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Sports Today for Dec. 12, 2013

SoVaNow.com / December 12, 2013
Atlantic Coast Conference football continues an impressive winning streak.

In many ways, the conference took a step forward when ACC Commissioner John Swofford crafted that grant-of-rights agreement, preventing flight by any of the league members for richer playing fields like the SEC.

Swofford’s diplomacy meant that any departures also meant the loss of TV money for potential escapees, guaranteeing important stability for the league during the life of the new agreement.

The league lost Maryland, which is playing out one final season in the ACC for Louisville. Advantage ACC, especially in men’s basketball, since Louisville currently reigns as the national champion and the overall statue of Rick Pitino’s program.

A couple of seasons ago, the ACC was treading water and taking potshots from around the nation for its mediocre football. Turn the page to this week, and the ACC is in the national title game, (No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn, in a clean resolution to the final BCS, for the national title Jan. 6). FSU quarterback Jameis Winston appears to be the runaway favorite for the Heisman. The ACC has 11 bowl matchups, including two teams in the final BCS derby. Clemson will meet Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, resurgent Duke gets Texas A&M in the New Year’s Eve Chick-fil-A in Atlanta; Miami gets to stay in-state for its meeting with Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando; and Virginia Tech travels to the nation’s third-oldest bowl, the Sun Bowl, on Ne Year’s Eve.

Georgia Tech will meet Mississippi in the Music City Bowl in Nashville. The Belk Bowl, which usually seems to get the kind of matchup it wants, landed a North Carolina-Cincinnati meeting for its Dec. 28 showdown in Charlotte, N.C.

Boston College meets Arizona in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, La.; Maryland takes a short drive for the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md., to meet Marshall; Pitt faces Bowling Green in the Little Caesars Pizza bowl at Detroit; and Syracuse gets Minnesota in the Texas Bowl at Houston, Texas.

n Jimbo Fisher, FSU’s head man, and his Auburn counterpart, Gus Malzahn, talked recently about the upcoming national title game.

Fisher and his staff deserve credit for assembling an athletic, physical football team with talent throughout the lineup. The ‘Noles are browbeating the opposition with a margin of victory of 42 points per game. Duke played reasonably well in the first period, but then got slammed by an FSU deluge in Saturday’s ACC title game.

“We’re very honored to be here and representing the ACC and very excited about playing in the Rose Bowl National Championship and the BCS National Championship. Our kids are really looking forward to the opportunity, and it’s been a tremendous season for us. We’ve got a tremendous group of players and coaches that have worked very hard and fans that have supported us, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to play a great Auburn team from the SEC and should be an outstanding ballgame, and looking forward to it. Never been to the Rose Bowl, so we’re really looking forward to coming out that way,” Fisher said.

Malazahn noted of the No. 2 BCS-ranked Tigers, who shocked then no. 1 Alabama and then won the SEC title, “This team has gotten better each week, and they’re playing their best football at the end of the year. It’s exciting to win the SEC championship (against Missouri Saturday). We’re looking forward to playing a great Florida State team in the National Championship game, and it ought to be a good one.”

One of the major issues, is how these teams handle a month-long layoff.

“Well, I think you have to - you put things and prioritize things and have a system and a process about how you want to get to where you’re playing well again. It’s almost like you’re back in two days. You have to rest and heal up and then you have to get the right preparation and the right amount of time on the game plan. But it is a very challenging thing. It’s the one thing about bowl games that is very unique because at the end of the year, you have 30 days left. That is the unique challenge of bowl preparation. We feel like we have a good system in which we can get our guys ready, and time will tell,” said Fisher.

Auburn is one of the inspirational stories of a seriously entertaining, often unpredictable college football season. FSU put it in overdrive with a stout performance at Clemson and has kept it in ramming speed mode the rest of the way. But that Auburn running game represents a challenge for the Noles.

“Well, I think they’re doing a tremendous job. Gus does a tremendous job, because like I say they can handle on the speed sweep, they outflank you, they have great receivers and motion guys that way, they can run the ball inside with great power and the quarterback can run it and play action off of it, which is like a four-headed monster; you talk about a three-headed monster, they have a four-headed monster and they have an excellent offensive line. But no, the productivity is amazing what they’ve been able to do and we all know that the SEC is an outstanding league and they play great football, and what Gus has done is really amazing, and they’ll be a tremendous challenge for our team,” Fisher said.

n FSU quarterback Jameis Winston emerged as the most valuable player in the ACC title game, and now he’s one of six finalists for college football’s most prestigious award, the Heisman.

“I think when you talk about Heisman you talk about great players. I define great players like this - it’s a great performance over a long period of time and the consistency which you play with, and I think the thing that he has done from start to finish, he’s been consistent throughout the year. Big games. Big situations. And accounted - whether it was the first game of the year which we were on TV outstanding to the last game and led us to a championship, and to me is the mark - when you talk about Heisman Trophy winners, how do they affect your teammates? How does he positive(ly lead FSU)? - he does that in a tremendous way, give us great confidence and not only on offense, but on defense too. “Our defensive players - I don’t know if anybody in America has done that more so than he has, not only played well, performed well, but affected the performance of his team on a week in week out basis by how they play, how they prepare and the results of which they’ve gotten. So from that standpoint I think Jameis is definitely out in front of that category,” Fisher said.

The finalists for the 79th Heisman Memorial Trophy are Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Auburn running back Tre Mason, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Boston College running back Andre Williams, and Winston.

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