ATLANTA - Soon after watching the way Clemson's defensive line contained one of his best players on a warm September night, Paul Johnson was sold.
To him, that line was good.
If he needed further convincing of just how strong he believed the Tigers' hefty front four could play, he got an answer a week later when it held Boston College to 54 total yards of offense.
"I do not know if any of you guys caught Clemson's stats against Boston College, but they gave up 54 yards and four first downs for the game," the Georgia Tech coach said during his weekly press conference Sept. 22. "Let's give Clemson a little credit, they are pretty good."
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From that moment forward, Johnson became an unofficial pitchman for the unit, telling anyone who would listen that the tandem was among the best in the country.
He repeated that refrain this week.
"They're the best group we've played, hands down," Johnson said Sunday on a teleconference.
This Saturday, his spread option offense will be charged with facing the group once again when the Yellow Jackets and Tigers battle for the ACC crown in Tampa, Fla.
Clemson's front-line defenders stand between the Yellow Jackets and a trip to South Florida for the Orange Bowl.
"Just from watching them all season, those are guys that have a lot of talent and they're really relentless in chasing the ball down," Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan said.
The group includes a pair of 300-pound-plus tackles on the interior and two ends who Clemson's DeAndre McDaniel believes need no introduction.
"Our D-tackles, those two guys are real big and they're very comfortable. They both want to learn the game and they work real hard to be the best," the junior safety said. "Our D-ends, their names speak for themselves. Ricky Sapp and Da'Quan (Bowers), those two guys are just great."
On the season, Sapp and Bowers have a combined 24 tackles for loss and a total 27 quarterback hurries. Quick and physical, they tend to wreak havoc in opposing backfields.
While Georgia Tech's exterior ground game - its pitches and option runs to the edges - worked well for most of Week 2's 30-27 victory against Clemson, the Yellow Jackets' inside dives were less successful. Much of that was due to the performance of Sapp, Bowers and tackles Jarvis Jenkins and Brandon Thompson.
As A-back Anthony Allen thrived running around the ends for 127 yards and a touchdown on five carries, last year's ACC player of the year, B-back Jonathan Dwyer, was held out of the end zone and to 66 yards on 18 carries.
"They've got several guys (on the defensive line) and they roll them," Johnson said. "They could almost go two-deep."
For Dwyer, the unit marks a striking resemblance to one that recently held him to his second-lowest rushing total of the season.
"They're just as talented as (Georgia)," said Dwyer, who rushed for 33 yards in Saturday's 30-24 loss to Tech's in-state rival. "They're pretty much similar."