KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said he agrees with Jimbo Fisher about the ACC now establishing itself as the best conference in college football.
“No matter what metric you want to look at for the last couple of years, whether it’s record outside the league against other Power 5 conferences, bowl records, or (that) two of the last four years the ACC having national champions.
“The ACC certainly doesn’t have to take a backseat to anyone, anymore.”
Tennessee will certainly be able to help change that narrative on the opening weekend when it plays the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta.
The Vols kick off against Georgia Tech at 8 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 4, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, two days after Florida State plays Alabama in that same building.
Johnson and his Yellow Jackets have earned their swagger, going 3-0 against the SEC last season and 5-1 against the SEC over the past three seasons.
ESPN’s Brad Edwards, hosting the Paul Finebaum Show on Monday, pointed out Johnson’s teams at Navy and Georgia Tech have been among the most successful on the road.
“Basically, it’s more an indication of the teams winning some games,” Johnson said, asked if the Yellow Jackets’ ball control ways made them more successful in road environments.
“In my 21 years as a head coach, we’ve averaged a shade under 9 wins a season, Navy has to be close to that, because I was there for six years.”
Johnson ranks 11th among the winningest Power 5 coaches who have been at their schools for four seasons or more entering the year (176-87, .669).
Georgia Tech has played in the ACC title game three of the past eight years, though Johnson said he’s not sure many people have noticed.
“I don’t know that it bothers me, I think certainly it’s a good area of motivation sometimes for our players,” Johnson said. “I get quite a kick out of the Coastal Division in the ACC, (pundits say) every year it’s a tossup.
“I’ve been in the league nine years, and Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech has won it seven of the last nine times.”
The Hokies won the Coastal Division last season, falling to eventual national champ Clemson 42-35 in the ACC Championship Game.
Not that transitive properties matter, but Tennessee beat Virginia Tech 45-24 in a neutral site game at Bristol Motor Speedway last season.
Come Sept. 4, the Vols and Yellow Jackets will go head to head to help settle the SEC-ACC debate.
“We’re really excited to have the opportunity to display our program on a national level,” Johnson said at ACC Media Day in Charlotte, N.C. “We return 16 starters from our team a year ago. I’m really proud of them and the way we finished the season. We’re looking forward to building on that.”
Georgia Tech vs. SEC football
(current players, 5-1)
• Georgia Tech 38, Vanderbilt 7 (Atlanta)
• Georgia Tech 28, Georgia 27 (Athens)
• Georgia Tech 33, Kentucky 18 (Jacksonville)
• Georgia 13, Georgia Tech 7 (Atlanta)
• Georgia Tech 30, Georgia 24 (Athens)
• Georgia Tech 49, Mississippi State 34 (Miami Gardens)