Monday's Premium Football Notebook

With their victory over Virginia and Miami's loss to Georgia Tech last weekend, Virginia Tech finds itself in the driver's seat of the ACC's Coastal Division. Baring an upset loss to North Carolina this weekend, the Hokies will face Florida State in the inaugural conference championship game Dec. 3.

While it had looked as though the Seminoles would add a new chapter to the long-standing FSU-UM rivalry, should the Hokies win this weekend, it will mark the first time that the Noles get an opportunity to face Virginia Tech since its inception into the ACC last year.

The likely matchup with the Hokies and not with Miami is a relief to FSU coach Bobby Bowden.

"Your big rivals, it ain't no fun catching them in a bowl," he said. "It's such a tight, intense game that involves all of your boosters and alumni and theirs too. When you play in a bowl you'd like to see somebody you ain't never seen before."

With every team in the ACC having at least one loss, combined with the fact that the national powers such as FSU and UM have gone through their own conference struggles, Bowden says it relates directly to the increased level of play in the league.

"It just shows you how tough this conference is getting," he added. "Miami gets in the conference and who would expect them to lose a game in the conference? We get in the conference and who would expect us to lose a game in the conference."

WASHINGTON FEELING GOOD

Senior tailback Leon Washington, who has missed the last two games with an injured ankle, will likely make his return to the lineup Saturday against the Gators.

While Bowden said that Washington is still not 100-percent, the Jacksonville native is confident that he will be fine come game time in the Swamp.

"I got back today and it felt good," Washington said. "I did everything at practice besides 11-on-11 (drills) so it was a good time. The way I feel now, I will definitely be ready by Saturday.

"I am cutting a lot better than I was last week so I am trying to get back strong, get strong as possible."

THANK GOODNESS FOR THE BYE

Following losses to North Carolina State and Clemson in the last two outings, the Seminoles came out as a team hurting in not just pride but in injuries. With the large number of set-backs across the depth chart, a bye-week couldn't have come at a better time as the Noles benefited from a few days off this past weekend.

Said Bowden: "The bad news is that you didn't get to work as much as you would like but we felt like if we could get people healthy it would help us more than anything else."


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