ACC Championship, Florida State vs. Georgia Tech Preview

Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

Both Georgia Tech and Florida State are coming off of disappointing losses to in-state rivals. Though, for one team, a birth in the Orange Bowl will be a great way to close out the season.

The ACC Championship Game has definitely lost some luster after both their participants lost to their in-state rival. However, factoring in the schools participating in the event, the time of the game, and the low-price of admission the atmosphere should still be electric. Florida State(10-2, 7-1 ACC) clinched the Atlantic Division after their impressive 41-14 defeat over Maryland on November 17. Georgia Tech(6-6, 5-3 ACC) finished the season in a three-way tie with Miami and North Carolina, which fortunately for the Jackets, those schools are ineligible for the postseason meaning they did not have to worry about crazy tiebreaker rules and scenarios.

These two teams have both gone through several ups and downs along the way this season. The Seminoles were looking like major title contenders after their late-September victory over Clemson but then loss an unexpected heartbreaker to NC State only a couple weeks later. Jimbo Fisher then saw his team rack up five-straight wins and somewhat get back into the BCS picture until their disappointing loss to rival Florida. The Yellow Jacket have been the epitome of inconsistency and have had one of the most schizo seasons one can imagine. A season that consisted of winning three straight conference games by a combined score of 143-87, two crushing losses in overtime to Virginia Tech and Miami, and two blowout losses to mediocre out of conference foes. Not to mention, their embarrassing loss to rival Georgia to end the regular season, a game in which both coaching staffs questioned the effort and lack-there-of by the Georgia Tech players.

HISTORY

This will be the 23rd meeting between the programs, FSU leads the series 12-9-1. The last four match-ups have been thrillers, all resulting in single-digit outcomes. In 2002, Florida State picked off Georgia Tech in the end zone in the waning seconds. A year later, the Seminoles turned a 13-0 4th quarter deficit into a victory with the winning score in the final three minutes. Then, in 2008, Paul Johnson's first year at the helm, the Yellow Jackets recovered a fumble in the end-zone in the final seconds as Florida State was on the goal-line and poised to win the game. Their last meeting, a year later from Tallahassee, saw the ultimate thrilling game as there was lightning displayed around the stadium and on the field as well and finished with Georgia Tech on top in a 49-44 defensive battle. When toe meets leather Saturday night from Charlotte fans might be in for another treat between Chief Osceola and the Ramblin' Wreck.

IMPACT PLAYERS

Quarterback EJ Manuel has regained full health and is all set to go against Georgia Tech after suffering an injury against Florida. Manuel, who has thrown five interceptions in the last three games, has the perfect cure to get him out of his flunk and that is the Georgia Tech secondary. The senior from Virginia Beach. Virginia will likely be well over the 3,000 yard mark on the season before this one is done. His wing-man Devonta Freeman could also have a breakout performance in Charlotte. The sophomore has overtaken the starting job in fine fashion since the injury to Chris Thompson, rushing for over 100 yards twice and averaging just under 7 yards per carry. On the flip side, the Noles boast a top-level talent in Defensive End Bjoern Werner that will likely be a top ten draft pick in the 2013 draft. Werner, coming off a monster performance that saw him garner 3.5 sacks against Florida, is now at the top in the nation with 13 sacks on the season. The man from Berlin, Germany will definitely be a key factor and make an impact on stopping the option.

Quarterback combo Tevin Washington and Vad Lee will hope to get back on track in their biggest game of the year. Paul Johnson has intermixed the two at the start of games and then ridden the hot hand for the second half. The senior Washington has had a very inconsistent but successful career and might try to put the team on his back for his final two games. The depth of Georgia Tech's skill positions might give them a slight edge in endurance and stamina if this game is close in the fourth. That being, of course, mainly centered around the health of star A-back Orwin Smith, who has stated he will play on Saturday. Opposite him, A-back Robert Godhigh, has been a great story as the onetime walk-on is now having a breakout Junior season. The Harrison High School product has been a factor in both rushing and receiving and has 8 touchdowns(4 run, 4 receiving) which leads the team excluding QBs. B-Back tandem David Sims and Zach Laskey have both been a force with the ball and are averaging over 4 yards per carry.

PREDICTION

Florida State ranks in the top 10 in both points scored and points against. So, everyone knows one thing- the Noles will light up the scoreboard against the Georgia Tech defense. Can Georgia Tech keep up? My thinking is no. All it takes is for the Yellow Jackets to have a costly fumble or settle for a field goal as they did against Georgia and just like that they're behind the eight ball right from the start, something they cannot afford to be with their "defense". If Georgia Tech is going to win, it will be in the same fashion they did it in during the 2009 contest.

Score- FSU 48-28

NOTES: This will be both teams' third appearance in the ACC Championship Game. Georgia Tech was winners back in 2008 over Clemson. Florida State won the inaugural ACC Championship game all the way back in 2005 against Virginia Tech. The game is taking place from Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Florida State is favored by 14. Georgia Tech's waiver to go bowling at 6-7 was approved by the NCAA meaning both teams will know their bowl situation as soon as the game ends. Winner- Orange Bowl, Loser- Sun Bowl.

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