Excitement in the air in Tampa

TAMPA - Two of the 12 teams that started on the road to Tampa four months ago remain.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney feels the excitement in the air. After starting the season 2-3, Swinney believes his team's turnaround in the second half of this season is a credit to its maturity.

"We've gotten better offensively from an execution standpoint," he said during the coaches' press conference at the Tampa Convention Center. "A lot of that is maturing and understanding the importance of execution and attention to detail."

In a rematch of Georgia Tech and Clemson set for Saturday night's ACC Championship, he's "excited and humbled" to lead the Tigers' quest in playing for the school's first conference title since 1991.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson doesn't worry about an opponent seeing his team for the second time in a season.

"We probably have a little better idea defensively how they're going to play," he said. "They have a better idea how we're going to attack what they do or line up in. Good teams have tendencies. Both teams have some.

"It's going to come down to blocking, tackling and taking care of the ball--the same thing every good football game comes down to."

With both the Tigers and Yellow Jackets coming off losses to in-state rivals from the SEC East, Swinney doesn't sweat the perceptions from those who may think the game's meaning is diminished.

"Whoever wins the Super Bowl this year, nobody is going to say, ‘Well, they lost four games.' It doesn't matter," he said. "It's about earning the right for post-season play.

"Both of these teams earned that on the field. Yes, we're disappointed we didn't win our rival games. Both teams have to quickly re-focus. This is what you start the season wanting to do, to be the champion of your conference."

A second time around against Johnson's option, Swinney said he hopes his team "has recall on how you have to play and defend this offense."

The only FBS team to use the traditional triple option as his team's style of offense, Johnson sees football as a cyclical game.

"With the big rage of the wildcat now, it's pretty much the old single-wing. It just kind of goes in circles," he said. "There are few college football teams that don't have an option component to their package. Most just don't run it as much as we do or from the same formations."

In his second season at Georgia Tech, winning the ACC would be the "ultimate finish" to this season.

"We've gotten ourselves in this championship game. Certainly, if you're going to be here to play in it, you want to win it," Johnson said.

Only one question remains: who wins it?

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