Countdown to Kickoff: Swinney has owned the Yellow Jackets

Countdown to Kickoff: Swinney has owned the Yellow Jackets


Countdown to Kickoff: Swinney has owned the Yellow Jackets


No. 1 Clemson at Georgia Tech

During his 30-year career as Clemson’s head coach, Frank Howard won just two times in Atlanta. They came in 1945 and then in 1969, his last year running the Tigers’ football program.

On Saturday, Dabo Swinney will have the opportunity to do something Howard, Danny Ford or Tommy Bowden could not, earn a third win over the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta. In fact, not even John Heisman won more than two games in Atlanta as the Clemson head coach and no Clemson coach has ever defeated the Jackets more than two twice in Atlanta.

The Yellow Jackets of course stole Heisman from Clemson after the Tigers’ 73-0 win in Atlanta in 1903. Heisman also beat Georgia Tech, 44-5, in 1902. It is doubtful Georgia Tech will be able to steal Swinney from Clemson.

Ford was 2-1 against the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta. After his 1984 team suffered a loss there, his ’86 and ’88 teams both earned wins. Bowden’s teams were 2-3 at Georgia Tech.

“Georgia Tech is a place that we have not had a ton of success at historically,” Swinney said. “So, again, we got a lot of respect for the program, the university and the challenge we will have ahead of us this week.”

Swinney is already the first Clemson coach to beat Georgia Tech four consecutive years and will attempt to push that streak to six with a win this year. His teams are 2-3 in Atlanta, with wins coming in 2016 and ’18.

Clemson is 8-3 overall under Swinney against the Yellow Jackets.

Every game between the two teams between 1907-’74 was held in Atlanta. Clemson’s only wins in those 36 meetings came in 1907, 1936, 1945 and 1969, the last of which was Frank Howard’s final season as head coach. Howard won just twice (1945 and 1969) in his career in Atlanta, but Clemson made the trip every year to help balance the athletic department budget. Howard was also athletic director his entire time as head coach (1940-69).

Game Information

Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta

Records: Clemson 4-0, 3-0 ACC; Georgia Tech 2-2, 2-1 ACC

When: Saturday, Noon

TV: ABC (Bob Wischusen, Dan Orlovsky, Marty Smith)

Radio: Clemson Tigers Network (Don Munson, Tim Bourret, Reggie Merriweather)

Satellite Radio: Sirius 137, XM 193, Internet 955

Latest Line: Clemson minus-27

Series History

  • Clemson trails series, 32-51-2
  • HOME: Clemson leads series, 16-6
  • ROAD: Clemson trails series, 14-44-2
  • NEUTRAL: Clemson leads, 2-1
  • LAST MEETING: Aug. 29, 2019 (52-14, W)
  • STREAK: Clemson, Won 5

Three story lines

In Clemson’s most recent visit to Atlanta on Sept. 22, 2018, then true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence came off the bench for starter Kelly Bryant and completed 13-of-18 passes for 176 yards with four touchdowns in a 49-21 victory over Georgia Tech. Following the impressive performance, Lawrence was named the team’s starter moving forward and led the team to 25 consecutive victories as the starting quarterback, including two ACC Championships, two College Football playoff appearances, two National Championship Game berths and the 2018 national title. This week, Lawrence, the presumptive Heisman favorite who is 29-1 as a starter, will attempt to become the fourth quarterback in school history to win 30 games as a starter, joining Rodney Williams (1985-’88), Tajh Boyd (2010-’13) and Deshaun Watson (2014-’16), all three of whom are tied for the school record with 32 each.

Clemson has weaponized Heisman candidate Travis Etienne in the passing game, as well. The senior has already gained 245 receiving yards this season on 17 receptions. Twelve of his receptions this season have resulted in first downs, including all five of his receptions on third-and-seven or longer. Etienne now has 812 career receiving yards and is 188 more receiving yards away from becoming only the 12th player in FBS history to record 4,000 career rushing yards and 1,000 career receiving yards. The senior needs just 173 yards to become the ACC’s all-time rushing leader.

Clemson is attempting to win a third straight road game at Georgia Tech for the first time in series history. Clemson has won consecutive games at Georgia Tech five times in school history (1902-03, 1906-07, 1986- 88, 2001-03, 2016-18) but has never beaten the Yellow Jackets three consecutive times on the road.

Georgia Tech’s three players to watch

Jeff Sims, QB: Georgia Tech true freshman quarterback Jeff Sims was named ACC Rookie of the Week for the second time this season after throwing for 249 yards, rushing for 64 and accounting for three touchdowns in last Friday’s win over Louisville. He is the only quarterback in the nation that has passed for at least 240 yards and run for 60 yards or more in three games this season. The feat has been accomplished only 12 times total across NCAA Division I FBS this season and Sims is the only freshman (true or redshirt) that has achieved it even once.

Jahmyr Gibbs, RB: Despite Jordan Mason being out of the lineup for the last three games, Georgia Tech has not seen a drop off at the running back position, thanks to the impressive collegiate debut of true freshman Jahmyr Gibbs. In just three games, Gibbs has rushed for 232 yards (5.0 avg.), caught eight passes for 146 yards (18.2 avg.), returned five kicks for 137 yards (27.4 avg.) and scored five touchdowns (three receiving, two rushing).

Quez Jackson, LB: Jackson has led Georgia Tech in tackles in three of its four games this season (nine at Florida State on Sept. 12, nine on Sept. 19 vs. UCF, nine last Friday vs. Louisville). He ranks seventh in the ACC and 53rd nationally with 8.3 tackles per game this season (33 total). With 33 tackles through four games, Jackson is the first Yellow Jacket to record at least 30 tackles over the first four games of the season since Julian Burnett in 2011 (36).


The Clemson-Georgia Tech game has had some memorable moments for sure, but this year that should not be the case. The Tigers have won five straight in the series, and though Tech is getting better under second-year head coach Geoff Collins, it still does not have all the players in place to compete with Clemson for four straight quarters. Though the Yellow Jackets will play hard and they will have their moments on Saturday, in the end the Tigers will have too much firepower. Look for Clemson to pull away and earn its third straight win in Atlanta for the first time in the rivalry’s history.

Score prediction: Clemson 45, Georgia Tech 14

–Clemson and Georgia Tech Athletic Communications departments contributed to this story

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