- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2008

ATLANTA | Georgia Tech has two important games Saturday.

The one between the hedges - and the one in Blacksburg, Va.

The 18th-ranked Yellow Jackets (8-3, 5-3 ACC) will travel to Athens to face their most bitter rival in a contest that is mainly about state pride. No. 13 Georgia (9-2, 6-2 SEC) has won seven straight in the series - one shy of the longest streak by either school - and Georgia Tech is eager to pick up its first win over the Bulldogs since 2000.

That said, another game actually will have more impact on the Yellow Jackets’ immediate future. If Virginia wins on the road against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech clinches a spot in the ACC Championship game Dec. 6, no matter what happens in its own game.

Yes, the Yellow Jackets could get blown out 50-0, and they would still have reason to celebrate if the Hokies also lose.

There is a potential stumbling block.

Georgia Tech knows how much it would mean - from the administrators to the alumni to the student body - to beat the Bulldogs, but the players and coaches surely will have a hard time avoiding updates coming in from the other game; both kick off at noon.

Scoring updates are posted frequently on the Sanford Stadium scoreboard and likely will be made routinely on the public address system. Would the Yellow Jackets get a boost from hearing that Virginia is winning? Would they be in danger of a letdown if the Cavaliers are losing?

“You definitely have to be disciplined,” defensive tackle Darryl Richard said. “Now, you won’t ignore it if the PA announcer comes on and tell you the score. It’ll be like, ‘OK, that’s what is going on.’ But the focus should be on our football game and winning our game. If we do what we’ve got to do, we feel pretty confident.”

Indeed, after beating Miami last Thursday night, the Yellow Jackets hit two parts of the season-ending trifecta that would give them the ACC’s Coastal Division championship: North Carolina and Virginia both lost Saturday, eliminating them from the convoluted race.

Now, Georgia Tech needs one more piece to the puzzle - a loss by the Hokies. If that happens, Miami would be the only other Coastal team that can match the Yellow Jackets’ 5-3 mark in conference play, and the Hurricanes would lose the tiebreaker because of their 41-23 defeat in Atlanta.

“If Virginia wins, that’s great,” running back Jonathan Dwyer said. “That puts us in the ACC Championship game, which is where we want to be. But that’s not where our focus needs to be. Our focus needs to be on getting ready for Georgia. It is.”

Coach Paul Johnson shrugged off the mere suggestion that he will be keeping an eye on the score in Blacksburg, saying he’s more focused on calling offensive plays for the Yellow Jackets.

“I’ll be a little occupied during that game,” he scoffed. “I haven’t thought about it a whole lot this week. It’s going to be what it’s going to be. I learned a long time ago not to worry about things you can’t control. Would we like a chance to play in the championship game? Sure. But we’re finished [with the ACC schedule]. We accomplished all we can accomplish. Whatever happens, happens.”

Johnson sees no need to pass along that message to his players, either.

“I haven’t thought twice about it,” he said. “I think this game has enough importance and enough meaning to our guys. I really doubt their minds will be anywhere else. If they are, we’re going to be in a world of trouble. But I think our guys are smart enough to focus on the task at hand.”



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