Looking to get over the hump

CLEMSON - It's been all Georgia Tech in the first two years of Landon Walker's Clemson playing career.

Just barely, though.

Georgia Tech won 21-17 in 2008—Dabo Swinney's first game as interim coach. Last season, the Yellow Jackets won the regular season meeting 30-27 on a Thursday night in Atlanta. Later at the ACC Championship in Tampa, Georgia Tech won 39-34.

"It's been down to the wire every time," Walker said. "I think a lot of guys are going to have emotion towards this game. It's been a game that's been a thorn for us in our side."

But he was quick to add that too much emotion won't help Clemson beat Georgia Tech for the first time since 2006.

"I think preparation is the most important thing for this week, just getting ready for the defense that they're going to put out there, and realizing that you can't win the game with emotions," Walker said. "I'm going to be fired up, just like the other guys are, just because of the ACC Championship game last year and the year before.

"There were a lot of times when we should have beat Georgia Tech and we've come up short. When it's time to kick the ball off, emotion's not going to win anything."

The Georgia Tech defense is a little more than halfway through the first season under former Virginia head coach Al Groh.

For the first time this season, Clemson will prepare for a base 3-4 defense.

The Tigers beat the visiting Cavaliers 34-21 in Groh's final ACC road game as Virginia's head coach.

"They didn't do a lot of blitzes and stuff like that, a lot of movement, just lined up and said, if you want to beat us, push us off the ball," Walker said of last year's senior day game in Memorial Stadium. "That's something we're going to have to prepare for in practice and do on Saturday."

It was only after lunchtime on Monday, so he'd yet to see much film on Georgia Tech's defense, which gives up an average of just more than 150 yards rushing. The Yellow Jackets have been good for close to 2¼ sacks per game.

Walker wasn't sure how well the personnel have adapted to the new scheme.

"I would say that they have the athletes that they have to play it. I don't know if they fit the exact mold for that coach's defense," he said. "Obviously, at Virginia, they had the big inside guys, and they had the defensive ends that were kind of like defensive tackles. I'm sure he wants to recruit around what he does."

With the first ACC win of the season now in the books, fourth-place Clemson (1-2) sits behind Maryland (1-1) in the ACC Atlantic Division. N.C. State (2-1) is second and Florida State in the driver's seat to Charlotte after a 4-0 start.

Next week, Clemson heads to last-place Boston College. They're back home a week later for N.C. State and then on the road at Florida State.

A loss to Georgia Tech would all but shoot down Clemson's bid for a second Atlantic Division crown.

A win would keep that hope alive. It'd also get a 4-year-old monkey off their back.

"It's something we've got to get past if we're going to win this division," Walker said.

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