Georgia Tech celebrates Coastal title

Georgia Tech is off this week, but about 60 players gathered at the team's facilities, where the staff set up a projector to watch Thursday night's North Carolina-Duke game.

The cheers rang out each time North Carolina scored.

They rang out again as Duke fumbled away several early possessions.

In Atlanta, there were as many Tar Heel fans as there were in Chapel Hill, and when the 45-20 UNC victory came to a close, Georgia Tech was ready to celebrate as the ACC's Coastal Division champions.

"It was pretty good just watching some football and knowing each time North Carolina scored, it was a good feeling," Tech defensive end Adam Gotsis said. "It was good to see them get the win for us. We needed that one."

With Duke's loss, Georgia Tech officially won the division for the second time in three years. Gotsis, who is from Australia, said he was getting texts from friends and family back home -- where it was already 3 in the afternoon -- as soon as the game ended.

It was obviously a moment worth celebrating, even in the unorthodox scenario of a Thursday night during a bye week.

This marks the fourth time Georgia Tech has won the division, but it might be the most unlikely.

To open the year, the Yellow Jackets were picked to finish sixth in the division, with pundits wondering whether Paul Johnson's early magic had worn off. But Georgia Tech has done nothing but prove the doubters wrong all season.

"All the guys are even more fired up," Gotsis said. "But we've got to take care of this one [against Georgia] and then move on to the next one."

The Yellow Jackets' offense is potent, ranked 10th nationally in yards per play and 14th nationally in scoring. Johnson's option attack is rushing for more yards per game this season (328) than in any year since he arrived in Atlanta. And with this year's ACC championship game opponent, Florida State, struggling to stop the run at times -- the Seminoles have allowed seven out of 10 opponents to rush for at least 150 yards -- the matchup in Charlotte on Dec. 6 could be intriguing.

But if there's been a key to Georgia Tech's run to the Coastal Division title, it's been a resurgent defense. The unit struggled mightily early in the season, but in its last four games -- all wins -- Tech has allowed just eight touchdowns and created 14 turnovers.

"We've come a long way," Gotsis said. "It's easy to say that, but you can really feel it on the field every day."

Of course, for Tech there's still the sizable obstacle of a rivalry game on the horizon. The Yellow Jackets wrap up the regular season against Georgia next week, hoping to knock off the 10th-ranked Bulldogs for just the second time since 2000.

But in two weeks, Florida State awaits, and Tech knows it will have its chance to finish proving the doubters wrong and walk away with its first conference title since 2009. It would also provide a bit of retribution for Georgia Tech's veterans who were on the field when FSU beat them for an ACC title in 2012.

"It's an exciting feeling knowing we get to go to that," Gotsis said. "We're a better team this year, and we've got some better players. So we'll see what we can do."