<
>

What to watch in the ACC championship game

12/5/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Rematch is the wrong word for this game, considering it's a different season and Virginia Tech and Boston College are completely different teams than they were a year ago. Here are a few things to keep an eye on in Saturday's ACC championship game:

1. Special teams and non-offensive touchdowns. Virginia Tech's last three touchdowns against the Eagles have all come from interception returns, and the Hokies have blocked seven kicks during their series with Boston College. The Eagles have scored eight non-offensive touchdowns this season, including receiver Rich Gunnell's punt return for a touchdown in the Eagles' 28-23 regular-season win on Oct. 18.

2. Virginia Tech's young receivers. Boston College defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani said the Hokies look different from the team they played on Oct. 18 and that's because he said they're not as one-dimensional. The Hokies can thank their rookie receivers for that. Danny Coale caught a career-best five passes last weekend against Virginia and Jarrett Boykin had six. They'll go against a defense that leads the nation in interceptions with 25.

3. Spaziani vs. Bud Foster. This will be a defensive struggle from the start. The Eagles will do their best to try and contain shifty quarterback Tyrod Taylor and stop the run, and the Hokies will look to rattle rookie quarterback Dominique Davis, who will be making his second career start. Foster's name was in the news more this season because he interviewed for the head job at Clemson, but Spaziani has been equally invaluable on the Eagles' sideline.

4. Attendance. There are various reasons why Raymond James Stadium is unlikely to be filled on Saturday, starting with the troubled economy, but regardless of why there might be empty seats, it will be hard not to notice. ACC officials went to great lengths to make sure Tampa provided a better atmosphere than Jacksonville did, but only kickoff will tell if their efforts paid off.

5. The battles up front. With an offensive line that averages 6-foot-5, the Eagles are unusually tall up front -- the tallest in the ACC -- while the Hokies have been rather inconsistent. BC defensive tackles Ron Brace and B.J. Raji have combined for 54 tackles. Raji leads the team with 11 tackles for a loss of 62 yards and seven sacks. Virginia Tech has been dependent upon the run, while the Eagles have held each of their past five opponents to under 100 yards rushing.