Demon Deacons and Yellow Jackets Battle for The ACC Title Today
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Georgia Tech clinched its previous two ACC titles in games against Wake Forest. In Saturday’s meeting, the Yellow Jackets aren’t the only ones who can claim the crown.
A preseason pick to finish last in their division, the 16th-ranked Demon Deacons seek their first league championship in 36 years as they face No. 23 Georgia Tech in the ACC title game with an Orange Bowl berth at stake.
“It’s something that probably will happen once in a lifetime, so you definitely have to live up the moment,” Wake Forest running back Kenneth Moore said.
This conference’s second championship game, being held at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., pits two teams who were not expected to be vying for a BCS bowl berth when the season started.
While powerhouses Florida State and Miami had disappointing seasons, Wake Forest (10-2, 6-2) won the Atlantic Division with a 38-24 victory over Maryland last Saturday and Georgia Tech (9-3, 7-1) edged out Virginia Tech to win the Coastal Division.
The Yellow Jackets won the outright conference title in 1990 with a 42-7 win over Wake Forest, eight years before beating the Demon Deacons 65-35 to claim a share of the crown with Florida State. In both seasons, Wake Forest was below .500 in the conference.
The Deacons finished with a losing record each of the past three seasons as well, and many prognosticators believed they would end up with a fourth straight in 2006. Instead, Wake recorded the winningest season in school history.
“We’re happy to be in the position that we’re at, but I don’t think we’re satisfied,” Deacons offensive tackle Steve Vallos said.
Wake’s only ACC championship came in 1970.
The Yellow Jackets have dominated this all-time series, winning 20 of 27 meetings, but they know this Demon Deacons team is much different.
“From what I’ve seen them play, from the little bit of film, they seem to be a well-coached team,” Georgia Tech offensive tackle Andrew Gardner said. “They don’t make a lot of mistakes. They’re real disciplined. They play real hard.”
Wake’s season has been that much more impressive considering it lost starting quarterback Ben Mauk and running back Micah Andrews to injuries early in the season.
“As we’ve gone through the season, we’ve had enough wins now that our players certainly feel like it’s a special year,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. “But our players are starting to realize that if we play good and practice well during the week, we’re not a bad football team.”
The biggest challenge for Grobe’s team this week could be slowing down Tech star wideout Calvin Johnson, who leads the ACC with 899 receiving yards and 13 touchdown receptions.
The 6-foot-5 junior was not much of a factor last week as the Yellow Jackets lost 15-12 to archrival Georgia. However, Johnson now faces a Wake Forest defense which has the second-worst pass defense in the ACC, allowing 214.4 yards per game.
That could bode well for struggling Tech quarterback Reggie Ball, who has thrown for only 242 yards with three TDs and four interceptions over the past three games. Ball went 6-of-22 for 42 yards with two interceptions against Georgia, and rushed 11 times for minus-10 yards.
“Reggie is our guy,” said Tech center Kevin Tuminello. “He’s one of the best competitors I know of. I wouldn’t have anybody else underneath me. He’s our guy.”
One member of the Yellow Jackets offense that has not been struggling is running back Tashard Choice, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in five straight games.
The ACC’s leading rusher said the Yellow Jackets must quickly find a way to regroup for this contest after losing to Georgia for a sixth straight year.
“It’s going to have to be done for the fact that it’s everything we work for,” Choice said. “It’s a different type ballgame than a rivalry game. It’s a game you can get a ring for.”
Wake Forest usually relies on the running game, averaging 158.1 yards on the ground while ranking last in the ACC with 143.9 passing yards per contest. The Deacons spread the ball around, however, and not one Deacons player has rushed for more than 400 yards.
In two conference losses, Wake was held to a total of 93 yards on 63 carries. The team rushed for at least 140 yards in all six of its league wins.
Georgia Tech has won eight of the last 10 meetings, including a 30-17 victory last season as Ball threw for two touchdowns and ran for one. Johnson had four catches for 98 yards and a score.
by: Anthony White – theSpread.com – Email Us
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