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ACC Championship Game: The Coaches


(Photo Courtesy: USA Today Sports)

It's Championship Week across college football and here at Crystal Ball Run, that means we go in-depth…like, deeply in-depth with all the matchups, analysis and speculation you need to know going into the biggest games of the weekend.  We’ve given you some background on the teams participating in championship games. We’ve told you who their key players were. Earlier today, it was the coaches turn under the microscope for the first time and we continue that trend here. 

The ACC Championship game may be a foregone conclusion to most in the media, but the coaching battle could be the biggest dichotomy in experience and style will take place in Charlotte, North Carolina as Duke takes on Florida State for the right to the Orange Bowl or the National Championship game. 

For as different as the demeanors and styles of these two head coaches are, they do have one thing in common: doing things that have not been done in a long time (if ever) at their respective institutions of higher learning (and I use that term lightly there FSU). 

OK, it's really two…they also coached in the SEC during the early 2000's against each other.

Will overall experience or relative youthful exuberance win the day at Bank of America Stadium this Saturday? Well, the coaches could have a lot to do with how these guys look on the field. 

So, who has the coaching advantages and where? 

Let's get to the nitty-gritty and break down the coaching at each school. 

Head Coach, Duke: David Cutcliffe: Raise your hand if you ever thought Duke would be a football and basketball school at the same time, if ever? Wait…I see a hand raised in the back of the room. Oh, that's just David Cutcliffe, the head coach at Duke. 

What he's done at the famously bad football institution is nothing short of a miracle. Winning 10 games was a pipe dream just a few short years ago, but here we sit with a Duke team playing for its first ACC Championship and already owning the most wins in a single season in school history. 

Take a bow, coach Cutcliffe. No one thought you could do it. Heck, even Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien went on the record as saying that when he was at Duke as an assistant the school wasn't supportive of the football program in the least. 

How this team has got it done in 2013 is nothing short of a miracle as well. Duke hasn't had one quarterback that has been responsible for the offense, it's been a two-headed monster all season long—and more importantly it's worked—worked to the tune of averaging 33 points a game and over 400 yards of total offense each weekend. 

Cutcliffe is widely considered a quarterback and offensive genius, and he is very well respected for his acumen on that side of the ball. He's also a veteran, who's been there and done that in the SEC before, starting his career at Tennessee and then leading Ole Miss throughout the Eli Manning era and now on to the reclamation project that has been Duke football. 

His in-game coaching ability has been second to none this season as well and it shows in the 10-2 record and the ability to juggle two passers with over 1,000 yards passing apiece. 

If the Blue Devils are to shock the world it will be on Cutcliffe and his long-time assistants to get the job done in practice and make the right in-game adjustments as well. 

Head Coach, Florida State: Jimbo Fisher: Duke's David Cutcliffe may have been coaching football as Fisher was playing it at Samford University (when it was still a Division III school, not an FCS program), but in just over three short years, Fisher has proven to be a fine head coach himself. 

He's 43-10 in just under four full seasons, so Fisher is doing something right. Again, Cutcliffe may have forgotten more about coaching and offensive football than Fisher knows at the "young" age of 48, but Fisher is doing just fine in his own right. 

The Seminoles offense is averaging more than 50 points a game on offense and the defensive side of the ball isn't a slouch either—allowing just 11 points a game. If you aren't up to speed, the offense ranks second nationally in points and the defense is first. Not too shabby, eh? 

Fisher's seven years in the SEC overlap with Cutcliffe's time at Ole Miss, so both coaches are going to be familiar with how the other likes to operate offensively. 

More than anything else, Fisher's been able to make some people, not forget, but not wish to see Bobby Bowden back on the sidelines. He's taken this team back to the heyday of the Bowden era and he's done it his own way. 

Fisher can't be underestimated as a head coach in the least and could be on his way to competing with Cutcliffe for national Coach of the Year honors if his team wins a national title. 

Key Assistant, Duke: Things are a bit muddled in the title department, but make no mistake—there is but one right-hand man for Cutcliffe and that's Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper. 

Roper is a Cutcliffe man through and through, following him from Tennessee as an assistant to Ole Miss, where he was the QB's coach for one Eli Manning, to now being the OC along with Scottie Montgomery in Durham. 

The fact that Roper has been able to work with and be successful with two different quarterbacks at the same time in 2013 is nothing short of impressive. Brandon Cornette and Anthony Boone do things differently, but they get the job done for a very efficient offense. 

Duke has scored on 85 percent of its red zone opportunities and converted red zone possessions into touchdowns on 36-of-44 times. 

The pace of the game that Duke likes to play has also been impressive, running the sixth most plays in the ACC this year (861) and are fifth in total touchdowns as well. 

What Roper and Montgomery have been able to do together has been super impressive and the reason this team is really where it is at. 

Key Assistant, Florida State: Florida State's offense gets all the attention, but the defense is the real key to its success and the man charged with figuring out how to stop the two-headed monster of Duke's quarterbacks is Jeremy Pruitt. 

He's a first year defensive coordinator, coming to the Seminoles after leading the Alabama defensive backs for the past three seasons. Yes, that dominant and down right intimidating group of players in Crimson and White. 

This group has been insanely stingy, letting opponents score just 11 points a game and allowing opponents to score more than 14 points just twice all season long. I know, crazy, right? 

If we were to say anything more than that it would just be a bunch of platitudes and hyperbole, so we'll let the numbers speak for themselves. 

Pruitt is a fast-rising young coach, one that is going to start to get a lot of attention if his defenses continue to put up the numbers this group is in 2013. 

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy has been covering college football for nearly half a decade and is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadgers.com. He's also a featured columnist covering college football for Bleacher Report.

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