robert-godhigh-karlos-williams-ncaa-football-acc-championship-florida-state-vs-georgia-tech-850x560

The stars are aligning perfectly for Georgia Tech to upset defending national champion Florida State in the ACC Championship game one week from Saturday in Charlotte.

Florida State’s remarkable run of consecutive victories will come to an end in the Queen City, most likely ending any chance for an ACC team to be a part of the four-team national college football playoff (although back-to-back wins over Georgia and FSU would actually put Tech into the conversation).

Does Florida State have more 5-star recruits than Georgia Tech? No question. More future NFL players? Probably. But, so did Clemson, which Georgia Tech throttled last week.

Here are the reasons why, in my opinion, Tech coach Paul Johnson will be accepting the championship trophy from ACC commissioner John Swofford on the evening of December 6th:

1. Never fear, Underdog is here. Georgia Tech has historically played its best football when no one gives the Yellow Jackets a chance to win. Heading into this game, there will be more conversation about where Florida State should be ranked in the College Football Playoff poll, NOT whether FSU can beat Georgia Tech.

2. The stage is not too big. Two years ago in the same stadium, the same two teams met for the ACC title, and many of those Yellow Jackets will be playing key roles in this year’s championship game. Tech won’t be intimidated by Florida State. After narrow victories over Boston College, Clemson and Notre Dame, among others, there are too many chinks in the FSU armor to be in awe. Plus, I’m not sure there’s a more confident football team right now than the Yellow Jackets, who haven’t lost in a month, and seem to be getting better as the season progresses.

3. It’s not the same Jameis. Let’s be clear, even on a bad ankle Jameis Winston is one of the best quarterbacks in college football. But that ankle is clearly bothering him and it showed against Boston College this week. More than that, though, this is not the same fun-loving Winston we saw last year. It’s not the same guy who always had a smile on his face as FSU whipped foe after foe. Perhaps the negative attention he’s received all season is wearing on him, or maybe he’s fatigued from carrying a team that waits until the fourth quarter to play above the level of competition, but something is different about him this year.

4. For one night, Tech will be “America’s Team.” Don’t underestimate the power of having an entire nation of college football fans — well, at least those outside of Tallahassee — sending positive vibes to the Yellow Jackets. Florida State has become the nation’s most-hated team — in part because of their on-going remarkable success, in part because there’s a perception the star quarterback is allowed to do whatever he pleases off the field, and maybe because even Seth Greenberg thinks head coach Jimbo Fisher complains about committees too much.

5. Watch the knees, boys. Let’s get this out of the way. Georgia Tech’s cut-blocking (blocking below the waist, usually at knee-level) is legal, every team employs it to some extent, and there has never been any data proving cut-blocking causes more injuries than traditional blocking. Yet, linebackers and defensive backs in the ACC despise preparing for Georgia Tech. Your head has to be on a swivel, constantly looking for Tech A-backs diving at your ankles, like 190-pound gnats.

Florida State, meanwhile, has a roster full of guys who will eventually play on Sundays. Many will be playing their next-to-last college football game December 6th. Sure, they want to win a title, but they just want to get to the finish line in one healthy piece. The last team on the planet Florida State wants to play is Georgia Tech.

Meanwhile, the team Georgia Tech wants to play more than any other is Florida State.

Make that “undefeated” Florida State. Should the Seminoles get knocked off by Florida on Saturday — and that’s possible because we’ve been told by ESPN that every team in the SEC could win the NFC South — then that would change the dynamics of the ACC championship game.

One of the most overblown storylines next week will be about Florida State defensive coordinator and all-around great guy Charles Kelly, who previously worked five seasons under Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech. Much will be written about Kelly’s familiarity with the Yellow Jacket offense, but I don’t consider it a huge factor because Tech and Johnson are equally familiar with Kelly.

Given the potential impact on the inaugural college football playoff, combined with Florida State’s propensity to live on the edge, this year’s ACC Championship has the makings of an Instant Classic.

Georgia Tech wins a thriller.

This story I wrote appeared on the Georgia Southern athletic department website.

GSFB_Jackson_8-30-14-ff

By Dean Buchan

When Georgia Southern’s Edwin Jackson picked off a pass in the fourth quarter of a 28-6 win at South Alabama earlier this season, there wasn’t a spit second when senior linebacker allowed himself to think of the play’s significance before being hauled down at the 12-yard line, a 48-yard return.

The play, which foiled any thought of a late South Alabama rally, was significant for many reasons. It was the first interception of Jackson’s remarkable walk-on-to-star-performer career and it secured the first FBS conference victory in Georgia Southern history. In some regards, Jackson’s INT may have symbolized the team’s official arrival as a legitimate player on the FBS level.

“When I first caught the ball,” Jackson said, “I thought, ‘This is really happening.’ But I didn’t think about the significance of it all. It didn’t hit me until a day or two later.

“I do remember seeing my teammates on the sideline. I saw how happy they were. That’s what I remember.”

And that is Edwin Jackson in a nutshell. Even when he owned center stage, he thought of others.

Growing up in a home where he was one of 10 children – Edwin is the fourth-youngest of the group — lends itself to being unselfish. His parents, Wesley, Sr., and Mary Ellen’s strict, but loving, environment helped make sure of it.

“My family is very close,” said Jackson, who attended Atlanta’s Westlake High School. “I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have such a big, close family.”

The Jackson 12 squeezed cozily into their modest four-bedroom house in southwest Atlanta.

“It was a great experience,” Jackson said of his childhood. “Every one of us knew our role. My older brothers had to look over us.”

One of those older brothers, Adam, the second-oldest of 10, has a different perspective.

“Of course Edwin says it was a great experience,” Adam said with a laugh. “He was one of the younger ones, so it was all fun and games for him, maybe not for the older kids.”

The family – with the likely exception of older sister Michelle, who lives in Oregon – will all be at the Georgia Dome Saturday when Jackson and the Eagles play Georgia State. A count of family and friends at the game to support Jackson will spill over the 100 mark.

Saturday’s game marks the Eagles’ second trip to Atlanta this fall. Earlier this season, Southern lost a 42-38 heart-breaker at Georgia Tech.

Playing two games in two of Atlanta’s most famous sports facilities is not something Jackson could have envisioned five years ago when he first came to Georgia Southern.

Jackson had no idea he would be a part of a football program that would make the jump from FCS to FBS. He didn’t know that he would play for two different head coaches and two defensive coordinators.

Jackson didn’t know he would be playing college football, period.

Even though he was a three-year captain at Westlake, he wasn’t highly recruited. Heights, weights, 40-yard dash times are evaluated for college prospects. While Jackson’s other measurables might have been average, the size of his heart was far from it.

At the urging of Adam, Jackson decided to attend Georgia Southern, even though there was no offer of a scholarship.

“I was aware of the (football) tradition here,” Edwin said. “I look up to my brother (Adam) a lot, and he told me, ‘This is the school for you.'”

Adam, who played basketball at Albany State, saw something in his little brother that the college scouts may have overlooked.

“I know what a Division I athlete looks like,” Adam said. “I knew he deserved more attention than what he was receiving.”

Jackson and Georgia Southern have proved to be a perfect fit, although the marriage didn’t come without hard work.

First, Jackson earned a spot on the roster as a walk-on and toiled on the scout team for 2.5 years before working his way on to the two-deep. Last year he emerged as one of Georgia Southern’s top defenders, started in every game and was the team’s leading tackler. This season, his last as a collegian, he has developed into one of the premier linebackers in the Sun Belt Conference.

He has witnessed firsthand Georgia Southern’s transition from being one of the most successful, tradition-rich FCS programs to competition in the bigger FBS arena. The transition to FBS began last season, a year of limbo stuck in between the Southern and Sun Belt Conferences, ineligible for either league’s championship, the playoffs or a bowl game.

Jackson helped make sure that the 2013 season didn’t just go quietly into the night. The Eagles closed the season with a memorable 26-20 victory in “The Swamp” against the Florida Gators.

Jackson remembers the week of the Florida game vividly.

“That entire week the team just came together,” Jackson said. “The student body came together. The community came together. When we got down (to Gainesville) you could just feel it was the perfect moment to do what we did.

“On defense, we love one another. We knew we weren’t as big as an SEC team, but we felt like we were quicker. Faster. And I think we wanted it more than them. It was our bowl game. It was our Super Bowl.”
Jackson, the top tackler in that epic win, stepped off the field and said to those nearby, “that just happened!” making the statement for himself and for the program.

The celebration following the win over Florida continued for most GSU faithful through Thanksgiving. For Jackson, however, there wasn’t much time to party. He was already thinking about a way to share his passion for the sport of football with others.

Jackson knew that he wanted to spend part of the Christmas holiday on a trip. He knew he wanted to go somewhere his Spanish minor might come into play (he’s an international trade major who is on track to graduate in December). He knew he wanted to go to a place he could help others.

“Don’t just take a trip,” Adam told him. “Think about doing something outside the box. Do something different.”

You want outside the box, you got it, Mister.

Jackson teamed with his friend, former Eagles’ soccer player Chris Claxton and Claxton’s family, and formulated a plan to put on a clinic in the Claxton family’s native Costa Rica, where Jackson would teach local children the game of American football. The plan moved quickly from dream to reality with Jackson organizing the logistics for the clinic during Georgia Southern’s Christmas break.

Jackson wants to develop this initial idea into a non-profit program, Global Gridiron, to share his love of football with underprivileged children. Despite transportation woes and equipment shortages in Costa Rica, the trip was, according to Jackson, an overwhelming success.

It’s just not clear, however, who benefited the most – the children or Jackson. The children were entranced by the game Jackson taught them, by the football drills they learned, and absorbed the healthy lifestyle lessons Jackson taught. To them, he was bigger than life.

“People there are going through things I can’t even imagine,” Jackson said. “Kids are having to take care of siblings, cook and provide for their families.

“What I got out of the trip is that I am blessed that I have the power to give back to people, and I am blessed to have an older brother like I have.”

The moments of celebration, of success, and gratitude came with a price. Jackson’s time on the Eagles’ scout team made him appreciate his opportunities, his invitation to preseason camp, and the hard days of preparing Georgia Southern’s starters for their upcoming opponent.

His tenacity and toughness were forged by his family, too, where his older brothers taught some painful lessons. When Jackson was just a little tyke, he played the older, bigger, stronger Adam in a one-on-one basketball game in the Jackson driveway.

“We had a five-foot goal set up at one end of the driveway,” Edwin said. “I got the ball and dribbled towards the goal. When I put up the shot, Adam blocked it. He didn’t just block it — he swatted it over the roof of the house.”

Jackson ran away, tears running down his cheeks.

“Edwin was really little when that happened – like 3 or 4 years old – and I was a teenager,” Adam said. “But I never gave him any slack. I tried to make him tougher.”

One of many lessons Adam has given his younger sibling. And one Jackson never forgot.

“Adam has never let me be average,” Jackson said.

Adam’s lifelong influence on Edwin helped steer him to Georgia Southern. Jackson’s hard work and  determination, with encouragement from Adam, pushed him from being a walk-on to Eagles’ defensive leader.   On Saturday, Jackson will be playing for and thousands of Eagle fans, but most importantly, for his family and friends who never let him settle for being average.

1997 - LaFrentz-Vaughn - Wooden Award, LA

The 1997 John R. Wooden Award ceremony in Los Angeles, that’s 6-11 Raef LaFrentz and current Orlando Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn with the vertically challenged guy.

Why am I wearing a brown suit to a black tie affair? I was an SID — I couldn’t afford to rent one. Besides, the brown suit was free, compliments of the old Kuppenheimer Classic held annually in Atlanta.

That 1996-97 Kansas team was outstanding, going 34-2, losing only at Missouri (in double-overtime) and to Arizona in the Sweet 16. Working with guys like Raef, Jacque and the others made that year special for me.

Happy Throwback Thursday everyone.

Georgia Tech Virginia Tech Football

There’s a scene in ‘Remember The Titans’ when Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass comes off the bench to play quarterback for the first time. It took just a couple of plays before Doc — Denzel Washington’s assistant coach — proclaimed: “We got ourselves a football player!”

That’s the scene that popped into my head on Saturday when I watched sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas calmly complete a 4th-and-forever pass to DeAndre Smelter late in the 27-24 win at Virginia Tech. If Thomas failed to complete that pass — game over. We’d be talking about Georgia Tech’s fifth consecutive loss to the Hokies. Instead, we’re talking about the Yellow Jackets sitting on top of the ACC Coastal Division standings.

Everyone knew Thomas had talent and athleticism. What no one could know — maybe not even head coach Paul Johnson — was that Thomas may have the toughness and late-game moxie of a Joshua Nesbitt to go with the respect Tevin Washington received from his teammates.

Even his very capable back-up, junior Tim Bylerly, seemed impressed with Thomas’ calmness in crunch time. Late in a come-from-behind victory over Georgia Southern, Thomas confidently told Byerly on the sidelines, “I got this.”

“He’s a gamer; I can’t say enough good things about him,” Johnson said of Thomas after the win in Lane Stadium on Saturday. “Did he play perfectly? No. But he makes plays. He’s not afraid of the moment. He likes the moment. We need to get some more guys who get into that.”

Thomas isn’t the only gamer. Senior B-back (fullback) Zach Laskey is as dependable and as hard-nosed as they come. Senior Shaq Mason is one of the top o-linemen in the nation. And senior wide receiver DeAndre Smelter — how did he get so wide open in Blacksburg? — has emerged as a future NFL-er.

sadturkey_0  Smelter makes turkeys sad.

And what the defense has done under coordinator Ted Roof is remarkable. Remember, Roof lost Tech’s all-time leading pass-rusher in Jeremiah Attaochu. Attaochu’s replacement, Jabari Hunt-Days, became an academic casualty. Hunt-Days’ back-up, Kenderius Whitehead, didn’t gain eligibility either.

But the key, in my opinion, is Thomas, who is beginning to remind me of talented Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds. As Thomas gets more proficient and gains more confidence, the offense will only get better.

When Johnson’s offense works, it’s like watching the San Antonio Spurs cut up NBA opponents. A few naysayers may find it boring, but when it works, it’s a beautiful thing to watch unfold.

Most of the experts predicted Georgia Tech to win six to seven games this season and finish fifth or sixth in the ACC’s Coastal Division. I told you back in July that the Yellow Jackets would be better than that.

Georgia Tech’s 4-0 start has given Yellow Jacket faithful a license to dream a little. In the conference where Duke and Wake Forest have played in league championship games, why not Georgia Tech in 2014?

Regardless of what happens the rest of the season, Jacket fans can take comfort in that they’ve got their quarterback for the next 2.5 years.

You see some unusual things in the Metro Atlanta real estate world. Here’s a few of my photos for the week (September 6-12)..

I call this the "lonely throne" bathroom. The tub, inexplicably, is missing.

I call this the “lonely throne” bathroom. The tub, inexplicably, is missing. Saw this home in Midtown Friday afternoon.

My clients have a puppy -- a Lab named Cotton -- so naturally I insisted the pup ride along with me. He didn't offer to fill my gas tank, however.

My clients have a puppy — a Lab named Cotton — so naturally I insisted the pup ride along with me. He didn’t offer to fill my gas tank, however.

I don't even know what to say about this house, except that it is listed for $300,000. Seriously. The only reason my clients even stopped was so that I could take a photo.

I don’t even know what to say about this house, except that it is listed for $300,000. Seriously. The only reason my clients even stopped was so that I could take a photo.

After looking at a home in Smyrna, these turkeys chased our car. Look, I like a little Wild Turkey, but this isn't helping me find a house for my clients.

After looking at a home in Smyrna, these turkeys chased our car. Look, I like a little Wild Turkey, but this isn’t helping me find a house for my clients.

Hawks

 

I wish Atlanta Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson would have asked me my opinion on how to fill Philips Arena before his well-documented racially-insensitive comments cost him his position.

For the next owner, I offer my unsolicited ideas, free of charge. You’re welcome Atlanta.

First, some disclosure is in order. A couple years ago I interviewed for a communications job with the Hawks. I was not offered the job, but I was honored just to interview and it couldn’t have been possible to walk away more impressed with Danny Ferry and Rick Sund. First class guys.

Secondly, while this particular blog is light-hearted, I understand the seriousness of comments by Levenson and Ferry.

Back to your regularly scheduled, less-serious blog.

Here’s eight ways the Hawks can have a full, lively, and dare I say diverse crowd every night.

  1. Win. Win games on a consistent basis and fans from every corner of planet diversity will come.
  1. Have a roster full of players who embrace the city of Atlanta. I think Ferry was/is on his way to achieving this by getting rid of some knuckleheads who seemed more concerned about the size of their paychecks than the size of the crowd. They still have a ways to go in this department.

When I say “embrace” Atlanta, I’m not talking about being seen in bars. Let’s see Jeff Teague run in the Peachtree Road Race or Al Horford at Turner Field taking in a Braves game. Let’s see Kyle Korver at a Georgia Tech football game or Paul Millsap at the Fox Theater.

  1. Win. I’m not talking about winning 45 regular season games, either.
  1. Quit being so hung-up on the fans cheering for the visiting team. Get over it. Have you been to a Braves-Cubs game?
  1. Win so much that those Lakers and Celtics fans, in time, convert into Hawks fans.
  1. Have the cheerleaders give complimentary shoulder rubs. Check that. Have the cheerleaders give ME shoulder rubs.
  1. Win playoff games. Lots of ‘em.
  1. Continue the terrific in-game atmosphere.

I admit that I attended just one home game last season, but I took a date who cares nothing about basketball and three boys between the ages of 7 and 11 who have the collective attention of a gnat. They were ALL entertained the entire time and left bigger Hawks fans.

With all that’s transpired in Hawksland over the last few days, they have far bigger concerns than employing my marketing ideas.

But remember: Just win, baby.

I watched college football 13 consecutive hours last Saturday, not to mention a few hours Thursday, Friday and Sunday nights. That fact, combined that my blog has no editor, means that I can ramble on about Week One of college football.

Let’s begin in Athens.

 

Simma Down Now

Georgia fans are partying like it’s 1980.

Bulldog faithful, following a season-opening 45-21 win over Clemson, are convinced this is THE year.  They’ve already used a Sharpie on their four-team college football playoff bracket. They’ve reserving a spot for Todd Gurley’s Heisman Trophy, perhaps in UGA’s indoor practice module.

Georgia last won the national championship 34 years ago.

Herschel wore number 34.

It’s in the stars.

Wait…. Herschel… Stars… Herschel’s New Jersey Generals wore (gulp) stars on their helmets…

O. M. G.

Look, Georgia was impressive in beating Clemson and Todd Gurley is really, really good. Damn good.  The ‘Dawgs are certainly capable – just like a dozen other teams – of winning it all this year. But, let’s keep things in perspective.

Georgia beat Clemson – a team it was favored to beat by more than a touchdown – in a home game against a quarterback making his first career start. Nothing against Clemson, but the Tigers aren’t even the best team in their division and play in a conference ‘Dawg fans like to poo-poo (even though said conference produced the national champion last year). Clemson will win nine or 10 games this year, but let’s face it, the Tigers may not even be the best team in the Palmetto State.

So, let’s just take a deep breath.

Again, Georgia may end up playing for the national championship. Wouldn’t surprise me. I’m just saying maybe we should wait until, oh I don’t know, mid-September before reserving that Dallas hotel room.

Walker_Herschel10_Generals_USFL 

 

More Thoughts From Week One

  • Why are some Georgia Tech fans up in arms that the Yellow Jackets didn’t blow out Wofford? Whooping up on an FCS opponent doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Do you remember the only other time Tech failed to beat an FCS team by more than 21 points under Paul Johnson? That was 2009 – a 37-17 win over Jacksonville State. All that Yellow Jacket team did was go on to beat Clemson in the ACC Championship and play in the Orange Bowl.
  • Speaking of Georgia Tech, I came away impressed with the play of quarterback Justin Thomas, wide receiver DeAndre Smelter and defensive tackle Adam Gotsis. Thomas is going to be fun to watch. Smelter will be yet another Tech wide receiver to play in the NFL. Gotsis is perhaps a year away from reminding people of Aaron Donald in terms of being a disruptive force in the middle of the defensive line.
  • Florida State looked bored in the Seminoles’ win over Oklahoma State. I think FSU probably has as much or more talent than any team in the country, I’m just not sure about the ‘Noles’ motivation. I think this is a season they’ll play to the level of their competition, and that’s a dangerous thing.
  • Let me preface this note with a clarification. I’m not saying UTSA is one of the best teams in the nation, although the Roadrunners might very well be one of the top 30-35 teams. But UTSA’s thumping of Houston, on the road, was impressive to watch. Or maybe I just liked their uniforms.
  • East Carolina may not beat South Carolina this weekend as I assume the Gamecocks will be a tad fired-up on Saturday. I wanted to mention the Pirates, however, because if you are a true college football fan in the south, do yourself a favor and go to a game at ECU’s Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. To me it’s one of college football’s hidden gems. East Carolina fans are more passionate about football than any other fan base in North Carolina.

 

Random Notes #1

Posted: August 11, 2014 in Random, Uncategorized

Now that I’ve got my own blog, I’ve developed a better appreciation for Jeff Schultz and Mark Bradley of the AJC. Those guys are responsible for posting multiple blogs  — daily. I’m having a difficult time writing something more than once or twice a month, and it’s not like these things I write are worthy of Pulitzers. Coming up with something you feel strongly enough to write about is difficult…

… Speaking of people I admire, I want to mention my mother, Carolyn, who celebrated her 90th birthday recently. She’s the toughest little lady I’ve ever seen.

… On the subject of birthdays, I turned 50 Saturday. I just did a Google search to find out which celebrities also have birthdays on August 9th and I’m am thrilled to share my day with Deion Sanders, Jason Heyward, Derek Fisher and my new favorite rapper, Young Thug.

… I see where UGA attempted to convince the NCAA to recuse former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins from the ‘Dawgs hearing on violations committed by their swimming program. Chip Towers’ article in the AJC points out that Cremins actually asked to be recused back in July, beating UGA to the punch. Here’s what I take away from this story: whether it’s football, swimming or marbles, the Tech-UGA rivalry is alive and well.

… Is there a more useless award than Preseason Coach of the Year?

… If Virginia Tech wins the ACC Coastal Division this fall, get ready to hear about the fairness – or lack thereof – of the conference schedule. The Hokies’ two opponents from the Atlantic Division are Boston College and Wake Forest.  Nothing against the Eagles and Demon Deacons, but Georgia Tech must play Clemson every season (the Jackets also play on the road at NC State).  Miami, should the ‘Canes not win the Coastal, will certainly remind everyone that it’s Atlantic Division opponents were Louisville and defending national champion Florida State.

… As political races heat up in the coming weeks, just once I’d like to hear a candidate say something along these lines: “My opponent is a good person and a solid candidate. We simply have different views and philosophies.”

 

Somewhat Speechless

Posted: July 19, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

I’m guessing this is the only time I will be in the same story/blog as legendary basketball coach Bobby Cremins. I appreciate Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer — and good friend — Ken Sugiura dedicating a large piece of his blog to me.

You can read it here.

In my previous career my job was very much behind-the-scenes. Sure, every now and then I’d be quoted in the paper as “an athletic department spokesperson,” but my job was to generate publicity for just about everyone but me. So, I’m a little embarrassed but really flattered by what Ken wrote.

It’s nice to know some people appreciate your work.