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.