ACC: Orwin Smith

The rest of the ACC wraps up practice this weekend. Here is a look at what to watch at each spring game.

BOSTON COLLEGE

When: Cancelled.

UPDATE: Boston College decided to cancel its spring game, set for Saturday, because of the tragic events that unfolded in the area this week. Though there is no game, these are still three keys for the Eagles as they move into the offseason.
  • Chase Rettig. Rettig has been through one coordinator too many during his career with the Eagles, and now he has to learn a new system that is not exactly the pro-style brand more suited to him. Coach Steve Addazio has said he will not force Rettig out of his comfort zone this year, but how Rettig handles yet another change is definitely something to watch.
  • The run game. Addazio has placed a heavy emphasis on the run game this spring. Does he have the talent and depth to improve the dreadful numbers from a year ago? With Rolandan Finch gone, senior Andre Williams has been the guy left to shoulder the load this spring. He says, "Bring it on."
  • More aggressive D? This will be a good chance to see how Don Brown has gone about revamping the defense. We have all heard how he wants to be more aggressive this year. Let's see it.
GEORGIA TECH

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m. (Note: There is a threat of rain so a decision on whether the game will be played as scheduled will be made later today. As of this morning, the game is still on.) NC STATE

When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m., ESPN3
  • The quarterbacks. Starting to sound like a theme, right? Coach Dave Doeren has said he will not name a starter after spring practice. Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker are still learning the new system, and Doeren says, "They're getting better. I told somebody the other day: I just don't think it's fair to make a decision on a guy that doesn't know your offense yet. I think we've got to give those kids a chance to play football without thinking. We're not there yet."
  • The secondary. This group will have three new starters when fall rolls around, and much less game experience. Juston Burris is listed as the starter at the cornerback spot David Amerson leaves behind, while Hakim Jones and Jarvis Byrd are set to take the open safety spots.
  • The defensive ends. There is still open competition at both defensive end spots, according to the depth chart the team released ahead of the spring game. Art Norman and Forrest West are battling for one spot, while Mike Rose and Darryl Cato-Bishop are competing for the other.
SYRACUSE

When: Saturday, noon.
  • Terrel Hunt vs. Charley Loeb. Hunt has reportedly gotten more of the first-team reps as the spring has gone on, but this is a good chance for both quarterbacks to make an impression on their coaches -- especially with Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen headed to Syracuse in the summer.
  • Defensive line. There is no question Syracuse has to work on building depth here because of several losses the group has taken. One player to watch is Iowa transfer John Raymon, who has worked at both tackle and end this spring.
  • Quinta Funderburk. Funderburk sat out last season after transferring in from Arkansas. He has made a few highlight catches during the spring scrimmages to catch some attention, and with Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales gone, Funderburk has an opportunity to become a go-to receiver on this team.
VIRGINIA TECH

When: Saturday, 3 p.m., ESPN3
  • Logan Thomas and the offense. So, how does Thomas look under new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler? His rebound from a mediocre 2013 is going to be huge for the Hokies this season.
  • The running backs. Nobody has really stepped up to take the starting job, although Trey Edmunds has had a good spring, including 86 yards and two touchdowns in the last scrimmage. JC Coleman, also vying for the job, is not expected to play because of a leg injury.
  • Brandon Facyson. It's no secret the Hokies need some help in the secondary, and every single report out of Blacksburg points to the freshman cornerback as being the next star on defense.
WAKE FOREST

When: Saturday, 1 p.m., ACC Digital Network
  • The receivers. One of the big goals this spring has been to find another receiver to complement Michael Campanaro. Orville Reynolds, who moved from running back, has so far turned some heads with his performance, so keep an eye on him.
  • New faces. Two players who have drawn raves on defense this spring are defensive linemen Desmond Floyd and Johnny Garcia. In fact, coach Jim Grobe believes his defensive line has been a bright spot this spring because the group has been able to develop some depth.
  • Competition. This will actually be a scrimmage, not a game, because the Deacs simply do not have enough offensive linemen to split the team in two. At last check, Wake had seven healthy offensive linemen after Cody Preble injured his ankle in the last scrimmage.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 11, 2013
4/11/13
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Around the ACC we go ...

Jackets put on the pads

April, 1, 2013
4/01/13
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Georgia Tech had its first day in full pads on Saturday, and it was a chance for new defensive coordinator Ted Roof to get a better look at the defense.

"We've got a long way to go," he said.

The standards have been raised, and that's a good thing -- Georgia Tech struggled defensively in the first half of 2012, and former coordinator Al Groh was fired midseason. The Jackets showed significant improvement, though, in their Sun Bowl win over USC, and there have been positive reviews following the hire of Roof.

The challenge now is to get some positive reviews out of Roof.

"There were some good things, some mistakes, obviously," he said. "Things we've got to clean up. We’ve just got to be a lot more consistent, a lot more consistent from angles of pursuit, to finishing tackles, to finishing plays. We’ve got a lot of work to do in that area, but that's something we can correct."

A few other notes from Georgia Tech, according to the team's practice reports:
  • Injuries have created some opportunities for backups, especially at wide receiver, where Anthony Autry and Travin Henry are sitting out all spring, and returning starter Darren Waller was in red on Saturday. That leaves redshirt freshman Micheal Summers, who has impressed the staff, and junior Correy Dennis.
  • The A-back competition is heating up, as a number of players are working to take Orwin Smith’s starting job. Among those competing this spring: Deon Hill, Synjyn Days, B.J. Bostic, redshirt freshman Dennis Andrews and others. Tony Zenon will also be in the mix when he returns in August.
  • Sophomore Ryan Rodwell is the only experienced, healthy punter in camp, as senior Sean Poole is recovering from shoulder surgery. Poole initially injured his shoulder trying to make a tackle against Miami last September, but held off on surgery until the offseason. Poole and Rodwell, who had identical 39.7-yard averages in 2012, should compete deep into August for the starting job.
DUKE

Spring start: March 4

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:

1. Boone is up. Duke loses three-year starter Sean Renfree, who threw for 3,113 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Anthony Boone is the next man up, and has plenty of game experience. But coming in for spot duty is vastly different from taking over the starting quarterback job. He has to get a jump on becoming the leader of this offense in the spring.

2. Receiver spots open. The Blue Devils lose the most prolific receiver in ACC history in Conner Vernon, plus the versatile and athletic Desmond Scott. Jamison Crowder is back, but Duke is going to need to find two more starters and several more to step up and help with depth.

3. Handling success. This is the first time since 1994 that Duke goes into a spring with 15 bowl practices already under its belt and a taste of success. That should presumably give the Blue Devils an advantage. But it is much harder maintaining, as many coach will tell you. How does this new success impact the mind-set in spring practice?

GEORGIA TECH

Spring start: March 25

Spring game: April 19

What to watch:

1. Ted Roof takes over. What is the Georgia Tech defense going to look like with Ted Roof in charge? He has not really given out specifics about the type of scheme he wants to use as his base, so it will be interesting to see how he fits his personnel to what he likes to do best. The Jackets do return eight starters to a unit that improved in the second half of the season.

2. Vad Lee time. We saw glimpse of what Lee could do as he began to share quarterback duties with Tevin Washington last season. Now, the show is all his, so we get to see how he develops as a full-time starter.

3. So long, Orwin. The Jackets lose one of their most dynamic playmakers in Orwin Smith, who finished his career ranked among Georgia Tech’s all-time leaders in kickoff returns (76), kickoff return yards (1,624) and career all-purpose yards (4,278). Georgia Tech has to find somebody to replace that productivity.

MIAMI

Spring start: March 2

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:

1. D in Defense? The No. 1 spring priority has got to be improving a defense that was one of the worst in the nation in every NCAA statistical category (No. 112 rushing defense, No. 102 passing defense, No. 116 total defense, No. 82 scoring defense). If Miami is going to be a favorite to win the Coastal, it needs better play out of this group.

2. New OC. James Coley takes over as offensive coordinator, replacing Jedd Fisch. Coley served as offensive coordinator at Florida State before arriving at Miami, but did not call the plays. So he has much more responsibility here, and is charged with taking Stephen Morris from great to next-level great.

3. D-Line improvement. If Miami is going to be better on defense, it has to start up front, where the Hurricanes were extremely young and mostly ineffective for 2012. The Hurricanes had to deal with their share of injuries, but they also were not great at stopping the run or putting pressure on the passer -- with only 13 sacks all year. That is the lowest total since at least 2005, the first year NCAA stats began listing team sack totals.

NORTH CAROLINA

Spring start: March 6

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:

1. Bye bye, Gio. Life begins without All-ACC running back Giovani Bernard, who left school early for the NFL draft. The cupboard is not completely bare, though, as A.J. Blue and Romar Morris both return. Blue and Morris combined for 819 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns last season.

2. Replacing Williams, Reddick. North Carolina returns nine starters on defense. That is the good news. The bad news is the Tar Heels lose their two best players in linebacker Kevin Reddick and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, two first-team All-ACC selections. We'll see if Ethan Farmer at tackle and P.J. Clyburn at linebacker emerge to win the starting jobs.

3. Replacing Coop. The Tar Heels have a major hole to fill on their offensive line as they say goodbye to unanimous All-America guard Jonathan Cooper, a stalwart who made 47 career starts. Cooper was the unheralded leader of the offense, so filling his spot is a major priority this spring.

PITTSBURGH

Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:

1. QB situation. Tino Sunseri is gone, leaving Arizona transfer Tom Savage, redshirt freshman Chad Voytik and junior Trey Anderson to compete for the starting job. Inconsistent quarterback play has been a major issue for the Panthers, so upgrading this position is an absolute must.

2. Adjusting to DC. Pitt is going into the season with its fourth new coordinator in as many years, as Dave Huxtable left for NC State after only one year on the job. Secondary coach Matt House was promoted to coordinator, so at least there will be some familiarity. But he has to get to work on improving this unit's consistency.

3. Offensive line improvements. Is this the year we finally see a vastly improved Pitt offensive line? The Panthers have to replace center Ryan Turnley and guard Chris Jacobson, two key positions to watch during spring practice.

VIRGINIA

Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 6

What to watch:

1. New coaches. How will the three most high-profile hires Mike London made mesh with the staff and returning players? How will the offense deal with a new scheme under Steve Fairchild? How will the defense deal with a new scheme under Jon Tenuta? How big will Tom O'Brien's role be with the offense? Inquiring minds want to know.

2. QB competition. Fairchild has already said he will open up the quarterback job to a "very spirited competition" this spring. The two front-runners figure to be Phillip Sims and David Watford, who both have game experience. But there will be no shortage of quarterbacks in Charlottesville this year, so there are no guarantees that either of them will win the job.

3. Replacing Greer. The Hoos have some big shoes to fill in the middle of their defense with the departure of linebacker Steve Greer, who ended his career with 376 tackles -- ranking No. 6 in school history. Kwontie Moore, one of nine true freshmen to play in 2012, backed up Greer last season. Will he win the starting job?

VIRGINIA TECH

Spring start: March 27

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:

1. Logan Thomas. All eyes will be on Thomas as he heads into his senior season, especially with new offensive coordinator in Scot Loeffler in charge. How will the two work together, and what will Loeffler do to get Thomas to cut down on his mistakes and capitalize on the immense potential he has?

2. Rushing attack. Item No. 2 on the agenda for Loeffler is to figure out a way to jump start the Virginia Tech rushing game, which struggled in 2012. The offensive line was inconsistent, and so were the running backs. The Hokies could never really settle on a starter or a clear rotation in the backfield, either. Somebody has to emerge as THE guy.

3. Filling in for Exum. Virginia Tech took a serious hit to its defensive backfield last month when emerging cornerback Antone Exum tore his ACL in a pickup basketball game. The Hokies will look to several young players to try and fill his void, including Donovan Riley, Donaldven Manning and Davion Tookes. Fans will have to wait on highly touted cornerback Kendall Fuller, who joins in the summer.

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
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Tajh Boyd decision expected this afternoon ...

Hyundai Sun Bowl primer

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
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Who to watch: This could be another national showcase for USC wide receiver Marqise Lee to prove that he is the most dynamic player in the country. Lee won the Biletnikoff Award winner and was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year after a season which saw him set a conference mark for catches (112 -- the leading total nationally) and receiving yards (1,680). He also led the conference in kickoff return yardage. Lee left USC practice early on Saturday with an undisclosed leg injury and did not return but is expected to play in the game.

What to watch: The most compelling matchup should be the USC defense against the Georgia Tech “flexbone” triple-option offense. The Trojans have struggled in 2012 against various versions of the option, and Tech executes its run-based version at a very high level -- it was No. 4 in the nation with more than 312 rushing yards per game. The Yellow Jackets have a talented senior at quarterback in Tevin Washington, and he has an impressive 19 touchdowns on the ground. Look for USC senior safety T.J. McDonald to be very aggressive near the line of scrimmage in run support.

Why to watch: There have been a lot of questions about how motivated the Trojans would be for the Sun Bowl after a disappointing 7-5 season following their preseason No. 1 ranking. That perception was helped by some disparaging player tweets toward the host city of El Paso, Texas, and a late arrival to a bowl dinner. USC coach Lane Kiffin has preached to his team for the need to stay focused on the game, and the performance of his team will show how well that message was received. Georgia Tech is certainly an opponent that is capable of taking advantage of any lack of game readiness.

Prediction: USC 31, Georgia Tech 21

At the end of the day, the Trojans will simply make more plays than the Yellow Jackets. Lee isn’t the only playmaker on the USC offense, there are guys such as Robert Woods, Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal who can explode at any time. This could be the final college game for Woods, who will announce after the game if he is leaving school early for the NFL draft. The Trojans will enter the game without Matt Barkley, who will sit out with a shoulder injury, but Max Wittek can get the ball downfield with his strong arm. Georgia Tech A-back Orwin Smith will help keep things close for the Yellow Jackets. He has missed the last two games with an ankle injury but is averaging over nine yards per carry this season.

Hyundai Sun Bowl keys

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
10:30
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Here are three keys for Georgia Tech in the Hyundai Sun Bowl against USC.

1. Slow down USC's receivers. The Jackets face their biggest challenge of the season on pass defense, going against some of the most talented receivers in the nation. But keep an eye on Biletnikoff winner Marqise Lee, who leads the nation with 112 receptions and has eight 100-yard receiving games out of 12 this year. Lee twisted his knee during practice Saturday, and coach Lane Kiffin would only say he is "hopeful" his star will play. On the other side, the Trojans feature Robert Woods, who combined with Lee for 2,493 yards and 25 touchdown catches this season. While Matt Barkley is out with a shoulder injury, there is no doubt starting quarterback Max Wittek will look to his wideouts to help get the offense going. Rod Sweeting and Louis Young are going to have their hands full at the cornerback spot. For safety help, the Jackets take a big loss with starter and leading tackler Isaiah Johnson out. Jemea Thomas will have to take on a bigger role.

2. Get Orwin Smith loose. There is no doubting how explosive Smith can be when healthy. The problem for the Jackets is that he has not been healthy in their past two games, both losses. But he is ready to go against USC and should provide a spark for an offense in need of some big plays. Smith is averaging 9 yards per carry this season, and is on the verge of setting the school record for highest yards per carry average for a career. He leads all players on the team in "big plays," with 13 that have gone between 20-39 yards.

3. Be consistent. Inconsistency on offense and defense has been the biggest problems for Georgia Tech all season. We have rarely seen a full four quarters from this team, a big reason why it sits at 6-7. There is no better opportunity than to play their best in the Sun Bowl, with a chance to finish at .500 and help Paul Johnson get his first bowl win in five tries. USC is less than enthused to be in this game, as several players have caused a stir on Twitter with their comments. Georgia Tech has a huge opportunity in front of it, now we see if the Jackets take advantage.

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
12:00
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Welp. No world coming to an end means more lunch links for you!

Greetings from Charlotte

December, 1, 2012
12/01/12
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It's a beautiful evening here in the Queen City, and the dedicated ACC fans who are here are enjoying themselves.

Let's get to the news first.

B.J. Bostic will start in place of A-back Orwin Smith, the Jackets' leading rusher who injured his ankle in the Duke game and was also sidelined for last week's game against Georgia. Defensively, Euclid Cummings will start in place of defensive end Emmanuel Dieke. Florida State has not reported any lineup changes.

As for attendance, which is sure to be a hot button topic this year ...

More than 50,000 tickets were sold in advance, according to an ACC official. There are two giant, black, ACC-branded tarps blocking off four upper-deck sections in each end zone, and if the seats are empty, you'll be able to see them on TV, as the majority are Carolina Panthers blue. This year should be an anomaly, though, not a trend for the league championship game (at least ACC officials hope). Last year was great attendance for the Clemson-Virginia Tech rematch, but let's face it: this game has taken the backseat even to other news within the conference this week. Not to mention the Coastal Division was an absolute disaster, with both Miami and North Carolina ineligible to play in this game. Georgia Tech is here by default, and if it loses this game, it will drop to 6-7 and play in a bowl game thanks to a waiver granted by the NCAA.

And yet Georgia Tech is just one win away from playing in the Discover Orange Bowl.

It's the goal for both teams, regardless of how many fans come out to watch tonight.

Q&A: Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
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Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd had a pretty stellar week, becoming an AFCA All-American, and winning ACC Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year. He spoke with reporters on a conference call earlier this week, and talked about his awards and the matchup between Florida State and Georgia Tech in the ACC title game Saturday.

Here is a little of what he had to say.

What was your reaction to finding out you got on the AFCA All-American team, with perhaps others believing Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M or Collin Klein of Kansas State would be the favorites?

TB: It was just numb, an exciting moment, just knowing how highly people think about you, coaches think about you. It’s exciting, it’s an extra motivating factor especially heading into bowl season. You want to live up to those things. It’s been a pretty good week so far, and it doesn’t necessarily take away the feeling you get from the game standpoint, but it’s definitely some good news to have. It’s been a fun week.

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Joshua S. Kelly/US PresswireTajh Boyd has not decided whether he will leave school for the NFL draft.
Did you think you would have a shot at ACC Player of the Year?

TB: I thought I would have a pretty good chance, and I’m just excited to hear about it, just excited to get the chance to represent Clemson in a great way. As a program, we’re excited to hear that we had six guys on the first team. It’s capped off the season pretty nicely. It’s just exciting news.

Will you submit your paperwork to the NFL or are you fully committed to coming back?

TB: I’m going to submit my paperwork and just consider it. It’s not one of those deals where I made a decision yet. Whenever you get the paperwork back, you sit down with the coaches, and you sit down with your parents and talk about it and make sure I make the best decision possible.

Is there a round you have in mind for you to decide to leave for the NFL?

TB: That’s one of those deals where it will definitely weigh heavily. Either way, submitting the paperwork is good so you know where you stand in the eyes of those coaches over there, and if you decide to come back, it lets you know what you need to work on. It’s just great to have an opportunity in general as well. I haven’t really sat down and thought about certain rounds or anything of that nature.

You played against Georgia Tech and Florida State. Give us your quick scouting report for the ACC title game.

TB: I think they’re both really competitive teams. I saw Georgia Tech get a chance to potentially get Orwin Smith back. I think that would be great for those guys. He’s been a veteran player, he’s been an experienced player, and I’ve seen that Florida State lost Tank (Carradine) for the rest of the season with a torn ACL, very unfortunate situation. The game to me just looking at it from the outside in, it’s an intriguing game because I think when you’re playing a team like Georgia Tech, if you don’t play them a lot, it’s hard to predict what type of team they are, what they do. Especially if you don’t play them on a yearly basis. Their system is pretty complex, and then you see them put up some crazy numbers, 68 points scored on North Carolina, so you know the offense can be explosive. But Florida State has a style of defense, again always has one of the top defenses in the country. It will be interested to see. Some people think the game is going to be a runaway, but I think it’s going to be a pretty close game.

Do you want to make a prediction?

TB: 21-14 Florida State.

Georgia Tech has struggled on defense this year, what were your impressions of them?

TB: Very passionate group. I don’t even know if they felt like they had a chance of making it to the game at one point in the season, but when you get in a game like that, when we played in the ACC championship last year, there’s a lot at stake. Your whole mind-frame changes. You can throw a lot of things out the door. It’s going to be interesting. Florida State has a lot of speed but Georgia Tech is fundamentally sound out there. I’m interested to see both sides of the matchup, Georgia Tech’s offense against the defense and just seeing Florida State rebound from the game last week as well.

From a player’s perspective, how tough is it to rebound from a tough loss to an in-state rival, the way Florida State and Georgia Tech have to do in this game?

TB: The seniors or the veteran guys on that team on both squads are going to have to sit down and make sure they re-evaluate. I know Georgia Tech, that loss kind of stung a little bit but it’s one of those deals where you’ve got to erase that memory. They have the national spotlight, go out there and put the best game they can put together and execute their game plan. Two totally different style teams, where Georgia Tech is kind of grind it out and Florida State is similar with the tempo we have, with the type of players and the speed. The coaches and players are going to have to do a great job of making sure everybody is focused on what they need to focus on and not worry about last week.

Orwin Smith doubtful for ACC title game

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Georgia Tech leading rusher Orwin Smith did not practice on Thursday because of a right ankle injury and is listed as doubtful for Saturday's Dr Pepper ACC championship game against Florida State, according to a school spokesman.

Smith is the team's leading rusher with 673 yards this year and five touchdowns. He is averaging 9 yards per carry. He also has 14 kickoff returns for 267 yards. He injured his right ankle in a Nov. 17 win over Duke and missed last week's game against Georgia. On Monday, Smith said he expected to play, but he probably hasn't practiced enough this week.

Georgia Tech will turn to an A-back by committee approach should it need to replace him. The most likely candidates are B.J. Bostic, who started in Smith's place last week against Georgia, and Synjyn Days, who started the second half last week. Tony Zenon (25 carries, 191 yards and a touchdown) and Deon Hill (five carries, 42 yards) will also play.

ACC's lunchtime links

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
12:00
PM ET
Louisville, already representing the ACC.
Florida State is in. The Jackets are in. How they got here is a moot point. One of them will be crowned ACC champ on Saturday. Here’s a primer for those of you who need to get caught up:

Who: No. 13 Florida State (10-2, 7-1 ACC) vs. Georgia Tech (6-6, 5-3 ACC)

What: Dr Pepper ACC Championship game

When: Saturday at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.

TV/Radio: ESPN

Twitter: #ACCFCG

The coaches:

Jimbo Fisher: 29-10 (third year) at Florida State and overall

Paul Johnson: 39-25 (fifth year) at Georgia Tech; 146-64 (16th year) overall

The series:

All games: Florida State leads 12-9-1;

In bowls and at neutral sites: First meeting

In ACC play: Florida State leads 12-2

Last meeting: Georgia Tech 49, Florida State 44 (Oct. 10, 2009 at FSU)

FSU title game history: Florida State will be seeking its 13th ACC championship. The Seminoles won or shared the title for the first nine seasons after they joined the conference (1992-2000), and went on to capture the national championship in 1993 and 1999. The Seminoles were also ACC champions in 2002, 2003 and 2005. FSU is making its third appearance in the ACC championship game. The Seminoles defeated Virginia Tech 27-22 in the inaugural event in 2005 in Jacksonville, Fla., and suffered a 44-33 loss to the Hokies in 2010 in Charlotte.

GT title game history: The Yellow Jackets captured their first of two ACC titles in 1990, when they went on to claim the national championship. Georgia Tech shared the title with Florida State in 1998. The Yellow Jackets are making their third appearance in the ACC championship game since its inception in 2005. Georgia Tech suffered a 9-6 loss to Wake Forest in the 2006 championship game in Jacksonville, Fla. The Yellow Jackets defeated Clemson 39-34 in 2009 in Tampa, Fla., but later vacated the win and the ACC title because of NCAA sanctions.

FSU stat stars

DE Bjoern Werner: He ranks third nationally and leads the ACC in QB sacks per game with 1.08 and is tied for 15th in total tackles for lost yardage per game (1.50). Werner’s 18 TFL this season have accounted for 134 yards in lost yardage. Werner now has 13 sacks this season.

QB EJ Manuel: He ranks eighth nationally in passing efficiency with a 160.01 rating and leads an offense that averages 41.5 points per game and has scored at least 51 points in four regular-season games.

PK Dustin Hopkins: He now ranks third on the all-time NCAA FBS scoring list with 456 points. Hopkins trails Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio) by 12 points for second place all-time. He enters Saturday’s game tied for the all-time lead in field goals among NCAA FBS kickers with 87.

WR Rodney Smith: He has caught a pass in 37 consecutive games, one shy of the school record. E.G. Green (1994-97) holds the school record for most consecutive games with a reception at 38.

Georgia Tech stat stars

RB Orwin Smith: His 9.43 career yards per carry is the best for any ACC running back who has gained 1,000 or more yards. Smith has 1,830 yards on 194 carries and 20 touchdowns. His 61.2 yards per game leads the team.

QB Tevin Washington: His 36 career rushing touchdowns are an ACC and school record by a quarterback. Washington leads all active conference players in rushing touchdowns, and his 216 points scored rank seventh. He has improved his completion percentage by more than 12 percentage points (47.1 in 2011 to 59.6 in 2012).

KR Jamal Golden: He ranks second in the ACC and 10th nationally in kickoff returns with 29.0 yards per runback, including two returns for touchdowns.

LB Jeremiah Attaochu: He leads the team and ranks third in the ACC with eight sacks in 11 games (.73 per game).

FSU win over GT not 'a gimme'

November, 29, 2012
11/29/12
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Georgia Tech A-back Orwin Smith isn’t blind to the perception of this game.

He knows Florida State has been penned in (not penciled) by many to play in the Discover Orange Bowl long before the season even began.

He knows the Seminoles are a two-touchdown favorite.

[+] EnlargeOrwin Smith
Joshua S. Kelly/US PresswireOrwin Smith says despite his team being labeled the underdog in the ACC title game, the Yellow Jackets will still come out fighting.
And he knows many outside the program scoff at Georgia Tech’s back-door entrance into the Dr Pepper ACC Championship Game, thanks to Miami declaring itself ineligible.

If you don’t think those things will add up to some motivation for the Yellow Jackets on Saturday in Charlotte, think again.

“Whoever we would be playing in the championship they wouldn't be giving Georgia Tech a shot,” said Smith, whose status for Saturday’s game is still uncertain. “It doesn't really matter who we'd be playing. We know that just from how the season has been going that we'll pretty much be the underdog in possibly every game. We're just coming into the game just like any other game with a chip on our shoulder and ready just to prove the doubters wrong.”

Florida State, much like Georgia Tech, is coming off a disappointing loss to rival Florida, but if there’s one thing seasoned ACC fans should be leery of, it’s letdowns. Florida State has already proven to be beatable when it lost at NC State earlier this season. The Seminoles have not been a dominant team by any means outside the state of Florida. And if Florida State plays anywhere near the level it did last weekend against Florida -- with five turnovers and allowing 244 rushing yards -- you better believe there is a very good chance Georgia Tech won’t need that bowl-eligibility waiver after all.

Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins knows better than to assume this game has already been won.

“Oh, yeah, there's definitely a sense it's not a gimme,” Hopkins said. “I mean, Georgia Tech ... has made the championship, first of all, that's not an accident, but they haven't played as well as I know they wish they would have, but the offense they run and just their team, they're going to have a chip on their shoulder, and they're scary, just because I know they're a talented team. They have a lot of weapons.

“Yeah, it's not a gimme game by any means,” he added. “I hope none of our guys think that way, and I don't think we do. And I'm sure that's something that's going to be reiterated to us, that needs to be reiterated from our leadership positions to our guys because when you're playing for a championship game, teams come out to play, regardless of games in the past. It doesn't affect being in the moment and being ready to play on that Saturday on this Saturday coming up. So yeah, we'd be sadly mistaken, we'd be remiss if we came in lightly to this game.”

Both teams have a chance to make a statement and finish the season on a positive note, but for Georgia Tech, the burden of proof is far greater. The Noles are the better team, from top to bottom. They should win. Georgia Tech, though, is looking to punctuate its season with its biggest turnaround yet.

“That would be a great story to end the year off of and to make it to the Orange Bowl,” Smith said. “We've had a lot of adversity, and we feel like our story is very, very inspirational, and we just need to keep going and finish it off.”

It would be the definition of an upset -- something Florida State, once ranked No. 3 in the country, is all-too familiar with.

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November, 29, 2012
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