Florida St.-Georgia Tech Preview

Jimbo Fisher said Sunday the team that wins the ACC championship
may be the one that does the best job of moving past a crushing
loss to its top in-state rival.

Florida State dropped three spots to No. 13 in Sunday’s
Associated Press Top 25 following a 37-26 loss to Florida. Fisher’s
Seminoles (10-2) play Georgia Tech, which must regroup following a
lopsided 42-10 loss to Georgia, in the Atlantic Coast Conference
championship on Saturday. The winner will play in the Orange
Bowl.

Even with so much on the line, it’s not easy to quickly recover
from a loss in a state rivalry game.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Fisher said. “They had a
great rivalry game and we did too. You’ve got to be able to put it
behind you quickly and go on. I think that is going to be a big
factor, I don’t think there’s any doubt.”

It’s an unlikely matchup. Georgia Tech is only 6-6 overall but
won the Coastal Division with a 5-3 ACC record because Miami
self-imposed a bowl ban for the second straight year as it hopes to
lessen possible penalties from an ongoing NCAA investigation.

Miami, also 5-3 in the ACC, would have won a tiebreaker with
Georgia Tech for the Coastal Division title if not for the
self-imposed ban.

Fisher said the Seminoles will be without one of their top
defensive players, senior defensive end Cornellius “Tank”
Carradine, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right
knee against Florida.

“He’s sad. He’s down,” Fisher said. “He can’t be with his
teammates.”

Fisher said he hasn’t decided on a new starter. Options include
freshmen Giorgio Newberry and Mario Edwards.

Carradine led the team with 80 tackles and was second with 11
sacks, and has been projected as a probable first-round pick in
next year’s NFL draft.

“The draft will still be fine,” Fisher said. “He’ll go rehab and
that won’t affect those guys much at all, maybe a round at the
most. … It’s not that big a deal to them anymore.”

Quarterback E.J. Manuel, another candidate for the 2013 draft,
needs 33 passing yards to reach 3,000 for the first time. He’s
trying to bounce back after throwing a season-high three
interceptions against Florida.

“That was not one of his more stellar performances, that’s for
sure,” Fisher said. “We have to do a better job coaching him.”

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson has lost four straight games to
Georgia after beating the Bulldogs in his first season.

The Yellow Jackets, who have struggled on defense all season,
have had to bounce back from other ugly losses this season,
including a 49-28 loss to Middle Tennessee State which cost
defensive coordinator Al Groh his job. Johnson said his defense may
have hit a new low against Georgia, making it more difficult to
regroup for the ACC championship game.

“You never know. You hope that we’ll bounce back,” Johnson said
Sunday. “We’ve got another great opportunity. I’m sure Florida
State is fighting some of the same thing today following their game
against Florida. It’s unfortunate it happened like that, but we’ll
do the best we can to move on.”

Georgia Tech’s normally productive spread-option offense was
held to a season low in points by Georgia’s defense, which
stiffened near the red zone. The Yellow Jackets had 26 first downs
and 426 yards but were held without a touchdown until midway
through the fourth quarter.

“We haven’t played very well defensively,” Johnson said.
“There’s no secret about that. The last game was probably as bad as
we’ve played all year against Georgia, and they had a lot to do
with that. They’re a very good football team.”

Johnson said Florida State’s defense is just as strong as
Georgia’s. His first two words to describe the Seminoles were
“Speed. Athleticism.”

“I think they play hard,” Johnson said. “They play with an edge.
They can run. They’re very athletic on both sides of the ball.
They’re right there with (Georgia). Every bit as fast.”

Georgia Tech’s offense could get a boost if leading rusher Orwin
Smith – averaging 9.0 yards per carry – can return after missing
last week’s game with a sprained right ankle.

“It’s still to be determined,” Smith said when asked about his
status. “I think I will play. We’ll just see how it goes day by
day.”

Georgia Tech won its last four ACC games following a 1-3 start
in the conference. After a 47-31 loss to Clemson on Oct. 6, Georgia
Tech’s only losses were to BYU and Georgia.

“The way our season started off in the league, it certainly
didn’t look too promising,” Johnson said. “But to our guys’ credit,
they won four in a row down the stretch.”

Those wins didn’t come with good defense.

“I think we were able to outscore people, honestly, if you want
to know the truth,” Johnson said. “The last four games we got far
enough out in front of people and scored enough points to secure
the games.”

Asked what he’d say to those who accuse Georgia Tech of backing
into the ACC championship game, Johnson said “Say whatever you
want.

“You know, that’s something that Miami decided to do. We had no
control over it. The only thing we had control over was we were 5-3
in our division. It’s not the first time a 5-3 team has gone to the
championship game.”

Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops was hired as the
next head coach at Kentucky this week, but he is expected to coach
in this game.