No. 8 Clemson seeking better home showing

No. 8 Clemson has another chance in the national spotlight – and
doesn’t want to blow it like last time.

The Tigers (8-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) hold their first
Thursday night game at home in 11 years when they take on Georgia
Tech (6-3, 5-2). It was a month ago when college football last
centered on Death Valley and the ACC’s first top-five showdown in
eight years, with Florida State in town.

Instead of a shootout, it was a Florida State beatdown with the
`Noles scoring the most points ever by an opponent at Clemson in
the 51-14 loss that cost Clemson a shot at the ACC title.

Tigers coach Dabo Swinney likes how his team has bounced back
since with sizeable road wins over Maryland (40-27) and Virginia
(59-10). Still, he knows his team must keep striving if they hope
to have a special season.

”Not many teams that started in the top 10 stayed in the top
10,” he said. ”Our team has kind of hung in there and had a
really good season to this point, but we’re going to be judged on
how we finish.”

Defensive tackle DeShawn Williams said the Tigers owe the fans
after the Florida State debacle and are ready to make amends
against Georgia Tech.

”It feels like we haven’t had a home game in forever,” he
said. ”I think we’re going to give a lot of positive
feedback.”

Georgia Tech has never made it easy for Clemson and doesn’t
figure to in this one, either. The Yellow Jackets are trying to
keep alive their ACC title hopes – they are among four two-loss
teams atop the Coastal Division – and lead the league at more than
311 yards rushing a game this season.

Tech coach Paul Johnson has won four of the six meetings with
Clemson since coming on board with the Yellow Jackets after the
2007 season, several of those when a Tigers victory would’ve been
historic. The Jackets spoiled Swinney’s head coaching debut in 2008
and beat Clemson for the ACC championship a season later.

Two years ago, it was Georgia Tech’s 31-17 victory that ended
Clemson’s 8-0 start and run to a national championship. The Yellow
Jackets come in off three straight victories.

”We look at it as an opportunity to go in and measure ourselves
as a team and see if we’ve made the progress we feel we’ve made in
the past couple of weeks,” Johnson said.

Five things to watch for in No. 8 Clemson’s game with Georgia
Tech

TAJH ON TARGET? Clemson senior quarterback Tajh Boyd has had
some up and down moments this season. He threw no interceptions his
first four games, then had six picks in the past five. Boyd seemed
to right things in Clemson’s last game when he passed for 377 yards
and three TDs in the blowout win at Virginia and the senior is
eager to end his career strongly. ”I want to be remembered as a
finisher,” Boyd said.

GEORGIA TECH’S OPTION. The Yellow Jackets have run over Clemson
the past six meetings, surpassing 300 yards on the ground in all
but two games of that stretch. They went for 339 yards rushing in
last year’s 47-31 loss, yet held a 31-30 lead in the fourth quarter
before fading. David Sims and Robert Godhigh have combined for more
than 1,000 yards and 11 TDs.

CUT BLOCKS. Williams smiled when asked about Georgia Tech.
”Man, I don’t want to deal with all those cut blocks,” he said.
The Yellow Jackets offensive linemen are proficient at the practice
of tying up a defender low and getting them on the ground. Williams
says the Tigers must be fast at moving their feet to make
plays.

THURSDAY NIGHT MADNESS. Clemson hasn’t had a Thursday night game
at home since losing to North Carolina State 38-6 in 2002. The
school’s administration tried to stay away from such home games
because of the disruption to academic life. Afternoon classes will
be cancelled for the game, although the parking lots for fans won’t
open until 2 p.m., perhaps limiting the usual tailgating crowd at
Death Valley.

SACK MASTERS: Both sides feature pass rushing ends who have made
a difference this season. Clemson’s Vic Beasley leads the ACC and
is third in the country with 10 sacks. Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah
Attoachu has six sacks and is a big reason why his team’s given up
less than 19 points a game this year.