Jackets taking look at selves

For all the different vibes that come with bowl practices, there has been a distinct sameness to Georgia Tech’s preparation for the Independence Bowl.

When the Yellow Jackets face Air Force Dec. 27 in Shreveport, La., they will line up against a near-mirror image of themselves.

So, unlike the regular season, Tech's starting offense is practicing against the starting defense. Both teams run option-based offenses that cut block more than most college teams and they run 3-4 base defenses as well.

The Cadets (8-4) have enough variation in their offensive attack, however, that the Tech defense cannot simply lean on what might work best at slowing their own offense.

Air Force uses a tight end occasionally and some I-formation. Tech (6-6) doesn’t vary.

"There are so many similarities that sometimes it's hard to see a difference," junior defensive end Jason Peters said. "Our biggest thing usually is to read the man in front of you and there are situations where anticipating will help you. But you have to be careful because they have some options. They do mix it up ... to try to make sure you don't get down what they do on option plays."

Barnes’ college career over

Outside linebacker A.T. Barnes has left the program to prepare for a possible tryout with NFL teams.

The 6-foot-3, 248-pound former graduate student from Cartersville was a starter at the beginning of the season, but Steven Sylvester replaced him after a few games and his playing time fell off dramatically as the season wore down.

Barnes, who will turn 25 next month, was delayed by a year from enrolling at Tech when an NCAA Clearinghouse investigated his high school transcripts after he transferred schools as a prep.

He redshirted in 2006 and, after playing in all 12 games and starting three in ’07, he suffered a shoulder injury and then a broken leg in ’08, when he started in just four games.

This season, he had four tackles, four assists and a forced fumble while playing in all 12 games.

Times are changing

For senior tackle Austin Barrick, who has just one final exam next week before graduating next weekend, practicing against the starting defense is not the only thing that seems odd about practice these days.

“Graduation is an exciting time for anyone, but I’m really trying to focus on the bowl game,” Barrick said. “I’d really like to break the streak. It’s weird knowing any play might be my last ever.”

The streak would be Tech’s five-game bowl losing skid since the Jackets beat Syracuse 51-14 in the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl.

Nothing new on Nesbitt

Senior quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, who said he hoped to recover from a broken arm suffered in a Nov. 4 loss at Virginia Tech in time to play in a bowl game, has not practiced.

Busy week coming

Finals run next week at Tech and after Saturday and Sunday off from practice, the team will practice Monday through Friday next week and possibly Saturday. Players will go home for a few days and then return to campus before traveling to Shreveport Dec. 23. .... Tech officials say they’ve sold nearly 3,000 tickets to the Independence Bowl.