Orwin Smith

CFT Predicts: the ACC

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As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the ACC.  

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SECBig Ten, Pac-12

Atlantic Division

1. Clemson (Last year: 11-2; beat LSU in Chick-fil-A Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Tigers shook their ‘Clemsoning’ curse and previous Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia by going 11-2 and beating LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

So why are they ranked here?
Offense, offense, offense. And some offense sprinkled in. Quarterback Tajh Boyd is a legitimate Heisman candidate and he’ll have Sammy Watkins to throw to for a third straight year. Watkins had a bit of a sophomore slump in 2012 — at least by his standards — because of a variety of issues, from a suspension to injuries, but he still finished second on the team in receiving yards. His touchdown production should rise again after getting in the end zone just four times.

Anything else?
The defense improved under first-year coordinator Brent Venables. With as good as the Tigers offense projects to be, there’s more wiggle room on that side of the ball. Also, can Clemson finally beat South Carolina after dropping four straight games?

2. Florida State (Last year: 12-2; beat NIU in Orange Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The ‘Noles won the ACC and beat NIU in the Orange Bowl. They also pulled their annual head-scratcher by losing to North Carolina State. The circle never ends, it seems.

So why are they ranked here?
Talent isn’t a question Tallahassee, but there are a lot of new faces. Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston has a ton of upside at the quarterback spot, it just remains to be seen at this point how he handles his first year as starter. Wide receiver depth is becoming an issue too. The defensive line loses two pass rushers in Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner, but that’s an area stacked — almost unfairly — with capable players.

Anything else?
Florida State had a whopping 11 NFL draft picks in April, but Jimbo Fisher also had to replace roughly half his coaching staff. That’s a lot of turnover and it’ll be interesting to see how players and coaches jell this year.

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Tech’s leading rusher doubtful for ACC title game

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Georgia Tech’s road to a conference title and winning record heading into a bowl game may have gotten a bit rougher thanks to a lingering injury issue.

Running back Orwin Smith suffered an ankle injury in a game Nov. 17 and did not play in the Yellow Jackets’ regular-season finale against Georgia.  After sitting out practice again Thursday, Smith was listed as doubtful on Tech’s injury report.

Per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, head coach Paul Johnson stated Wednesday that, if Smith didn’t practice the next day, he wouldn’t play in the ACC championship game against Florida State Saturday.

Smith currently leads the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 673 yards, while his nine yards per carry is far and away tops on the team.

Yellow Jackets’ leading rusher iffy for rivalry game

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As Georgia Tech “tunes up” for its ACC title game matchup with Florida State, the Yellow Jackets could be without one of their top weapons on the offensive side of the ball.

Orwin Smith suffered a leg injury in the fourth quarter of this past Saturday’s win over Duke.  As a result, the senior A-back’s status for the game against in-state rival Georgia is very much up in the air, although Tech is somewhat optimistic Smith will be able to at least give it a go.

“Right now, we’re thinking Orwin is going to play,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said according to the Macon Telegraph.. “But, if he doesn’t, somebody else will have to step in. We don’t have a set plan for the way we use Orwin. We just kinda play, and somebody else would be in that spot.”

Smith currently leads the Yellow Jackets with 673 yards and averages nine yards per carry.

For a team that is third in the country in rushing yards per game, however, Tech will have plenty of options if Smith is a no-go as five other players besides Smith have rushed for at least 337 yards this season.