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Different offensive schemes - eerily similar results

Most coaches walk up to podiums every week and tell the world that their programs are 'taking it one game at a time,' that the mortal sin in college football is 'looking ahead' and 'anything can happen' in October.

Forget the coach-speak for a moment, and just imagine a pair of prolific offenses running up and down the field on one another.

What isn't standard operating procedure is the fact that Georgia Tech and Clemson could very well be those two teams, Both are a surprising 5-0 on the year, three weeks before a showdown between the offensive behemoths in Atlanta.

Should both these clubs survive favorable three-game stretches this month, then college football will truly have a sensational matchup come October 29th, one with conference title game implications and perhaps more.

At Georgia Tech, there are visions of 2009 surfacing, when the Yellow Jackets went 11-3 and beat Florida State and Virginia Tech in back-to-back games.

Bringing the triple-option system to ACC country seemed like a crazy idea when Paul Johnson arrived at Georgia Tech in 2008. That didn't seem to phase him.

Johnson's scheme spoke for itself when the league title came home to Atlanta in 2009 (although it has since been vacated). Now two years later, five games into the 2011 season, the offense that so many identify with the service academies, is college football's most powerful, and Johnson is daring defensive coordinators across the country to conceive a way to stop it.

Plenty of defenses are capable of beating the triple-option, though that's hardly the point. Johnson continues to believe in a system that hasn't necessarily been shunned in major college football, but in a land of spread attacks, hasn't exactly been embraced, either.

Johnson won two titles at the FCS level with Georgia Southern in the late 1990s, and turned around Navy to the point where it made five bowls in six years.

Johnson sure isn't the grandfather of the triple-option, but he is a brilliant offensive mind who has Georgia Tech at 5-0 for the first time in two decades, and in prime position to make a run at the ACC crown. The Ramblin' Wreck lead the country in rushing with 378.2 yards per game. Johnson platoons runners in and out, and has six players who rush for 35 yards or more a game. Three of those players are rushing for 50 yards or more, with Orwin Smith averaging 84.6 yards per game.

Make no mistake, this isn't a three-yard and a cloud of dust offense. Georgia Tech may not pass often, but has been deadly when it does. The Yellow Jackets lead the country in passing efficiency (260.48) and average over 200 yards per game behind quarterback Tevin Washington, who has thrown 10 touchdowns in just 54 attempts.

Across the border in South Carolina, Clemson did exactly what none expected it to do last Saturday: beat Virginia Tech. Except Dabo Swinney's team did much more than that. The Tigers walked into Blacksburg and throttled the Hokies in what was a statement to the rest of the league. This happened a week after beating Florida State, and two weeks after beating defending national champion Auburn.

Clemson beat Virginia Tech by 20, and scored a combined 73 points on the Seminoles and Tigers in the previous two wins. Sophomore Tajh Boyd has proven to be one of the league's young gems at quarterback, a versatile player who can run an up-tempo offense using both his arm and feet. Boyd is in the top-20 nationally in total yards per game (308.4) and has thrown for nearly 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns so far (386 yards and four touchdowns against Auburn).

The Clemson staff has to be more pleased with the number two at this point in the season. That's the number of picks Boyd has thrown, something of note considering the three quality defenses he has faced in as many weeks.

While Boyd's ability to freelance will take Clemson places, the unit has accomplished balance with slightly more tendency to run (215 rushes, 169 passes), and Andre Ellington has been a stable back (82.2 yards per game), although his production slipped against the Hokies' run defense (16 carries, 40 yards, one score). Throw in an emerging star at wide receiver in freshman Sammy Watkins (31 receptions, 471 yards, six TDs) and this offense has quick strike ability. Chad Morris is in his first year as offensive coordinator, and has been swift in attacking opponents via the run and pass. Clemson is 20th in total offense (466.8), 24th in passing offense (293.2) and 21st in passing efficiency (159.3).

Through five games in 2010, the offense wasn't ranked in the top 50 nationally in any of those categories.

Clemson gets Boston College, Maryland and a tough date with North Carolina in the next three weeks. Georgia Tech will host Maryland this weekend, then will travel to play Virginia and Miami the following two weeks.

Seven teams have winning records in the ACC, and three more are playing .500 football. Clemson and Georgia Tech have more offensive punch than all 10 of those teams.

Don't expect prideful programs in Blacksburg and Tallahassee, or all along the coast for that matter, to just lay down and concede the conference to the Tigers or Yellow Jackets.

However, behind a resurgence of offense at Clemson, and an old-school philosophy that many once questioned at Georgia Tech, these two programs have as much pride as any school in the ACC right now.

These two offensive juggernauts are on a collision course, set for October 29th in Atlanta.

Expect the scoreboard operator to be very busy in that one.

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