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Tigers and Hokies square off in Death Valley on Military Appreciation Day

Somehow unbeknownst to me, we are already halfway through the college football season. The unveiling of the first official BCS standings of the season represent that the race for conference championships and positioning for bowl games are in full swing.  There are currently 12 teams still undefeated throughout the country in Division 1-A, which means there are still a lot of questions to be answered in regards to which teams can truly consider themselves elite. Watching as team’s battle it out to stake their claim as contenders rather than pretenders is what makes the college football season what it is. Unlike any other sport, one game truly can define the season.

After Clemson’s 49-37 defeat at Florida State earlier in the season, the Tigers will most likely face a must-win situation in every game left on their schedule to still have a chance at gaining an at-large bid for a return to a BCS bowl game at the end of the season. Clemson still has a lot to prove in order to continue to move up the rankings.  Clemson is No. 14 in the AP Poll, No. 13 in the USA Today Coach’s Poll, but only No. 19 in the initial BCS standings. While a win over a 4-3 Virginia Tech team might not seem like a huge deal, putting forth a dominating performance could go a long way in helping the Tigers improve on their low BCS ranking. For Virginia Tech, this weekend will be all about building on the momentum they created in a 41-20 win over Duke last week after falling behind 20-0 in the first quarter, while trying to separate themselves from the rest of the ACC Coastal division.

Up until this season, the Virginia Tech program has been a model of consistency and the measuring stick for which other programs in the ACC could try and compare themselves too. VT ran off eight consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins entering the 2012 season and has appeared in the ACC Championship game five times since joining the conference in 2004. Despite the fact that they’re only 4-3 so far this season, there’s still a real chance that they will represent the Coastal Division again come December, since there are four teams (including Virginia Tech) in the division with identical 2-1 conference records. With so much on the line come this weekend, here are some things you can expect to see when tuned in as the Tigers host the Hokies this Saturday.

One of the most emotional entrances of the college football season

Saturday’s matchup with Virginia Tech has been designated Military Appreciation Day by Clemson University and should be a fantastic spectacle for all of those involved.  Clemson has a rich military background, as the school was an all-male military college from 1883-1955, and Military Appreciation Day has always been a great way for Clemson to show how much its military heritage really means to those associated with the school.

This year’s Military Appreciation Day will be a little different than those in recent years as Clemson fans will have the opportunity to show their appreciation for one military veteran in particular. Daniel Rodriguez, a 24-year-old freshman walk-on wide receiver and special teams player for the Tigers, was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Medal of Valor after being one of 22 American soldiers wounded in the Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan in 2009. Rodriguez also served 18 months of active duty in Iraq. When the Tiger’s arrive at the top of the hill for the most exciting 25 seconds of college football, Rodriguez will be at the front of the group hoisting an American Flag in honor of Military Appreciation Day. Expect the Clemson crowd to give him the hero’s recognition he deserves in what will be a very special atmosphere.

Offensive Fireworks

Virginia Tech’s defensive coordinator, Bud Foster, is one of the most respected defensive minds in all of college football as his Virginia Tech defenses have been a model of consistency during his distinguished tenure in Blacksburg. However, the secret is out that Foster is not a fan of the fast-paced spread offensive philosophy that is becoming more present in college football. Last year the Tigers offense was extremely successful in Clemson’s two wins over the Hokies, in which they won by a combined 48 points. Virginia Tech’s struggles against the spread attack have continued into this season as North Carolina’s new look hurry-up spread offense racked up 48 points, 533 total yards, and 339 yards rushing in a 14 point win over the Hokies earlier this season.

Foster’s challenge for this weekend will be to get some kind of consistency out of his defensive unit. Tech’s defense has been stout in the friendly confines of Lane Stadium, where the defense is only giving up 11 points per game and 276 yards to opposing offenses. But on the road it’s been a completely different story. This year in games away from home, the Virginia Tech defense has given up an average of 37 points and 522 yards per game. Combine Virginia Tech’s road woes with Clemson’s offensive firepower, and it seems likely that Clemson fans should expect to see Tajh Boyd and company putting plenty of points up on the scoreboard. The Tigers have scored over 40 points in five of their six games and chances are they surpass that number again this Saturday.

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