ATLANTA - Georgia Tech's loss to Virginia Tech last week dropped the Yellow Jackets one spot above last place in the ACC's Coastal Division, where sits a reminder that things could be worse.
The loss to Virginia Tech was bad. On Saturday Georgia Tech will visit last-place Duke, which has lost 23 straight Atlantic Coast Conference games.
Nobody at Georgia Tech even wants to speculate about what a loss to lowly Duke would do to the Yellow Jackets' season.
"That would be very bad," said receiver James Johnson on Tuesday. "We don't even want to go to that level."
Georgia Tech already has been there. Duke ended its last long losing streak by beating the Yellow Jackets only four years ago.
The Blue Devils lost 30 straight ACC games before routing Georgia Tech 41-17 in Durham in 2003.
Tech senior center Kevin Tuminello, who was held out as a redshirt in 2003, watched the loss from the sideline.
"It just goes to show you in the ACC you have to play every game as hard as you can," Tuminello said. "Any team you play in this conference you can lose to."
Duke has struggled to prove Tuminello's theory.
Duke (1-8 overall, 0-6 ACC) hasn't won a conference game since beating Clemson in 2004.
Georgia Tech (5-4, 2-4) was forced to refocus on new goals following its 27-3 loss to Virginia Tech on Thursday night. The loss ended the Yellow Jackets' slim hopes of returning to the ACC championship game.
The Yellow Jackets have games left against Duke, North Carolina and No. 10 Georgia.
Coach Chan Gailey said he talked with his players about new goals, which include finishing .500 or better in the ACC for a 12th straight year.
"Oh, sure. You need to remind everybody, but I do that every week," Gailey said. "I remind them where we are, where we want to be, and what it's going to take to get there."
Georgia Tech would finish .500 in the ACC by beating Duke and North Carolina.
Tech's season - and, most likely, its standing in the bowl pecking order - then would be defined by a home game against Georgia.
"We still have an opportunity to win nine games with a bowl game victory," said defensive end Michael Johnson. "Our heads are up. We just have to go out and win the next game and go from there."
Johnson said the plans include a strong start against Duke.
"We're really planning on jumping on these guys early and playing a great first half," Johnson said.
Gailey heard boos from Tech fans late in the loss to Virginia Tech but a strong finish - including the Yellow Jackets' first win over Georgia since 2000 - could salvage the season.
Tight end Colin Peek said players "always have a lot on the line, especially pride."
"We're looking forward to a lot," Peek said. "Finishing .500 in the ACC is a big thing for us.
"Also, the Georgia game is a huge game, that's enough. We've got these two games to build momentum and then we have Georgia at home and can hopefully shock the world or shock the state, at least."
The Yellow Jackets hope to have ACC rushing leader Tashard Choice back this week. Choice, recovering from knee surgery, was in uniform but did not play against Virginia Tech.
Gailey said Choice would return to limited portions of Tuesday's practice and increase his participation each day.
Gailey said Choice must perform well in practice and say he feels good before he'll be cleared to play.
"I think we've got that kind of relationship that he will be honest," Gailey said. "He knows the importance of this game, the importance of the rest of the games, and then his future. We've got to think about all of it. It can't just be one-sided there."
Freshman Jonathan Dwyer led Tech with 68 yards rushing against Virginia Tech while playing behind Jamaal Evans, who had six carries for only nine yards. Virginia Tech limited the Yellow Jackets to 105 yards rushing.
"Anytime you've got the leading rusher in the conference back on the field, it helps the psyche of your team," Gailey said. "He's one of your emotional leaders as well."
Gailey said he is not using Duke's ACC losing streak as motivation for his team.
"That's not a big thing to me," he said. "I think you build on your own positives of where you want to go, rather than building on someone else's negatives."