1. I think it’ll be a challenge for attendance for Georgia Tech-Clemson to get to 50,000, which is unfortunate. Tickets have begun to move somewhat since the price for tickets in the upper north end zone was dropped from $75 to $50, but there’s still plenty left .
I think it’s easy to say, “Well, the ticket office should have made prices lower,” which, in hindsight, appears to be the case. But, the athletic association is trying to maximize revenue and believed that demand would be higher. Given the strong attendance for Clemson games since 2003, it’d be understandable to think so.
Plus, you have to factor in the price you’re charging to season-ticket holders, and the fact that demand is fairly inelastic for a large portion of that segment, and so you want to maximize revenue there, and you can’t do that without making the rest of the tickets similarly priced. If you charge season-ticket holders $100 a ticket and then sell single-game tickets for $25, you’re going to first aggravate season-ticket holders, and then eventually lose them.
That said, $75 is a lot, especially at a time when there's so much competition for entertainment options. I checked around a little bit at ticket prices for the Falcons and other colleges in major metropolitan markets. Falcons tickets range from $55 to $325.
The range of prices for Miami’s game against Florida State was $89 to $335. For Syracuse-Boston College, it’s $25-$50. For Northwestern’s home game against Illinois, the range was $35-$50. Stanford at UCLA: $30-$70. Oregon State at Washington – $68-$189. Tech's range for Saturday (at least available tickets) is $50 (since the discount went into effect)-$95.
(This isn’t all apples to apples. The top end for some of the ranges don’t necessarily represent the most premium tickets in each stadium, as is the case with Tech's.)
2. Defensive lineman Patrick Gamble shed a little light on his ankle injury suffered against Virginia. Basically, a Virginia offensive lineman fell on it.
“It was one of the worst pains I’ve had,” he said.
Gamble said it crossed his mind that he’d broken it, and when the x-ray came back negative, “I knew I had to get in the medical room and do my therapy and just follow Coach (Jay) Shoop. He’s good in the medical room.” Gamble said he was in the trainer's room four or five times a day to speed his recovery.
3. Tech will honor its seniors Saturday, which is always a neat moment of the season. Those players commit themselves pretty fully to the team for four and sometimes five years, so it’s nice for them to be individually honored. As part of my job, I get to know some of them a little bit, and so from a personal standpoint, I’m glad to see them recognized, too, as part of that commitment is dealing with reporters like myself. I’ve talked with Quayshawn Nealy, for instance, pretty regularly since the time he was a sophomore, and he has invariably been helpful, insightful and honest. I’ve talked with him about the team, various teammates, opponents, his internship and, once, his tuba skills, and he’s handled my many questions with patience and good humor. He has my thanks.
4. Representatives from the Sun, Belk, TaxSlayer and Russell Athletic bowls have requested credentials for Saturday’s game. I’d have to say all are in play for Tech depending on how the next two games go, although I’d be pretty surprised if Tech returns to the Sun Bowl for the third time in four years.
The Russell Athletic Bowl has the second choice after the Orange Bowl (unless the ACC’s opponent in the Orange Bowl is a Big Ten team, in which case the Citrus Bowl has the second pick). The Russell Athletic is in Orlando on Dec. 29, which, among other things, is my wife’s birthday.
Conspicuous by its absence is the Pinstripe Bowl, which is in the same tier of bowls as the Sun, Belk and TaxSlayer (formerly Gator).
5. If the game comes down to a field goal, Clemson has one of the more consistent kickers in the country in Ammon Lakip, a graduate of Chattahoochee High. Lakip has made 81 percent of his field-goal tries, including 5-for-7 between 40 and 49 yards.
Tech kicker Harrison Butker is 7-for-12 but is a hard-to-explain 1-for-5 from 30 to 39 yards. He’s 2-for-2 from 40 to 49. He made a try from 39 or 40 yards against N.C. State that was wiped out by a penalty.
6. The announcers for the broadcast are Mike Patrick (play by play), Ed Cunningham (analyst) and Jeannine Edwards (sideline). Unless Wikipedia is leading me astray, Cunningham was a producer for one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen, “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.” It was about a man’s pursuit of the world record for Donkey Kong and has to be seen to be believed. You can get it on Netflix, at least through the DVD subscription.
7. Former Tech quarterback Vad Lee is leading the Colonial Athletic Association in passing yardage and total offense, at 263.3 yards per game and 335.2 yards per game, respectively. Lee is completing 58.3 percent of his passes and has a 24/6 touchdown/interception ratio. Lee is third in the league in passer efficiency rating at 136.5.
James Madison is 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the CAA, tied for third, and plays Richmond Saturday. According to at least one bracketology website, the Dukes are in the mix for an FCS playoff berth.
8. I find recruiting rankings more interesting than I probably should, and, more specifically, what becomes of highly-ranked players. The following are the top three dual-threat quarterbacks from the past six years, according to Rivals.
2014: DeShaun Watson, Clemson, Will Grier, Florida, Treon Harris, Florida
Watson will start his fourth game of the year. Harris is the backup to Jeff Driskel. Grier is evidently redshirting.
2013: Troy Williams, Washington; Anu Solomon, Arizona; Malik Zaire, Notre Dame
Williams is the Huskies’ No. 2 quarterback. Solomon won the starting job in the preseason and is ranked No. 6 in the country in total offense for the No. 14 Wildcats. Zaire has played three games as the backup to Everett Golston.
2012: Jameis Winston, Florida State; Cyler Miles, Washington; Matt Davis, Texas A&M
Winston won the Heisman Trophy and led Florida State to the 2013 national championship. Miles is the Huskies’ starter and has a 65.5 percent completion rate, but apparently hasn’t won over the locals. Davis transferred prior to the 2013 season to a junior college, and is now at SMU. He started his first game for the Mustangs last week.
2011: Braxton Miller, Ohio State; Brett Hundley, UCLA; Jacoby Brissett, Florida
Miller, a two-time Big Ten MVP, was lost for the season after a preseason shoulder injury and is expected to return next season. Hundley leads the nation in completing percentage (72.1 percent) and is No. 16 in total offense for No. 11 UCLA. Brissett transferred to N.C. State from Florida prior to the 2013 season and is now the Wolfpack’s starter.
2010: Devin Gardner, Michigan; Robert Bolden, Penn State; Barry Brunetti, West Virginia
Gardner, in his second full season as the starter, has struggled in his senior season. Bolden became Joe Paterno’s first true freshman quarterback to start the season opener and started 15 games before transferring to LSU after the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. Bolden redshirted in 2012, did not play in 2013 and then was switched to wide receiver in the spring of 2014. He transferred to Eastern Michigan and has split time at quarterback. Brunetti was a backup at West Virginia as a true freshman, transferred to Ole Miss and played three seasons as a backup.
2009: Russell Shepard, LSU; Tyrik Rollison, Auburn; Geno Smith, West Virginia
Shepard played mostly as a backup at wide receiver and running back and now plays for Tampa Bay. Rollison redshirted the 2009 season and then transferred to Sam Houston State shortly after Cam Newton signed with the Tigers and led them to a national title. He played one season at junior college and is finishing his career at Texas A&M-Commerce. He is No. 2 in Division II in passing efficiency. After a record-setting career at West Virginia, Smith was a second-round draft pick of the New York Jets, for whom he has started 24 games but was recently benched.
9: Three interesting quotes from Clemson coach Dabo Swinney:
On preparing for the Tech offense:
"I think we've been playing kind of - I don't know what the word is, but just kind of, I guess, traditional football, offenses all year long, and we see a little bit of everything from week to week.
But this is the one week that's just totally different from what you see all year as far as how you coach and how you practice and the fundamentals that you do at practice. I mean, it's just very, very different. For us, if it was the first time, it would be more of a challenge, but we do play them every year. Some of the other teams in our league that don't play them every year, might be a little different for them. But we play them every year. It's something we work on all year.
"We work on cut blocks all year, all season. We do cut block drills, something we emphasize in the spring, fall camp, during our open days. We're always preparing our guys for what they're going to see, and this is just kind of part of it. And then when we get into the full game prep, it's a little more extensive."
On what it will take to beat Tech:
"We've got to win the turnover margin. That's just the bottom line. This is a team that controls the clock. If you give them a short field - listen, it doesn't matter where you give them the ball. You can give them the ball backed up on the -1 yard line, they still score almost 38 percent of the time from there. So they're on offense that scores, but if you give them a short field you're in for a long day. And that's what happened when we lost down there in 2011. We had five turnovers, and we just couldn't overcome it."
On playing at Bobby Dodd Stadium:
"I love going down there. It's a good place to go play. It's obviously a unique setting because you've got these huge buildings that are sticking up all around right there in the heart of Atlanta. But it's a nice campus. It's always a great environment when it's Clemson-Georgia Tech, that's for sure."
10. Tech will wear white helmets for Saturday’s game. I’m not sure about the uniforms. Tech has gone white jerseys-gold pants the last three games since wearing all white against North Carolina.
“I know the gold pants the last few weeks, we’ve been winning some games, so we’ll see what happens,” defensive tackle Adam Gotsis said.
Gotsis likes the white look.
“It’s slimming,” he said.
One extra - if you're attending Saturday's game, please remember to bring a new, unwrapped toy or a cash gift for the Michael Isenhour Toy Drive, sponsored by the Georgia Tech Student-Athlete Advisory Board. Items can be dropped off at each gate around the stadium.