Stakes are big in Thursday night tussle

Stakes are big in Thursday night tussle

Football

Stakes are big in Thursday night tussle

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By Will Vandervort

CLEMSON — Tonight’s Atlantic Coast Conference showdown between Florida State and Virginia Tech will go a long way in deciding the Atlantic Division representative in next month’s ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, N.C.

The sixth-ranked Seminoles come in as a 13-point favorite over host Virginia Tech, but if the Hokies are able to pull off an upset then No. 8 Clemson will be in control of its own destiny as it hopes to repeat as ACC Champions for the first time since it won three in a row from 1986-’88.

Florida State (8-1, 5-1 ACC) needs a win tonight plus a victory next Saturday at home against Maryland to claim its second divisional title in the last three seasons. The Tigers need a Virginia Tech win tonight, plus wins over Maryland on Saturday and NC State on Nov. 17 to win the Atlantic Division.

“If Florida State beats Virginia Tech on Thursday night, nothing changes for Clemson,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We’ve got a game to win. We’re trying to be the best that we can be. That’s not going to change, regardless of what’s happening Thursday night. If it does, then you’re never going to be consistent like you need to be.”

Bowl streak in jeopardy. The Hokies (4-5, 2-3) desperately need a win tonight to keep its postseason bowl hopes alive. Virginia Tech has to win two of its remaining three games to become bowl eligible.

The Hokies, along with Georgia Tech, are in jeopardy of ending a longtime bowl streak.

“I think our practices have been good and our players have realized what a challenge we have on Thursday night and we have their attention toward that and that’s what we need to be looking at right now,” Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said.

Virginia Tech has appeared in 19 straight bowl games, the nation’s third-longest streak, followed by Georgia Tech’s string of 15. Only Florida State (30) and Florida (21) have longer active streaks.

Right now, the ACC has only three teams qualified for bowl games, Clemson, Florida State and Duke (6-4).  Wake Forest (5-4) and NC State (5-4) need one win to become bowl eligible.

Homecoming record. Saturday will be Homecoming for Clemson (8-1, 5-1) when it host Maryland for a 3:32 p.m. kickoff. Historically, this game has been a celebration that has included a Clemson victory 76 percent of the time.

Since 1922, when the Tigers had their first one, Clemson has posted a 65-20-3 record. To top that off, since 1971, the Tigers have posted a record of 35-4-2 mark on Homecoming, a win percentage of 88 percent.

Clemson has won nine of its last 10 Homecoming games. Miami ended an eight-game win streak on Homecoming in 2010.

The Tigers are 5-2 all-time against Maryland on Homecoming. The last time the Terps played Clemson on Homecoming for Clemson, the Tigers won 35-14 in 2000.

Miami in front. The Miami Hurricanes are in first place in the Coastal Division as they head to Virginia this Saturday at noon. If the Hurricanes get past Virginia and Duke, it will mark the first time they have advanced to the ACC Title game since joining the conference in 2004.

But Miami head coach Al Golden says the Hurricanes can’t think like that.

“This is where you’re disciplined, and your habits and your process either holds up or cracks,” he said. “We’re trying to teach them how to make it so habitual, so disciplined and ingrained, that it can withstand anything.

“For us to want to go where we want to go in the coming years, this is the first step for us. It’s really important to stay focused on UVa and block everything else out.”

Yellow Jackets are still alive. Georgia Tech, despite a 3-3 record in the ACC, has an outside chance to play for an ACC Championship. The Yellow Jackets (4-5) of course need to win their last two ACC games, while also needing a little help from Virginia and Virginia Tech along the way.

If Georgia Tech beats North Carolina (6-3, 3-2) this Saturday (12:30 pm) at Keenan Stadium, Duke next weekend, and the Cavaliers take down both Miami and Virginia Tech in the coming weeks than the Yellow Jackets are in. That’s not something anyone thought would be imaginable a few weeks back.

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