ATLANTA — To hear Paul Johnson tell it, the celebration around Bobby Dodd Stadium was rather tame Saturday evening when his Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets watched Clemson receiver Jacoby Ford’s game-winning touchdown.
Still wired from a victorious trip to Charlottesville, Va. that was 19 years in the making, Johnson’s team returned to its midtown Atlanta campus just in time to turn on television sets and watch Clemson and Miami go to overtime.
After witnessing Ford’s 26-yard catch seal the Tigers' win and give the Hurricanes their second conference loss, the Yellow Jackets offered an apparent ho-hum response, Johnson said.
“I think they were excited, but it wasn’t like it was that big a deal,” Johnson said Sunday afternoon. “We haven’t won anything yet.”
The Miami loss — coupled with the Yellow Jackets’ 34-9 win over Virginia earlier in the day Saturday, their first at Scott Stadium since 1990 — dropped the then-No. 8 Hurricanes behind the Yellow Jackets, giving Georgia Tech a very clear and very real shot at winning the ACC’s Coastal Division. By winning the division, they would be ensured a berth into the conference championship game in Tampa, Fla., on Dec. 5.
But with two conference games — including one division game — left to play, Johnson doesn’t want his players to begin thinking that way. He would rather they continue to believe that the season just began, and that a lot of football remains.
“The conference race was (previously) wide open and it still is wide open,” Johnson said. “You can make a case that Miami could still win, Duke could win, Virginia could win, Virginia Tech could.
“About the only team that’s been eliminated really is North Carolina.”
With a loss to Florida State on Thursday, the Tar Heels now have an 0-3 conference record.
Of the four teams left on Georgia Tech’s schedule, two are conference opponents, Wake Forest and Duke. The Demon Deacons (4-4, 2-2) travel to Atlanta on Nov. 7, and currently are licking their wounds after losing to Johnson’s old team, Navy, 13-10 on Saturday.
Like the Yellow Jackets (7-1, 5-1), the Midshipmen run an offense based off the run. Navy did not complete a pass in the victory.
The following weekend, Georgia Tech hits the road to take on a Duke team that has gone 4-3 overall with a 2-1 conference record. The Blue Devils’ conference wins came against North Carolina State and Maryland.
While he knows the future that many Georgia Tech fans hope for is not promised, Johnson understands how enviable his team’s current position is.
The only way the Yellow Jackets’ ACC title destiny could change for the worse is if they lose to Wake Forest and Duke. After needing losses from other teams to try and sneak into last year’s conference title game, the Yellow Jackets are the sole proprietors of their playing fate in 2009.
“It’s a good situation,” Johnson said.
Georgia Tech remained at No. 11 in Sunday’s AP Top 25 Poll. In the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, the Yellow Jackets climbed from 13th to 11th. In the BCS standings, Tech climbed a spot to 11th. … In basketball, Georgia Tech was voted to finish fourth in the ACC by media attending the ACC Operation Basketball Kickoff in Greensboro, N.C. Yellow Jackets freshman forward Derrick Favors was also voted the ACC’s preseason rookie of the year.