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Georgia Tech has made rapid rise under Johnson
Tech 3 col BW
Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer (21) gets past Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward (19) in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in Nashville, Tenn., Saturday, Oct. 31, 2009. Dwyer rushed for 186 yards and three touchdowns as Georgia Tech won 56-31. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) - photo by Associated Press

ATLANTA — Georgia Tech is probably a little too far back to become a factor in the national championship race.

That doesn't diminish what the program has accomplished in less than two years under coach Paul Johnson.

"I have all the confidence in the world that this team could go out there and play with anybody on a given Saturday," defensive end Derrick Morgan said. "We have that confidence about ourselves."

With good reason. The No. 10 Yellow Jackets (8-1, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) are on a six-game winning streak and haven't been ranked this high since 2001. They are two victories away from clinching a spot in the league championship game, where they likely would be playing for a spot in the Orange Bowl.

"I haven't mentioned it to the players," Johnson said Tuesday. "I'm sure they're aware of it, but we've still got to finish out. We haven't done anything yet. We're getting close, but we've got to finish."

Georgia Tech is also No. 10 in the BCS standings and would need a major shake-up to climb into contention for a spot in the national championship game. None of its last three regular-season opponents — Wake Forest on Saturday, followed by Duke and Georgia — is ranked, so even winning out isn't likely to provide much of a ratings boost.

Johnson isn't totally giving up on the idea of making a run for the top two spots in the BCS, though he knows the odds are against his team. There are some chances to make up ground, such as No. 3 Alabama hosting No. 9 LSU this weekend.

"If we can beat Wake Forest, that will keep us in the mix one more week," the coach said. "If you're in the mix, you've got a chance, because there are going to be people who fall out of the mix every week."

The players are moving around with a little extra bounce in their step, which isn't that easy considering they've played nine straight games without an off week.

"We've put Georgia Tech on the map," star running back Jonathan Dwyer said. "Now people want to see what we can do next. We know we can go even higher in the polls. As long as we keep doing our job, things will work out for us."

Johnson, who made his first big splash as a coach leading Georgia Southern to what was then known as the Division I-AA championship, said he has no idea if his team is good enough to be considered among the best teams in the country. He doesn't put much stock in the poll voters, either.

The only fair way to decide the national champion is a playoff, he said, just like the one they have in every other division of the NCAA.

"Whoever is picked first to start with, unless they lose, they're going to play in the (BCS championship) game. They pick that before we ever play a game," Johnson said, adding that a playoff "is the best way I know to do it. You find out who's the champion."

Assuming Georgia Tech doesn't make a dramatic leap in the last month of the regular season, the Orange Bowl would be quite a consolation prize. The Yellow Jackets haven't played in a major postseason game — not even 1990, when they claimed a share of the national title — since traveling to Miami at the end of the 1966 season, the last for coach Bobby Dodd.

Forty-three years and nine coaches later, Georgia Tech has again positioned itself to play in one of college football's biggest postseason games.

Morgan had no idea it had been that long.

He never had any doubt that it could happen, though.

"We definitely believed from the start that we could push Georgia Tech into the upper echelon, get up there with the other elite teams," he said. "We're doing a good job of that so far."