Virginia Tech Football: Clemson Q&A Preview

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Ricky Walker bears down on Deshaun Watson in the ACC Championship game. [Dave Knachel / Virginia Tech Athletics]

The preseason is officially over. After renewing a temporarily dormant rivalry with West Virginia, it's been an admittedly quiet month of September for the Hokies. Sure, convincing wins over Delaware, East Carolina and Old Dominion were nothing to scoff at, but there's been a giant shadow looming over the Virginia Tech football program these past 3 weeks.

Clemson. Dabo Swinney. The defending national champions. College GameDay.

Good news: It's finally here.

But before joining Lee Corso on Alumni Hall Saturday morning, I spoke to David Hood, Senior Writer at, to get a first-hand look at how a new starting quarterback and an elite defense are meshing down in Clemson. You can find my answers to David's questions here.

JC: First things first: has the excitement of last year's national championship worn off yet? How exhilarating of a ride was the month of January for the Clemson program and fan base?

DH: It has. I think there was a bit of hangover effect the first week of the season, but once Auburn rolled into town for the second game (and the prospect of a loss loomed) it brought everyone back to earth and they realized (finally) that a new season was here. Once they turned that corner, I sensed a shift in excitement from last season to this one. And yes, that month of January was incredible, starting with the win over Ohio St. in the Fiesta Bowl and continuing to the championship.

JC: The biggest questions around the Tigers this offseason centered around Kelly Bryant, the junior quarterback charged with the unenviable task of replacing Deshaun Watson. Bryant's been effective through four games, but he's no Watson (in fairness, not many are). How have you seen the first-year starter grow through the season's first month, and what are the main weaknesses you expect Bud Foster to exploit?

DH: He's a better passer than many people give him credit for, but there are still questions about his ability to make decisions on the fly. Boston College rushed six or seven and forced him to make reads, but instead of going through his progressions I thought he bailed out of the pocket too much and took off running too soon. I expect Foster to design different looks and bring pressure from all parts of the field.

JC: Defensively, Brent Venables returns a group with few equals across college football. From a fearsome front four to a talented young secondary, it's tough to find a hole in this Tigers' defense. Is this the best group Venables has had at Clemson? Can you point to one position as a concern heading into Saturday's showdown in Blacksburg?

DH: This group has the most talent he's ever had, and that's saying something. The biggest question mark entering the season was the secondary, but they've been excellent. There really are no holes - there is depth on the line, at linebacker and in the secondary. There are a lot of future NFL players in the three-deep on the depth chart. This group might not finish number one overall like the group in 2014, but they will be close.

JC: While Clemson had little trouble on the road at Louisville just two weeks back, one could argue Papa John's Stadium pales in comparison to a Saturday night spent in Lane. Difference in venue noted, the Tigers are no stranger to playing - and winning - on college football's grandest stage. Do you expect the crowd to play a factor Saturday night?

DH: I think the crowd will absolutely provide a boost for the Hokies, and I expect them to be loud when Clemson is on offense, causing communication issues for Bryant. On the flip side, all of these Clemson players have played in so many big games over the last three years, and most of them have been away from home. They enjoy and embrace the "road dog" mentality and members of the defense have told me numerous times they enjoy playing on the road more than they enjoy playing at home. They won't be intimidated.

JC: The O/U total currently sits at 51.5, a number indicative of two elite defensive minds matching up in Blacksburg. But while many expect this to be a defensive slugfest, each offense has shown glimpses of big-play potential through the season's first month. Put your gambling hat on: which side of 51.5 are we falling on?

DH: With Bud Foster and Brent Venables roaming the sidelines, I will take the under.

JC: With a largely front-loaded schedule, this feels like Clemson's last true test prior to a mid-November matchup with a reeling Florida State program. Is it fair to say Clemson fans expect to go 12-0 this year?

DH: After NC State defeated FSU last Saturday, the matchup against the Wolfies looms large (Nov. 4th), and Wake Forest is undefeated. Maybe for some people there are those expectations, but I think most fans realize that it's hard to run the table every season. There is a reason we haven't had someone go 15-0, and last year's loss to Pitt shows that you have to bring your "A" game every week.

JC: Prediction time: does Clemson remain undefeated, or can the Hokies avenge last year's 42-35 loss in the ACC Championship Game?

DH: I think this one will be close - the crowd, Clemson's questions on offense and the familiarity between the two programs will make for an exciting matchup. But I've seen this program take on all-comers the last few years, and they're an onside kick away from having back-to-back national championships. Until someone knocks them off, I pick the Tigers, 26-20.


They won't be intimidated.

Time will tell, David, time will tell...

"What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

Good stuff. He makes a good point about how good Clemson is in big games away from home. Apparently they haven't lost a true road game since 2014.

That TigetNet site is pretty solid as well. Lots of balanced, thought out takes, even from the commentariat. Seems people over there are respectful of the job Fuente has done and the advantage Lane brings but still expect a hard fought victory, which is about right.

I've been on that site all day and I've seen the opposite.

Best part about that entire site is snowtown getting on everyone's nerves. I made sure to click on all his posts.

"What are you going to do, stab me? - Quote from Man Stabbed

Haha, I noticed that too this week. I can't tell if it's an inside joke or if they really hate that guy?

"What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

So he's their Butters?

"We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior" Stephen M.R. Covey

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” David Wilson

"What are you going to do, stab me? - Quote from Man Stabbed

If there's one thing we can agree on between both fanbases, it's that TigerNet's message board setup sucks compared to TKP!!! Great job, Joe!

Let's Go


honestly just read a couple threads and now i have a headache.

Quick read of their message board shows that they think Lane Stadium seats 45k, it won't be loud, and that the game will be over by the third quarter. One poster even thinks it will be a virtual home game for Clemson. Oh, and they are oddly upset about their band sitting in the back of the stadium.

Recommend reading for a good laugh.

Yeah, I scanned their site as well. Not sure where they got 45,000 from.

I will agree, I was surprised that the ODU band was up at the top of the stadium. Especially as they participated in the half time event. They used to have section 101.

Some of those comments: yeesh. Its like they forgot they are the ROAD team. According their posters:

  • The visiting band should have priority seats so they can quickly get on and off the field for performances to play more.
  • The visiting band should be mic'ed up at a minimum so the TV broadcast can hear them
  • The ACC should address this issue
  • Maybe they should just go to C'ville and get a little cheese too.

    There are also a distressing amount of people over there who dont know that VT and UVA are not the same school... lots of references to Charlottesville.

    Yep... part of me thinks its an inside joke/troll, but honestly I think a few have no idea.

    If that is the case, I hope all of their fans and the band show up tomorrow at Lane North.

    At least this guy got called out. Made me laugh:

    Misinformed Klempson Poster #1
    What is more intimidating at VT?
    A. The keys
    B. The Pergola
    C. When they set couches on fire

    Reasonable Klempson Poster #2's Response
    Dude, I think "B" is related to UVA...
    And "C" is a WVU joke...
    Can't tell if your being sarcastic

    I've been perusing through TigerNet all week and wow, they've got some characters.

    "What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

    One of the commenters summed it up best by referring to it as a "Bubba site."

    I just hope they're being funny and aren't really this arrogant and stupid from what I've read on TigerNet.

    I was at the game in 2006 and both games in 2011 and every Clemson fan I met was really cool. They all seemed down to earth. We played Flip Cup with them for a solid 2 hours before kickoff at the ACCCG.

    "What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

    y'all may not like this idea, but if you want things to get really loud and you don't care about making those around you deaf...

    6 quick steps to making noise that the opposing defense doesn't want you to know!
    and you can help out VT club sports too

    1. get yourself a ticket to the game, and get your a$$ to Blacksburg
    2. get to the stadium early, and make sure you have a pocket full of pennies and dimes
    3. buy a bottle of water from your favorite concession stand. most of these were manned by the cycling team and some of the proceeds would help the club pay for stuff, so its a good cause
    4. drink and/or pour out the water
    5. put 3-4 pennies/dimes into the empty bottle and put the cap back on
    6. shake vigorously when we are on defense

    Try it at home too, its LOUD. Used to do this years ago at high school games

    7. Smuggle a vuvuzela into the game to use in conjunction with the water bottle full of pennies and dimes.

    "What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

    and they're an onside kick away from having back-to-back national championships.

    And UNC was an onside kick away from Clemson not even being in the 2015 playoffs...

    "I regret nothing. The end." - Ron Swanson

    "What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"


    I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

    Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

    and we're one Peter Warrick suspension away from a natty. /s

    "Take care of the little things and the big things will come."

    The posters on that site are dumber than the posters on TSL.

    Maybe all the free boards are like that.

    I listened to local radio 'insider' here in SC discussing game.....he said ice baths and treatment room at Clemson were full up day after BC victory.

    "It's a miracle in Blacksburg, TYROD DID IT MIKEY, TYROD DID IT!"

    There is a reason we haven't had someone go 15-0, and last year's loss to Pitt shows that you have to bring your "A" game every week.


    The preseason is officially over.

    comes out swinging in the first sentence

    Really level headed commentary. I was honestly expecting him to pick a bigger pro-Clemson spread with how high they're riding.