Tech to play for ACC title

Jon Barash

In a surprising turn of events, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will be playing for the ACC championship after Miami self-imposed a postseason ban for the second straight season, giving the Jackets the ACC Coastal Division title. The University of Miami made the decision in wake of the NCAA investigation of allegations that former Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro provided improper benefits to dozens of Miami players with school officials and coaches having knowledge of the situation. By self-imposing a postseason ban, the school hopes to lessen any potential sanctions handed down by the NCAA after the investigation is complete. If the Hurricanes were to beat Duke on Saturday, they would have tied Tech for the Coastal Division lead at 5-3, but with the decision to forego a shot at the postseason, Georgia Tech will be headed back to the ACC championship game for the first time since 2009, when they defeated Clemson. That victory, however, has since been vacated due to the result of the Jackets’ own NCAA investigation that the team provided improper benefits to a player.

The Jackets’ return to the title game completes a remarkable turnaround of a season that saw a three-game losing streak, including a blowout loss to Middle Tennessee at Bobby Dodd Stadium and the firing of former defensive coordinator Al Groh. Despite a 6-5 record, the Jackets have won their past three games, averaging 47 points per game, with a 42-24 win over Duke this past Saturday ultimately clinching the ACC Coastal Division title. Awaiting the Jackets will be the Florida State Seminoles, who are ranked No. 10 in the BCS standings with a 10-1 record, including a 7-1 conference record. Tech’s high-octane offense will have a tough task against a Seminole defense that has surrendered just 13 points per game. The Jackets’ defense, which has not been the team’s strongpoint throughout the season, will need to find a way to contain Seminoles’ quarterback E.J. Manual, who has passed for career highs in both yards and touchdowns. FSU also has a strong rushing attack led by Chris Thompson, Devonta Freeman, and James Wilder Jr., who have accounted for over 1,700 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns combined. With the rushing game serving as the Jackets’ strength, Paul Johnson’s squad may need to resort to utilizing the pass if Tevin Washington is unable to orchestrate the triple-option attack successfully against the Florida State line. Washington did pass for three touchdowns and 102 yards in the victory over the Blue Devils on Saturday.

Prior to the Dec. 1 matchup, however, are rivalry games for both teams this Saturday as the Seminoles take on Florida and the Jackets face Georgia. The Gators and Bulldogs are both playing the games with aspirations of a national championship game berth, while Florida State and Georgia Tech are both looking to play spoiler. With a shot at the Orange Bowl on the line in the ACC title game, the Jackets are attempting to complete one of the most remarkable turnarounds in recent memory and find themselves in a BCS bowl.

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