Georgia Tech vs. Clemson
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta
TV, radio: ESPN, 1240-AM
Web site: www.ramblinwreck.com
ATLANTA — Jonathan Dwyer noticed the quirk in the Georgia Tech schedule as soon as it came out.
Hmmm, there’s one game on Thursday night. Then another, the very next week. And both are against Atlantic Coast Conference rivals, a crucial stretch that could go a long way toward determining — before the season is even three weeks old — if the No. 15 Yellow Jackets will live up to their high expectations.
"Who doesn’t want to play on Thursday night when everybody is watching?" said Dwyer, last season’s ACC offensive player of the year. "Who doesn’t want to play a night game? It’s like high school all over again when you play a night game. I love playing night games. They’re fun. The crowd really gets into it."
Georgia Tech has become a regular on ESPN’s Thursday night telecast, but this is an unusual quirk in the schedule. The Yellow Jackets (1-0) will host Clemson (1-0) at Bobby Dodd Stadium this week, then travel to Miami seven days later for another prime timer.
"We’re real excited," sophomore safety Cooper Taylor said Monday after practice. "We’ve played a lot of Thursday night games at Tech over the years. I don’t know how it got scheduled like this, but it’s kind of exciting for everyone to play two on Thursday night."
This will be the 17th straight year the Yellow Jackets have played on a Thursday, but the first time since 2003 they’ve made two weeknight appearances. They’ve never done it back-to-back.
Coach Paul Johnson got his first taste of the atmosphere a year ago, when Georgia Tech blew out Miami 41-23 on the way to a surprising nine-win season. The exposure is invaluable, especially among potential recruits.
"Certainly there’s no question it helps us if we play well on national TV," he said. "When you’re playing on Thursday night, you’re about it. If someone wants to watch a game, they’re going to be watching your game. Fortunately last year, we had a great game on Thursday night against Miami. It was a great crowd. We played a good game. It was a lot of fun. Hopefully we’ll have the same type of atmosphere."
Johnson isn’t as pumped up about having only four days to get ready for the game. The Yellow Jackets opened the season Saturday with a 37-17 win over lower-division Jacksonville State.
"It’s a hassle," he said. "You’re coming off playing a game Saturday, then you’ve got to come right back for a Sunday practice."
The Labor Day holiday made things a little easier. There were no classes, so the Yellow Jackets were able to get in a morning practice and have the rest of the afternoon for meetings and studying film. Also, the outcome against Jacksonville State was never in question, so Johnson was able to rest most of his starters in the second half. No one on the offensive side was in the game for more than 40 plays.
"Most of the key guys didn’t even play that many," the coach said. "The game was not as bad as a scrimmage during camp as far as the reps go."
The players, who already felt Johnson’s wrath for what he viewed as a lack of effort against an outmanned opponent, know that every minute counts in a short week. They stepped up their intensity in Monday’s practice.
"Everything is constricted," Taylor said. "Not only the practices, but everything is pushed together. There’s not as much time to correct mistakes from day to day. Everything is a lot more strict. You’ve got to throw in weights and meetings, all packed in together rather than spread out over a couple of days."
At least Georgia Tech and Clemson have the same amount of preparation time for their matchup. The Tigers opened Saturday with a 37-14 win over Middle Tennessee.
Johnson is a little perturbed about Miami getting extra time to work on the Yellow Jackets, noting the Hurricanes were playing their opener Monday night against Florida State — then won’t play again until they face Georgia Tech on Sept. 17.
Georgia Tech had considered opening against Jacksonville State last Thursday so it would have a full week between each of its first three games. However, the ACC nixed that idea, saying it wouldn’t be fair for the Yellow Jackets to get extra practice time before facing Clemson.
"I don’t mind (Thursday night games) as long as it’s fair to both teams," Johnson said. "It’s the second one I have issues with. (Miami) gets nine days, while we only get seven. I understand all the TV issues and whatever, but we couldn’t move our game to Thursday night because we would have an unfair advantage against Clemson. Yet (the Hurricanes) play Monday night, then against us, so they can be on TV."