justin Fuente seems to have Frank Beamer’s old program headed in the wrong direction. 

The Hokies were once a team to be feared. Virginia Tech had one of the most tenacious defenses and special teams that could put points on the board in all phases. That’s just not the case now.

The Tiger looked refreshed last weekend against Pitt, and there is no reason not to think Trevor Lawrence and Company don’t impress tonight.

While Swinney downplayed a Heisman Trophy run for Lawrence, the social media arm for Clemson Football in the athletic department began their push this week, and we believe it was a calculated move by Swinney. 

You can expect Lawrence to look like the best player in America, racking up big numbers, while getting plenty of time to rest in the second half. 

Swanny’s Prediction: Clemson 45, Virginia Tech 14


Swanny’s Predictions: 

Date 2020 Schedule Predictions Swanny’s Prediction Actual Score
Sept. 12 No. 1 Clemson at Wake Forest 55-17 Clemson 37-13 Clemson
Sept. 19 No. 1 Clemson vs. The Citadel 52-6 Clemson 49-0 Clemson
Oct. 3 No. 1 Clemson vs. Virginia 47-17 Clemson 41-23 Clemson
Oct. 10 No. 1 Clemson vs. Miami 38-20 Clemson

42-17 Clemson

Oct. 17 No. 1 Clemson at Georgia Tech 44-10 Clemson

73-7 Clemson

Oct. 24 No. 1 Clemson at Syracuse 61-10 Clemson 47-21 Clemson
Oct. 31 No. 1 Clemson vs. Boston College 35-17 Clemson 34-28 Clemson
Nov. 7 No. 1 Clemson at. No. 4 Notre Dame 31-20 Clemson 47-40 (2OT) Notre Dame
Nov. 28 No. 3 Clemson vs. Pitt 45-17 Clemson 52-17 Clemson
Dec. 4 No. 3 Clemson at Virginia Tech 45-14 Clemson ???


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Keys to the Game: No. 3 Clemson at Virginia Tech

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