ATLANTA — Coach Paul Johnson hopes Georgia Tech is on the verge of something special.
Against No. 8 Clemson, the Yellow Jackets will have their biggest test yet in 2013.
The Tigers (8-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won two in a row since suffering an embarrassing home loss to Florida State three weeks ago, but the Tigers are a tough draw for Georgia Tech (6-3, 5-2 ACC).
Clemson’s offense ranks 11th nationally. Its defense ranks first in tackles for lost yardage and many of the same players beat the Jackets 47-31 at Death Valley last year.
Since he took over at Georgia Tech, Johnson has won four of six games against Clemson, though one of those victories was a 2009 ACC championship vacated for a violation of NCAA rules.
Johnson has been pleased with recent improvement in the Jackets’ defense quarterback pressure and the play of senior defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu and senior safety Jemea Thomas.
Attaochu has five tackles for lost yardage, four sacks and one forced fumble in wins over Virginia and Pittsburgh. Thomas had 18 solo tackles, 2 pass breakups and one interception in the past two games.
Offensively, Johnson has been pleased with sophomore quarterback Vad Lee, arguably the most skilled passer in the coach’s six seasons, and his efficiency in orchestrating the triple-option attack. He said perimeter blocking has improved, too.
Under Johnson, Georgia Tech has always had one of the nation’s top rushing offenses, and this year is no exception with a No. 5 ranking.
What the Jackets hope is that their defense, which ranks 12th nationally matches up well with an offense led by senior quarterback quarterback Tajh Boyd and junior receiver Sammy Watkins.
The Jackets must win to keep their slim hopes alive of advancing to a second consecutive ACC title game. At 5-2 in the league, they’re one victory ahead of Virginia Tech and two ahead of Miami.