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Clemson set to take on Georgia Tech to become bowl-eligible with sixth win

Ashleigh Snyder
Clemson linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. was recently named as one of 12 semifinalists for the Butkus award following his incredible performance against Notre Dame.

Clemson will face off against Georgia Tech at noon this Saturday in Memorial Stadium for the Military Appreciation game.

The last time the Tigers faced the Yellow Jackets in September 2022, the then No. 4-ranked Tigers defeated Tech 41-10 in a strong second-half performance led by their defense and special teams.

Now, both teams stand at 5-4 on the season, though the Yellow Jackets boast a 4-2 conference record to hold third place in the ACC compared to the Tigers’ 2-4 conference record. With a win on Saturday, Clemson would be bowl-eligible.

After narrowly losing to now-No. 11 Louisville in their season opener, head coach Brent Key and Georgia Tech have gone on to beat ranked opponents such as Miami and North Carolina.

Led by quarterback Haynes King, who transferred from Texas A&M following his redshirt sophomore campaign, the Georgia Tech offense has had new life breathed into it. At this point in the season, King has completed 63.3% of passes for 2,330 passing yards and 22 touchdowns.

Aiding King on the ground is sophomore running back Jamal Haynes, who leads the team with 115 carries for 664 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Joining Haynes in the backfield will be Dontae Smith and Trey Cooley, who have each made three trips to the end zone this season.

The Yellow Jackets appear to be about even in their use of air and ground attacks. They total nearly 200 receiving yards more than the Tigers, led by freshman Eric Singleton Jr. with 552 yards and six touchdowns. Conversely, Clemson’s leading receiver, Beaux Collins, has a team-high 445 yards and two touchdowns under his belt, while freshman Tyler Brown has turned heads with 406 yards and three touchdowns.

Although the Tigers are heavily favored in this matchup, head coach Dabo Swinney is aware of the dangers of getting too comfortable.

“Georgia Tech is playing with a lot of confidence. They have won three out of their last four,” he said. “They fight until the end.”

“I’m impressed with who they are and what they do,” he added.

Most recently, the Tigers upset No. 15 Notre Dame 31-23 in the midst of a less-than-typical season for Swinney’s team. In the win, junior running back Phil Mafah led the way with two touchdowns and a career-high 186 yards in the absence of Will Shipley, who was out due to concussion protocol.

Shipley is expected to return this weekend and is “trending back unless he has a setback,” Swinney said.

“He’ll remind you, quick. He’ll remind you, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s why they like Will Shipley,’” Swinney said.
Clemson’s defense will have its hands full with a team that has averaged 33.2 points this year. Currently, the Tigers are ranked No. 6 in total defense in the country and 35th in scoring defense, with 21.22 points allowed per game.

At the moment, Clemson’s secondary is depleted, as cornerback Sheridan Jones and safety Jalyn Phillips are out this week, though Swinney believes R.J. Mickens is close to making his return following the removal of his appendix. Swinney also noted that defensive end Justin Mascoll may be ready to suit up on Saturday after the sixth-year missed the last several weeks due to an unspecified injury.

Meanwhile, in the front seven, linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr., who had two sacks, 11 total tackles and a pick six against the Fighting Irish last weekend, will be looked at to lead the Tigers’ defense.

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About the Contributors
Grace O'Donnell, Sports Editor
Ashleigh Snyder, Photo Editor
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