Originally written November 30, 2012 on Fox Sports Carolinas:
Georgia Tech football coach Paul Johnson is in no mood to discuss some of the realities surrounding his teams place in Saturdays ACC championship game. He doesnt want to hear that his club doesnt belong in the game or that its only there because North Carolina and Miami arent eligible. Dont remind him of his squads 6-6 record or that statistically it has almost zero chance of even competing with 13th-ranked Florida State, much less actually defeating the Seminoles. What Techs fifth-year coach will discuss is that his team is playing for an ACC championship, and that if it wins, the Yellow Jackets will play in their second Orange Bowl under his direction. Were excited to have the opportunity to go to Charlotte and play in the ACC Championship game, Johnson said. I know its going to be a huge challenge. Hopefully well have a good week of reparation and go up there and put on a pretty good shot. Thats our intention Its a great opportunity for us. Incredibly, a team that allowed 40 or more points six times can reach a BCS bowl. Among Techs embarrassing losses are a 49-28 home loss to Middle Tennessee State and 41-17 at home to BYU in a game the Jackets totaled just 157 yards and failed to score an offensive touchdown. Georgia Tech has just one victory over a team with a winning record and is coming off a 42-10 loss at rival Georgia. Yet, its just one win from the Orange Bowl. Johnson said the grind of the season has been taxing. I think we expended a lot of energy getting back to where we got at the end, he said. The last game is an emotional game with a rival. We wouldve liked to have played better but well see where the mood is Theyve been very resilient for a young football team and theyve bounced back a couple of different times when it couldnt gone south I think they realize they have a good opportunity in front of them. One possible scenario that could play into Techs eventual favor is if the Seminoles dont take the Yellow Jackets seriously. They havent played since 2009, so few of the Noles are even familiar with the Jackets, and no other FSU opponent since has run anything like the triple option FSU will face Saturday night. So, all Jimbo Fisher and his staff have been charged with this week coming off a disappointing and emotional loss to Florida is to instill respect for Georgia Tech in their team and then teach it how to play against the unusual offense. Not easy in a week with early travel and demands of playing in the ACC title game. That could be a factor in how the game plays out. Its such an unorthodox thing from the time you see it, Fisher said. The simulation in practice, the more times you see it the better youre going to be at it. Fisher said his reserves that have run the offense in practice are athletic enough to simulate it, but he recognizes the dramatic difference of facing it in person. Johnson said his team isnt going to change its stripes. And in a way, it doesnt need to. The triple option and the difficulty some teams have preparing for it could be the Jackets strength going into the contest. After all, there arent any true areas Tech has an advantage other than many possible turnover margin, and thats a slim difference at best. Georgia Tech (6-6, 5-3) vs. No. 13 Florida State (10-2, 7-1) What: ACC Championship Where: Charlotte, N.C., Bank of America Stadium (73,778) When: 8 p.m. The blitz: If the Seminoles are prepared and ready to play they should win the game, probably with relative ease. But the intriguing factor here is Georgia Techs philosophy and if the Noles are mentally and physically ready to go against the triple option. It requires a great deal of focus, and getting his team focused might be Fishers greatest challenge this week, even though FSU hasnt won an ACC football title in seven years. Doing so, by the way, will also mean FSU would hold the ACC football and mens basketball crowns at the same time for the first time in school history. The Yellow Jackets must force turnovers, win the special teams wars, play with greater emotion, not let bad moments get them down, and sustain long drives on the ground keeping FSUs potent offense off the field. Most 6-6 teams with Techs mangled resume wouldnt have a shot in a game like this, and maybe Tech ultimately doesnt, but its style and the quirkiness of its coach and the manners he may motivate at least offer this matchup some needed intrigue. Pick: FSU, 37-17. Last week: 5-3 Season record: 75-20
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