Clemson and Georgia Tech: Close games are the norm


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Clemson and Georgia Tech renew acquaintances Saturday at 8 p.m.
Clemson and Georgia Tech renew acquaintances Saturday at 8 p.m.

CLEMSON – Clemson and Georgia Tech. The ACC says the two schools are rivals because they sit a mere two hours apart. Otherwise, they don’t have a lot in common other than the fact that they managed to play a close game almost every single year.

Since Georgia Tech joined the ACC for the 1983 football season, Clemson has an 18-17 lead. It’s also been a home stadium series advantage in recent years. The home team has won seven of the last eight games in the series with the only road win taking place last year when Clemson won 26-7 in Atlanta.

Twelve of the last 21 games have been decided by five points or less, including a six-game streak between 1996-01 in which every game was decided by exactly three points. Eleven of Georgia Tech’s last 14 wins in the series have been decided by a touchdown or less.

Over the last 21 years Clemson and Georgia Tech have played 12 games decided by seven points or less.
Clemson has won the last four games played at Clemson, all under Dabo Swinney. Swinney is 4-1 against Georgia Tech in Memorial Stadium and the only loss took place in 2008 when he had been named interim coach the Monday before the game.

Swinney expects another close game this season.

“We’ve got another big challenge this week with Georgia Tech. This is a really good football team, and they’re truly two plays away from being 6-0,” Swinney said. “Watching the Tennessee tape, I have no idea how they lost that ballgame. Turnovers were the costly thing, and they gave them short field, but they really dominated the game. “Then, the Miami game…what a ballgame. It comes down to a fourth-and-10, and two defenders go up…how they don’t get the ball, I have no idea.

“Paul [Johnson] has done an awesome job of getting these guys a great plan every week and putting them in a position to win. We don’t have any doubt that we’re going to be in for a big fight on Saturday night here in the Valley.”

Swinney said Tech’s option offense means the defense has to play with discipline.

“Offensively, obviously we play them every year, so we’re very familiar with who they are, and they are who they are. This is year nine for me, and it never is easy to play these guys,” he said. “It is always an incredible undertaking. The amount of discipline that you have to play with…you just can’t get bored doing your job over and over and over for 60 minutes. Tackling is at a premium because of their style of play and the way they force you into one-on-one coverage and open-field tackles, being able to play the cut box, having the discipline…they throw the ball a lot, but right now, they’re averaging four completions a game, but it’s almost 18 yards per catch.

“So whenever they do throw it, it’s a big play, and that’s typically because someone has their eyes on the wrong thing, they try to do someone else’s job and here goes a guy wide open. It’s just a real challenge from a discipline standpoint, but we’re looking forward to the matchup. Their quarterback has been very impressive. He’s a guy who knows their system, and Paul wants a guy that can go out there and can make the decisions that need to be made…it’s an ‘if this, then that’ type of offense. “It’s the old-school RPOs, I guess. Now, it’s modern-day option football, and the quarterback has the power to make a lot of decisions. Paul does a great job of teaching their system and equipping the quarterback with answers.”

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof has the Tech defense ranked 20th nationally.

“Defensively, it’s a veteran group. They’ve shown a lot of different things this year based on who they’ve played…they played Wake Forest completely different than they played a couple of other teams, so every week, they’ve had a few game plan wrinkles mixed in for that opponent,” Swinney said. “But it’s a veteran group, especially in the secondary. They’ve got a ton of guys back who have started a bunch of games and are active up front. Ted [Roof] does as good of a job as anybody out there schematically. We’ve got to play well.”

Swinney said he has a lot of respect for Paul Johnson.

“Paul Johnson is a great football coach. He’s been doing this for 21 years. Georgia Southern, Navy, Georgia Tech…he’s a winner,” Swinney said. “He’s been successful because you don’t every have to worry about who they are. They have an identity, and they believe in their identity, and they know what they’re doing. “They know how to recruit to it, and they know how to execute it. Everything comes down to execution. They’ve been able to execute this triple option offense to perfection…and you don’t see it a whole lot. Obviously, we play them every year, but some teams, I feel sorry for them when they look at their schedule and go ‘hmm, how did we schedule them?’ or ‘oh my god, it’s our turn to play Georgia Tech.’ “It’s a challenge. It is assignment football at its finest. You have to play with such discipline and such great technique. They stress you from all angles, so it never gets easy.

“He’s been doing this for so long that he’s got answers. I don’t care how good your fastball is, but if you keep throwing fastballs, you’re going to hit it, and a long way. I’ve got a great respect for Paul and what they do. “Defensively, they’ve been really good. Ted is outstanding and really understands how to get those guys in position to have a chance to be successful.”

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