ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Tech will be looking to avoid another slow start in the Atlantic Coast Conference when it plays at Duke in its first of four straight games against Coastal Division opponents.
The string of four straight ACC Coastal Division games also includes North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Miami.
The Yellow Jackets lost to Florida State in last season's ACC championship game after winning only one of its first four conference games.
Coach Paul Johnson said Tuesday he expects his players to focus on the importance of Saturday's ACC opener at Duke. He said the Yellow Jackets should not be distracted by the fact Georgia Tech has won nine straight, and 17 of 18, against Duke.
"We talk to the team about the importance of the game," Johnson said. "It's the first conference game, it's a division game and a road game. Anytime you can win a division game on the road, that's a bigger plus because then you're got the tie-breaker over that team."
Georgia Tech (1-0) had an open week after beating FCS opponent Elon 70-0. That game may not have revealed much about the Yellow Jackets, but Johnson won't have to wait long to learn more about his team's ACC hopes.
The opening stretch of Coastal Division games ends with an Oct. 5 game at Miami. By then, the foundation of Georgia Tech's ACC season will be set.
Johnson said he believes his defense, which starts seven seniors, has improved. Could this be another ACC championship contending team?
"I think you may have to play two, three or four games before you really know," Johnson said. "Clearly the competition level is going to be way better this week than it was last week, but it may be a couple weeks before we really find out where we are. Certainly if we don't play well we could lose on Saturday, that's for sure."
The lopsided win over Elon was enough to impress Duke coach David Cutcliffe.
"I will say I think this is the most balanced and probably the best Georgia Tech team we've seen," Cutcliffe said, adding the rout of Elon "could've been a lot worse."