ACC Championship Game 2012: Latest News, Players to Watch and Prediction
No. 13 Florida State and Georgia Tech will square off on Saturday night for the ACC championship title. Although the game doesn't have the hype that many of the other matchups do, it still has the potential to bust the BCS.
The winner will represent the conference in the Orange Bowl, where Louisville, Northern Illinois or Boise State will likely await, depending on the results of the BCS standings on Sunday.
We've already got you covered with a complete primer for the game, but before the 8 p.m. ET kickoff arrives, we've also got a last minute look at some things to watch for between these two ACC rivals.
Despite Georgia Tech's 6-6 record the Yellow Jackets can still represent the ACC in the Orange Bowl. Can Florida State respond after losing to rival Florida last week? Which players are on a crash course with destiny based on their performance tonight? Keep reading to find out.
As reported by ESPN and Kentucky Sports Radio's Matt Jones, defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, who is headed to Kentucky to replace Joker Phillips, won't coach the bowl game for the Seminoles.
ESPN reports Mark Stoops will not coach the Bowl Game for Florida State— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) December 1, 2012
That isn't a huge deal for the 'Noles, but it will affect a defense that was tops in the country up until the game with the Gators. While that coaching change is a big one, it's the one at the top that should have Florida State faithful a little bit on edge.
Jimbo Fisher has been linked to all three openings in the SEC, from Arkansas and Auburn to Tennessee. According to Football Time in Tennessee, the magazine dedicated to all things Volunteer sports, Tennessee officials will meet with Fisher following the game on Saturday night.
4) Hart will meet with Florida State HC Jimbo Fisher sometime after the ACC Championship game (8pm, ESPN).— Football Time in TN (@FootballTimeMag) December 1, 2012
There's a head coaching situation to keep up with for the Yellow Jackets, as well. The triple option was successful during the first part of head coach Paul Johnson's first few seasons, but the team hasn't been able to equal the success of the 2009 conference championship.
As reported by the Wilmington Star News online, Johnson could be in the hot seat despite getting his team bowl eligible yet again.
Finishing the year at 6-7 with three straight losses certainly won’t help his case. Keep in mind that N.C. State just fired Tom O’Brien after his third winning season in a row. Also consider the fact that Johnson and his option offense – which has never completely been embraced by Yellow Jackets fans – are just 20-18 since winning the since-vacated 2009 ACC championship. Johnson is also 1-3 against rival Georgia and has lost all four bowl games since arriving at Tech.
There's plenty of other under-the-radar storylines to look out for as well, including the conference's stability and standing with other schools and conferences in the country. If Georgia Tech wins, the doomsday scenario could ensue for the NCAA and the ACC, as reported again by the Wilmington Star.
No one, however, stands to lose more than the ACC. It’s already been a miserable year for the league with two schools serving postseason bans, not enough eligible teams to fill all of its bowl obligations, two head coaches fired, Maryland leaving for the Big Ten and last week’s 0-4 debacle in head-to-head matchups against the SEC. The last thing it needs is a 7-6 team playing in its showcase bowl game.
Florida State Player to Watch: DE Bjoern Werner
If there's one guy that can cause pressure up the middle to disrupt the running game, it's this guy. The newly crowned ACC defensive player of the year is NFL-bound, but he has two more games to cement his legacy as one of the most dominant the conference has ever seen.
Keep an eye on the way Georgia Tech attacks him directly. Often triple option teams will make impact players the read man, leaving him unblocked to make anything he does the wrong decision.
If that happens, the other 10 guys must step up and stay at home within their responsibilities. Still, Werner will make an impact on this game—he's done so all season.
Georgia Tech Player to Watch: QB Tevin Washington
With Orwin Smith, the team's leading rusher, doubtful to suit up, the Yellow Jackets need a near-perfect game from their QB to pull this one off.
In the triple option offense he will need to really push the mesh point towards the line of scrimmage and not allow the pressure of the Florida State front seven to disrupt the progression of the option.
Additionally, he must make every opportunity in the passing game count. This team doesn't pass much, but when it does it needs to capitalize. Turnovers will kill any chance Georgia Tech has, and that's on the guy with the ball in his hands the most. It's going to take a near-perfect day, but Washington has the skill set to give this defense problems if he's making the right reads.
The championship games this year have been incredible so far, and this one will be no exception. It's extremely hard to project the spread—even with it at double-digits like this one.
I think the Jackets strike early, but don't sleep on QB E.J. Manuel—he's progressed and improved to the point of being a true pro prospect.
Florida State 35, Georgia Tech 28
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.
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