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Thursday, December 4, 2008
ACC title game to feature two top defenses


Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster was impossible to miss.

Following a key sack last Saturday that helped Virginia Tech beat rival Virginia and advance to the ACC championship game, Foster sprinted down the sideline, almost knocking over wide-eyed running backs coach Billy Hite along the way.

"That's definitely coach Foster," defensive end Jason Worilds said. "He wears his emotions on his sleeves and he's not going to hide how he feels. And what you saw was exactly how he felt."

Foster's defense reflects his passion, and Saturday's ACC championship game will reflect the strength of the entire league this season -- defense. Both Virginia Tech and Boston College boast two of the nation's top 10 defenses, while their offenses rank no better than 94th out of 119 FBS teams.

They will meet for the second straight season in the title game in large part because of their defenses' big-play capabilities. In a game that features two teams with relatively anonymous offensive playmakers, two names that have gotten a lot of attention this season are the defensive coordinators.

Foster and Boston College defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani are two of the best in the ACC, and both have had to overcome obstacles to get to Tampa. The Eagles lost starting defensive end Alex Albright and linebacker Brian Toal to season-ending injuries, and the Hokies had to replace seven starters on defense. Yet both of their units have been relied upon to win games for them this season and will be again on Saturday.

"Defensively, they haven't changed much over the years," said Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski. "They're very solid. I mentioned this when we played them the last time, that Bud Foster is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country. His defenses are always in the top 10, regardless of who he's got playing. He does a great job with their scheme."

This is the fourth time in two seasons these teams have met. Virginia Tech beat the Matt Ryan-led Eagles 30-16 to win the ACC title. Spaziani said it's at the point where they're too familiar with the Hokies. They've got too much game film to study.

"I'd rather just play them once," Spaziani said. "When we play them once a year and we're fortunate enough to beat them, we're happy. Playing them twice is like double jeapordy."

Especially since the Eagles have already won once. Boston College won this year's regular-season game 28-23 on Oct. 18.

"We know what to expect," said Boston College receiver Brandon Robinson, who caught four passes for 97 yards in that game. "They're going to play a lot of man, a lot of switch, and their defense thrives on turnovers. That's one thing we've got to keep to a minimum."

That's one thing they didn't do in October. The Eagles were able to overcome five turnovers, four of which came from former starting quarterback Chris Crane. Backup quarterback Dominique Davis will start his second game of his career on Saturday in place of Crane, who broke his collarbone against Wake Forest.

"He's going to come to play," said Worilds. "He's a big-time athlete. For him to come in there and start after Chris Crane went down and lead his team to a W is very impressive."

Offensively, Virginia Tech has been dependent upon the running game this season because of so many inexperienced wide receivers. The Hokies are expecting a long day against a rushing defense that has held each of its past five opponents to under 100 yards rushing. That's attributed in large part -- literally -- to BC's two 300-plus pound tackles, B.J. Raji and Ron Brace.

"They are hard to move out of there," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "You just better plan to work all day against those guys, because it's not easy."

Boston College has won both regular-season games against the Hokies, but is still searching for the program's first outright league championship.

"There's huge motivation," said safety Paul Anderson. "We definitely don't want t lose to them again, especially in a game like this. We want that ring this year."