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Championship Saturday

It has taken a while, but Little Johnny Swofford finally has his championship game. A process that began around seven years ago will culminate Saturday night at Alltel Stadium. There was a false start back in 2000, when Virginia Tech, Miami and Syracuse were joining the ACC until they were not. It took a battle royal of a public expansion battle in 2003 to finally overcome the shrill demand by the Dwarf Dyke of Miami that she name the expansion teams. There was another wait last year; an eleven-team purgatory after Fredo originally got Mary Janed. But, it is finally here. Saturday night, Virginia Tech and Florida State will square off in the First Annual Football Championship Game. Heady stuff, eh?

Little Johnny will be there. So will the usual mass support FSU enjoys even as they use their crayons to scrawl all of those ‘Fire Jeff’ messages on bed sheets. And, despite some very public whining by the loon segment of the Tech fan base that, considering what might have happened thirty months ago, really should shut the hell up, so will quite a few thousand Hokies. Life will be good.

ACC expansion reaches its logical conclusion Saturday night. It seems hard for anybody outside of the western parts of the RTP to conclude that it was not worth it. Considering that by the end of the season the best three teams in the conference were newbies Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College, it also seems hard not to understand that adding some football juice was necessary.

That the ACC got the right flavors of juice also seems obvious. I’m sure the Dwarf Dyke of Miami will wail, “Why didn’t they listen to me and take Syracuse?” Saturday evening as she watches Tech and the Noles a few hundred miles south of an Alltel luxury box. Of course, had the ACC knuckled under to her empire-building, she would be at Alltel this weekend instead of commiserating with girl toy Jan the Man. Nothing succeeds as planned, Donna [okay, A-Line literary types- who wrote that?].

The ACC had to beef up in football. For all of the money expended by existing members and the hiring of fast-talking and moon-promising alumni as coaches, few were confusing ACC football with that fielded by the SEC. Of the eight league teams that will be bowling this year, only two, Clemson and NC State, were among the original seven that gathered at the Pilot house back in the early Fifties to form, for football purposes, what turned out to be a basketball conference. The Hoos were added a year later.

Everybody else, from Georgia Tech to Florida State to Tech and Miami remaining joined at the hip to latecomer Fredo, were added later with the idea of kicking up football. With the exception of the early GT teams, it pretty much worked. It certainly has with the last one, although it is Virginia Tech rather than Miami that has brought the ACC the Hokie Bird’s share of its new football muscle and excitement.

Virginia Tech will be looking to defend its ACC football championship and make it two for two in its new league. It is fairly amusing to contemplate that most every official in the ACC, from Little Johnny on down, will be holding their breath and hoping they do. Relying on Tech to carry the banner of ACC football is probably not what they had in mind a couple of years ago.

If old power Florida State beats new power Virginia Tech Saturday night, there will be much anguish and gnashing of teeth at Grandover as an unranked 8-4 team represents the conference in the BCS. The media will have a field day with that one. Mikey’s chortling from Providence will be plainly audible in Greensboro.

Florida State’s Dave Hart and multi-Tech AD Dave Braine were the two most vocal advocates of the ACC expansion that has led to the championship game. While there is little doubt where Braine’s loyalties lie, one does wonder whom, deep down, Hart really wants to win. That his guys would be lugging a 7-4 record into the inaugural All-the-Marbles game is probably not what he had in mind. Neither was the likelihood that his league would be subjected to much scorn and ridicule should his school win.

Few indeed outside of the FSU fan base and the Bowden family really want the Noles to win this game. That would seem to place the biggest pressure on Frank Beamer to both break his Bowden o-fer and carry league pride into the BCS. Frank’s track record in big games such as this is not stellar; this is high time to tilt it a little more to the positive side.

Tech comes into the ACC showdown somewhere around a fourteen-point favorite. The odds were obviously set by people who did not see the Miami game. It seems just a tad high. Florida State still has a good defense, all recent evidence notwithstanding. It can be expected that Mickey Andrews will deploy that defense in a fashion very similar to that shown by the Canes. MVToo will need to react to it just a bit better than he did against the ACC’s other Florida team.

The odds are somewhat lower than the point spread that Tech will wear down the deep FSU defense as easily as they did the Hoos and Heels their last two outings. The ‘Gentry Factor’ might not be as pronounced.

Defensively, Bud’s crew had best be prepared for most anything. The main gripe against Baby Bowden has been that his offense lacks ‘imagination,’ whatever that means. That will probably not be a problem Saturday night. Every page of the FSU playbook will likely be utilized and Jeff will employ every gadget and gimmick play he can come up with.

Tech is indeed favored and on paper looks like the better team, which means nothing. The game still has to be played. Tech can and perhaps should win, but it will take an effort closer to the First Half one against the Hoos than was seen during the same time frame last week versus the Heels. FSU will probably not be as easily manhandled in the Second Half as was Carolina.

There will be a little extra incentive for Frank Beamer, namely long green. He already has whatever bonus is attached to winning his second straight ACC Coach of the Year award. The couple of hundred extra thou in the pay envelope for winning another conference championship still has to be earned. If Frank cops it that will mean a crisp $20 bill for the staff to divide up, since, as Frank keeps proclaiming as he rakes in the loot, it’s all about them. Yep.

ACC and Alltel officials still talk bravely of a sold-out stadium. That might not happen. The FSU fans snapped up all of their allotment plus a few thousand more. That perhaps won’t be the case with Tech. It is a little tougher when you don’t have three weeks to make travel arrangements, or can simply make a day trip of the game.

It has been a bit trickier for the Tech fans, which didn’t know for sure the Hokies would be playing until the Tar Heels were bludgeoned into submission last Saturday night. The snap travel arrangements that have had to be made, or not made by many, points out the difficulties to be found in any DI-A playoff. Travel plans having to be made on the spur of the moment tend to lead to empty seats. Let’s hope the Weauxf Gods are not paying attention to those passing on this game but are planning to attend the Orange Bowl next month.

Travel difficulties notwithstanding, there will be a large number of Hokies in attendance in Jacksonville Saturday night. Including this one. Which reminds me: I have to finish packing, or, more specifically, start. It’s almost time to go.

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