1. Georgia Tech A-back Orwin Smith was listed as doubtful on the injury report Thursday in advance of the ACC Championship game against Florida State on Saturday. Center Jay Finch was assigned a “probable” status.
Smith did not practice again Thursday due to an ankle injury suffered in Tech’s Nov. 17 win over Duke. Coach Paul Johnson said Wednesday that if Smith didn’t practice Thursday, he wouldn’t play against Florida State. Finch practiced Thursday after suffering an undisclosed injury in Tuesday’s practice and then missing Wednesday’s practice.
Smith’s likely absence is a considerable disadvantage for the Yellow Jackets, as it would keep their most potent offensive player on the sidelines. Smith had struck a hopeful tone Monday, saying that he thought he would play in Saturday’s game. Without Smith, Johnson will likely move up Synjyn Days, Deon Hill and B.J. Bostic in the A-back rotation alongside starter Robbie Godhigh.
Finch’s availability, meanwhile, would provide stability and continuity for Tech’s offensive line, which, last Saturday’s loss to Georgia aside, has shown improvement in the second half of the season.
2. It won’t be quite enough of a challenge for Georgia Tech to face a defense ranked second in total defense in FBS and an offense averaging 7.1 yards per play, the second highest rate in the country. The special teams of Florida State, Tech’s opponent in Saturday’s ACC title game, will also be the best that the Yellow Jackets have faced this season.
So says Tech special-teams coordinator David Walkosky.
“There’s no question,” Walkosky said. “You watch them, you see the guys all accomplish their goals in their blocks in what they’re trying to do. They’re all in the right position throughout the play. The other thing is they’re very physical. Their kickoff team, when they run down the field, they’ve got bad intentions.”
Kicker Dustin Hopkins has made 24 of 28 field goals, including 5-for-5 from 50 yards or more. He has 40 touchbacks on 95 kickoffs. The kickoff cover team is ranked first in the ACC with an average opponent start point just shy of the 22-yard line. The Seminoles have returned three punts for touchdowns.
By comparison, Tech is ninth in the ACC in punt net, 11th in kickoff coverage and last in field-goal accuracy. Last Saturday, Tech opened the door for Georgia by allowing Malcolm Mitchell to take the opening kickoff to the Tech 44-yard line. The kickoff and punt return units are both fifth, which is moderately encouraging for Tech, as FSU is 11th in punt net.
“We’ve got to eliminate the bad ones this week in order to win,” Walkosky said.
3. At the ACC media days event in Greensboro, N.C., prior to the season, Tech outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu didn’t spend much time talking with Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel.
“There were a lot of people,” Attaochu said. “But he’s a big dude.”
Manuel, 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, is ranked No. 8 in FBS in passing efficiency, completing 67.4 percent of his passes and throwing 22 touchdown passes. His size and agility makes him tough to bring down either in the pocket or in the open field.
“You’ve got to hit, wrap and give everything you have to bring him down,” said Walkosky, also the defensive line coach. “He’s a big, physical man.”
4. The Ramblin’ Wreck will not lead the team onto the field Saturday, driver Stephen Webber said. ACC spokesman Mike Finn said it is due to Bank of America Stadium policy. Florida State’s Chief Osceola and Renegade will also not take the field. Webber said he’ll still bring the Wreck to Charlotte for fan events and park it outside the Stadium. … Safety Jemea Thomas will wear jersey No. 40 for Tech as part of the team’s season-long tribute to former team captain and linebacker Julian Burnett, who suffered a career-ending neck injury in last season’s Sun Bowl. … Thursday night, the least expensive tickets for the title game were available on ticket re-sale website Stubhub for $2.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog