High praise for the Tigers

Saturday night's nationally televised home game against undefeated Clemson, ranked No. 5 in the BCS, has the feel of a last stand.

Not only have the Yellow Jackets (6-2, 3-2 ACC) lost two straight after their surprising start, they've looked bad doing it.

Coach Paul Johnson is trying to rebuild confidence on the offensive side. He knows Tech will have to score several touchdowns to keep up with the Tigers and their Heisman candidate, quarterback Tajh Boyd.

Clemson is "probably the most talented team we've played since I've been here at Georgia Tech, at least in this stadium," Johnson said.

Tech quarterback Tevin Washington has thrown four interceptions in his last three games, including a terrible overthrow on Tech's first play from scrimmage last week. Johnson said the recent offensive failures are not all Washington's fault.

"Clearly he can play better but the guys around him have to play better too," Johnson said, noting Washington has not had room to operate. "He's working hard and trying to correct what he needs to correct."

Johnson inserted backup Synjyn Days for a series against the Hurricanes, but Days fumbled on a running play. Days might have gotten a longer look if not for the fumble.

Tech expects its first sellout of the season at Bobby Dodd Stadium. That should give the team a jolt, but whether it translates to better execution remains to be seen.

"I think our guys look at this game as a challenge and a great opportunity," Johnson said. "You've got an undefeated team coming in that's ranked No. 5 in the BCS. It's at night on national TV. If you can't get up for this one, you probably ought not to be playing."

WEDNESDAY NOTES: Tech has won four of the last five meetings with Clemson.

* The Jackets lead the nation in third-down conversion percentage (58.6).

* Tech did not produce a play of 20-plus yards last week for the first time all season.

* Three of Tech's four remaining games are against ranked teams: No. 6 Clemson, No. 15 Virginia Tech and No. 22 Georgia.

SERIES HISTORY: Tech leads the series 49-25-2. (Last meeting, 2010, Clemson won 27-13 in Death Valley.)

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: This unit hit rock bottom last week, scoring 7 points and gaining a season-low 211 yards. The blocking up front has gotten worse, and now C Jay Finch is likely out with a lower leg injury. QB Tevin Washignton has been intercepted four times over his last three games. Coaches must find a way to get the ball to A-back Orwin Smith and WR Stephen Hill, the team's top playmakers.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: After giving up 5.5 yards a carry in their first four ACC games, the Jackets buckled down against Miami, holding the Hurricanes to 3.0 yards per carry. The return of LBs Jeremiah Attaochu and Daniel Drummond helped substantially. The secondary, which has excelled all season, is in for its toughest test. Tech ranks eighth nationally in pass defense and 18th in pass efficiency defense.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We hope we don't ever have to play a faster group (of WRs) than this. If we did, we'd probably have to take scooters out there to cover them." -- Defensive coordinator Al Groh on Clemson's wideouts.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Jackets aren't built for comebacks, so they must start fast. They've been outscored 21-0 in the first quarter the past two weeks. With the Tigers averaging 40.6 points and able to score in a hurry, the Jackets must grind out long drives and play keepaway. They'll have to avoid the penalties that have put them in obvious passing situations.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Tevin Washington -- The junior needs to regain his confidence after getting picked off on his first pass last week, his fourth INT in three games. His completion percentage has dipped to 48.4, and he was pulled for one series in the second half.

CB Rod Sweeting -- He has three INTs over the last five games and likely will see a lot of Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, who leads the ACC with 54 catches.

OLB Jeremiah Attaochu -- Tech's top pass rusher looked good, but not quite 100 percent, in returning from a high ankle sprain last week. The Jackets need Attaochu to harass Clemson QB Tajh Boyd, who leads the ACC in passing and total offense.

ROSTER REPORT: C Jay Finch (lower leg) appears unlikely to play Saturday, so backup Nick McRae and OT Ray Beno are taking reps at center. McRae played most of last week's game after Finch was hurt on Tech's first play from scrimmage.

* The punt return job is open after true freshman Zach Laskey made two big miscues against Miami. Coach Paul Johnson said he's evaluating his options.

* OLB Jeremiah Attaochu said he's close to 100 percent. Tech's sacks leader returned against Miami after missing two games with a high ankle sprain. He had five tackles and an INT in the 24-7 loss to the Hurricanes.

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