85F Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Offensive coordinator Chad Morris didn't come to Clemson to slow things down. Right now, though, he thinks it's the best course for the Tigers' explosive attack.
No. 6 Clemson leads the Atlantic Coast Conference with more than 482 yards and 40 points a game this season as quarterback Tajh Boyd and receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins have ignited one of the country's most dynamic offenses.
And while Clemson's offensive stars are clamoring for new ways to attack, Morris wants to keep things as simple as possible for the Tigers (8-0, 5-0 ACC), who visit Georgia Tech on Saturday night.
"It's only human nature to say, `Hey let's go. We've got to keep adding,"' Morris said. "And that's the worst thing we can do right now."
Morris said he's put in about 70 percent of his playbook since the spring and the Tigers look capable of handling more. They racked up 115 points and 1,026 yards in wins over Maryland and North Carolina the past two weeks - and hung a 35-point quarter on the Tar Heels, something only Clemson's 1981 national champions had ever done in a game before last Saturday.
But adding to the playbook is "the absolute worst thing we could do right now," Morris said. "Because we're playing with some confidence. We've got answers to some different things that defenses do to us. We can't confuse them."
No one's confused about Clemson's offense right now.
Boyd leads the ACC in total offense and passing yards. He was named the league's offensive back of the week after throwing for 367 yards and a school record-tying five touchdowns.
Hopkins had nine catches for a career-best 157 yards while magnificent freshman Watkins was held to eight catches for 91 yards. Each had touchdowns from Boyd, who connected with different receivers for each of his scoring throws.
"We've got a lot of confidence right now," offensive lineman Brandon Thomas said. "I don't know about defenses and how they feel about it."
That's apparent. The Tigers matched their best mark since 2000. Should it win at Georgia Tech (6-2, 3-2), Clemson would be 9-0 for the first time since the 1981 national champions finished 12-0. Late night losses last Saturday by previously undefeated Wisconsin and Oklahoma moved the Tigers up to fifth in the latest BCS standings, the highest the school's ever been.
It's made for a lot of excitement on campus - and a lot of ways for the little-regarded Tigers to get swelled heads over what they've accomplished.
Thomas, the starting left guard, won't watch ESPN because he knows he'll get caught up in the hype and national title talk.
"I like to think we're having a pretty good season. I like to take it one game at a time," Thomas said. "I don't even look at scheduling. I'm not even sure who we play next week."
Clemson gets its bye week after facing the Yellow Jackets before finishing up with Wake Forest, North Carolina State and state rival South Carolina.
The Yellow Jackets know a thing or two about effective offenses. They had led the ACC in scoring and total offense most of the season until stumbling with consecutive losses to Virginia and Miami where they managed just 28 points and averaged 253 yards of offense.
"We all have to be rolling just to be a great offense," running back Orwin Smith said. "We have to get everyone back on pace up front and up the middle."
The Tigers success on offense is a blend of Morris' schemes, a relentless tempo, a physical front line and talent skill players like Boyd, Watkins and tight end Dwayne Allen who've dug in harder than they ever had before to learn the system.
Clemson leads the country with 626 snaps, a number that makes Morris smile. His players told him at halftime that North Carolina's defenders were tiring against Clemson's tempo, a fact born out with the Tigers' 35-point third quarter that put the game away.
For a time during the spring, Morris was wearing out the Tigers, who were not accustomed to firing off plays as quickly as their first-year coach wanted. Morris told them all they had to improve conditioning or find a seat on the bench.
"This summer, we ran our tails off to get in shape," Thomas said. "I think we are in shape and this offense, I think we run it better than anybody else."
Clemson had lost four straight in this series before posting a 27-13 home win Oct. 23, 2010. The Tigers have dropped their last three visits to Georgia Tech by an average of 4.7 points.