Following their 55-31 loss to Clemson on Thursday night, Georgia Tech players and coach Paul Johnson were gracious in giving credit to the Tigers.
Offensive lineman Will Jackson said that “for the most part, they were able to line up and beat us.” Safety Jemea Thomas and defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu praised Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd’s playmaking ability. B-back David Sims said the Tigers’ front seven probably played their best game that he had seen in his four Tech-Clemson games.
While Sims expressed disappointment and anger that the Yellow Jackets lost and didn’t play to their potential, he also acknowledged that, “I don’t know if that would have changed the outlook of it.”
No. 8 Clemson simply showed up at Memorial Stadium with better players. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has assembled one of the better teams in the country, one that was playing near its peak in Thursday’s chilly night air. A 24-point decision was the outcome.
“They’re pretty good,” Sims said. “They’re not ranked No. 6 (in the USA Today coaches poll) for no reason.”
The recruiting rankings tell the story. Going back to the 2010 signing class — Swinney’s first class after scraping the 2009 class together shortly after his December 2008 hire — the Tigers have continued their pattern of out-recruiting Tech.
While recruiting rankings are hardly unassailable, nor are they without value. According to Scout’s rankings, Clemson has had top-20 classes the past three seasons and outpaced Tech by 38.5 spots nationally over the past four classes.
Clemson has had the better average star rating for its class the past three years and has signed nine top-100 players to none for Tech. This comes as no surprise to those who follow recruiting. For a variety of reasons, Clemson has drawn better players than Tech for years.
Even in 2009, when Swinney had just been hired as Clemson’s full-time coach and Tech’s class rated higher than Clemson’s, Swinney persuaded Boyd, a five-star prospect, to take a chance on him and Clemson over the likes of Oregon, Ohio State and Tennessee.
Boyd merely has been the centerpiece of Clemson’s ascension to national prominence. He threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns Thursday night.
“The quarterback threw the ball, they caught it, they protected, they blocked us, they did some good things,” Johnson said.
Johnson warned before the game that Clemson’s defense might be the best that the Tigers have had in his time at Tech. The Jackets had a far more difficult time moving the ball Thursday than they did a year ago. While Tech gained 440 yards Thursday, compared with 483 a year ago, the Jackets needed 71 plays to produce that total this season, compared with 60 in 2012. A year ago, Tech actually led Clemson 31-30 early in the fourth quarter before the Tigers closed out the Jackets with two touchdowns and a safety for a 47-31 win.
There was no such chance Thursday, not against this season’s edition of the Tigers.
“We would have had to play much better than we played tonight to win the game, and we didn’t do it,” Johnson said. “So, got to go back to try to clean it up and come back and get ready for the last two games.”