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."
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.