Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson proved prophetic a week ago when he said that if his team didn’t play well against Georgia, it would get embarrassed.
The Yellow Jackets would like to avoid making Johnson 2-for-2. Sunday, a day after the Bulldogs laid waste to Tech by a 42-10 count, Johnson offered a similar prediction for the Jackets’ ACC Championship game against Florida State Saturday in Charlotte.
“We’ve got to see if we can’t play better than we did Saturday, or we’ll get the same result,” Johnson said.
Oddsmakers agree with Johnson. They set the Seminoles as a 13.5-point favorite over Tech, a nearly identical line to the one given Tech-Georgia. A high priority for both Johnson and FSU coach Jimbo Fisher will be to rally their teams from dispiriting losses to in-state rivals. Florida knocked out the Seminoles 37-26 Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla.
What is tougher to recover from – losing at home with the nation’s top-ranked defense giving up 24 fourth-quarter points or a start-to-finish poleaxing – is debatable. Regardless, whichever can do it more quickly will have an advantage.
“You never know,” said Johnson, asked about his team’s ability to rebound. “You hope we’ll bounce back. I’m sure Florida State’s fighting a little bit of the same thing (Sunday) after their game with Florida.”
Given the state of the ACC compared to its SEC neighbors, it doesn’t come as a surprise that this isn’t new territory. Since the conference went to a two-division format in 2005, five teams have played for the ACC title a week after losing their 12th game of the season to their in-state SEC rivals.
Three of them won, including Tech in 2009 against Clemson. Of the two losers, one was the 2009 Clemson team and the other, Tech fans may remember, was the 2006 Jackets team that dropped the last three games of its season.
“It’s unfortunate it happened like that, but you’ve got to put it behind you and move on,” Johnson said.
Tech coaches can cast a vision to players this week that, despite the loss and the tumultuous season, the Jackets still can be playing in a BCS bowl game in a little over a month with an upset of the Seminoles. It would be Tech’s second appearance in one of the traditional four major bowl games (Cotton, Orange, Rose, Sugar) since 1967.
At 7-6 (with a win over FSU) and No. 63 in the Sagarin ratings, they would be the most ungainly team to ever grace a BCS bowl. Four teams have made BCS bowls with four losses, including the Seminoles twice. The Orange Bowl has never taken a team with more than four defeats.
To even dream about defeating the Seminoles, though, will require a considerable upgrade in play from Tech’s showing in Athens, particularly on the defensive side. Johnson said the defense’s play “was probably as bad as we’ve played all year,” though he allowed Georgia had something to do with it. Tech allowed six touchdowns on the Bulldogs’ first seven possessions of the game. To that point, Georgia was averaging 9.8 yards per play, a rate the Bulldogs could conceivably have maintained had coach Mark Richt not begun to pull starters from the game.
The Tech defense won’t get any break against FSU. The Seminoles are ranked No. 19 in the country in total offense (477.4 yards per game) and No. 8 in scoring offense (41.5 points per game). FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Sunday that quarterback EJ Manuel, who briefly left Saturday’s game with a shot to the head, will be ready to play. FSU will be without defensive end Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, a potential first-round draft pick who leads the Seminoles with 80 tackles and has 11 sacks. Carradine tore his anterior cruciate ligament against the Gators.
Johnson said that guard Omoregie Uzzi, who did not finish the game, is fine. He said he would know more Monday about A-back Orwin Smith, who missed the game with an ankle injury.
“He didn’t play Saturday, so I wouldn’t have any reason to think there’s any change,” he said.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog