ATLANTA -- They may be eliminated from contention for the ACC championship game, but the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets still have a lot to play for.
Georgia Tech still has a chance to win 10 games, something it last accomplished in 2009, when the Yellow Jackets won the ACC title and went to the Orange Bowl. Prior to that Georgia Tech hadn’t won double-digit games since 1998.
Reaching that goal won’t be easy. It would require head coach Paul Johnson’s team to win the rest of its games: this week at Duke, the season finale against Georgia at Bobby Dodd Stadium and whatever bowl game happens to call.
“It’s only happened three times in exactly 50 years. That’s one of the things I talked to them about,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot to play for. Every team that played probably had the goal to get to the ACC championship game, and out of 12, there’s only two that are going to get there. So when that goal goes off the board, you don’t quit. You compete and you try to do the best you can do. Certainly this team could accomplish a lot if they win 10 games.”
Georgia Tech (7-3) was eliminated from the Coastal Division race when it lost to Virginia Tech last week. A victory over Duke would mean the Yellow Jackets, who remained No. 23 in the USA Today coaches’ poll, would finish no worse than second in the division and would give them eight wins for the third time in Johnson’s four-year tenure.
“I want to make it clear what I was talking about. We talked about trying to win eight games,” Johnson said. “That’s what we need to do. We need to beat Duke. (Winning 10 games) is out there in front of them, but that’s not the focus. The focus needs to be beat Duke, because otherwise it won’t be pretty.”
The Blue Devils are 3-7 overall and only 1-5 in the conference. And since Duke’s powerhouse basketball team has taken the spotlight, there has been little attention focused on the football team.
But Duke always provides its scary moments each season. The Blue Devils were tied with Coastal Division leader Virginia at 21 in the third quarter a week ago before succumbing 31-21. Duke took Wake Forest to the wire before losing 24-23 and lost to Virginia Tech 14-10.
Georgia Tech has had its way with Duke the past decade. Georgia Tech leads the series 47-30-1, with Duke’s last win coming in 2003. Georgia Tech is 15-1 against the Devils since 1995 and has won the three previous meetings in the Johnson regime by an average of 25.3 points.
The Yellow Jackets seemingly have discovered the offensive touch they were missing for two weeks against Virginia and Miami. Georgia Tech has averaged 28.5 points the past two games against Clemson and Virginia Tech, both top-10 teams.
The resurgence has been led by quarterback Tevin Washington, who has rushed for 524 yards and nine touchdowns the past five games. The junior has scored an ACC-leading 13 touchdowns.
The defense will be without linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu for the first half Saturday. He was suspended by Johnson for a half because of a personal foul incurred against Virginia Tech. Johnson opted for that penalty since it’s consistent with what the ACC normally issues when a player is ejected from a game for fighting. Brandon Watts and Malcolm Munroe will play in Attaochu’s place.