Dabo previews Georgia Tech

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney previews No. 8 Clemson's annual grudge match with ACC rival Georgia Tech.

Opening Statement...
Swinney: Glad it's finally Thursday for us. That's what today is. excited to get back it and to play again. First of all I want to congratulate our new President. Excited about Dr. Clement and his family. Had a short time to spend with him yesterday and I'm excited about him leading our university.

Another big challenge for us this week against Georgia Tech. It's always tough. Every single year. Another rivalry game. Definitely a game both teams want to win in a very bad way.

I know it's a different deal but we really need a great environment. Need a great crowd.

Offensively, these guys are always tough with what they do. They have good players that have great knowledge of the system. The key for us is to win the line of scrimmage. Be disciplined with their eyes. Tackling is at a premium. With what they do you have to be good with one-on-one tackles.

We have to create turnovers leveraging the ball. We have to do a better job of that.

We have to be very good on first down and third down. Their philosophy is they are a four down team for most of the game. We have to create as many third and long situations as we can and get off the field.

Defensively, they have six seniors starting for them. They have one of the better defenses we've seen all year. They are top 15 in a lot of categories defensively. They gave up negative rushing yards to Pitt and Pitt beat Notre Dame.

And it starts up front. No. 93 was a backer for them last year and now in a four-man front is incredible. No. 11 is a guy that shows up in all the stats. No. 14 is a guy who is one of the best players in this conference.

Special teams has been a factor in this game. Crazy situations over the years. We have to be sound in what we are doing there.

Open date was good for us. We are as healthy as we've been since we started the season. That's been really good. I like where are team is. I like how they consistently competed throughout the year. It's all about how you finish. We are sitting here with not a long time left and a lot of great opportunity.

Is your greatest concern their ability to chew clock and take you out of your rhythm?
Swinney: It's their ability to keep the ball if they can out-execute you and it's also the big play. They lull you to sleep and then they hit the big play. They don't throw it a lot, their leading receiver has 19 catches. But you have to be disciplined. This game isn't about making plays. It's about doing your job. As soon as you don't, you pay for it. You can't get board. Our d-tackle has to do his job so others can do their jobs.

Is it frustrating to play these guys? Brent Venables said last year, "thank god this one is over." It seems like it is a tough matchup?
Swinney: It's a tough matchup. It's a season of its own... truly. They are so different from anybody else you play. You have to forget all of that. We play them every year. We have to play well and take care of the ball. It's about us and what we do. They stress you more than most people as far as really playing assignment football. If you don't tackle the dive guy then you have problems. It's a different presentation.

How important is to play well in his spotlight given the last time the country saw you in this format came against Florida State?
Swinney: Florida State? We've won two ball games since then. We are just trying to play a great game this game. We are 8-1 and top 10 in the country. There's never been a team in the history of this school that started in the top 10 that finished in the top 10. Has nothing to do with Florida State.

The option has been around forever, why is so successful?
Swinney: It's an equalizer. It really is. You can eliminate things. You know, Vic Beasley probably isn't going to get a lot of sacks. Who knows? So you can neutralize a guy like that. The Navy's the Air Force's the Georgia Tech's ... they always have success. You don't have to be as big and physical up front. It's a totally different philosophy. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat. It's about what you believe in. And Paul Johnson has been as good anybody in the country at doing it. He knows it. He's got answers. He's done it so long and he understands how to attack things. But you still have to block people. You know, blocking and tackling. Same things. It comes down to those same things.

Were you ever an option guy?
Swinney: Never. My whole life. When I was playing my senior year we went three wides. I was in the slot. I was like oh my gosh that was a huge change up. My junior year we decided we would try to be an option team and we went down to Florida and got beat 35-0 and that was the end of that. Even in high school. Wasn't option.

The fact you are in contention for an at-large BCS bid... does that motivate the guys right now?
Swinney: Sure. This is when it matters. This is November the 12th. It matters big time how we play. This is when people really separate. We will be judged on how we finish. That is what November is all about. Heck, if Georgia Tech wins this game, they can be right there with a share of the division and can go to Charlotte. This team has a great opportunity. A BCS opportunity.

Finishing 7-1 in the league... is that something you've mentioned to the team?
Swinney: Sure. They know the opportunity that's out there. We want to be consistently one of the top teams in the country year in and year out. We want the best we can be. Right now that's 11-1. That's the best we can be. Everybody understands that.

What do you make of their quarterback Vad lee?
Swinney: He's played a lot for them... he's experienced. He's like Nesbitt and Washington and all the other guys they've rolled in there and had success with. That guy has to be the catalyst and the decision maker. He's done a good job. They've had some turnovers but he's also made some big throws down the field. He's smart and plays tough.

Is there any common thread in the negative plays the last couple of games?
Swinney: No common thread. Busted assignment. Somebody making a poor decision. Somebody getting beat physically. We have to minimize those. That's one thing about their running back - No. 20, he's one of two running backs in the country that has had no negative plays all year. That's a unique stat right there.

Were you brought in to the decision making process of hiring the new Clemson University President?
Swinney: No. Not at all. Didn't want to be and didn't try to be. That's not my deal. That's not my role. My job is to coach the football team. The only thing or feedback that I gave, they asked me what do I think is important? That was a big deal for me. The big thing to me is to get somebody that fits Clemson and I think they hit a home run.

Any new faces we'll see this week after the open date?
Swinney: Carlos Watkins is going to play tailback. He's lost a bunch of weight. (laughing) No, Gerry Peters will be back. So that will help.

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