One week removed from losing to SEC opponents, No. 13 Florida State and Georgia Tech will square off for the ACC Championship.
The Seminoles––who would have run the ACC table if not for a blown 16-point lead at N.C. State––won the Atlantic Division with a 7-1 record and a tie-breaking win over Clemson. The Yellow Jackets, meanwhile, finished tied atop the Coastal Division with North Carolina and Miami (FL), advancing only on the strength on the Hurricanes' self-imposed bowl ban.
Florida State was at least able to put up a fight against Florida last weekend before falling 37-26 at home. Georgia Tech was pummeled into submission by their in-state rival, losing to Georgia 42-10.
With momentum working in neither team's favor, this game could come down to resiliency, to which team is more capable of picking itself up by its bootstraps and playing solid football.
Let's take a closer look:
When: Saturday, Dec. 1, 8 p.m. EST
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Listen: Sirius 84, 92 and 93
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Spread: Florida State -14 (via Las Vegas Hilton)
Nationally, the Seminoles rank eighth and seventh in the respective areas of scoring offense and scoring defense. Translation: They don't play many close games.
Florida State and their 41.5 points per game could pose a serious threat for Georgia Tech's 86th-ranked scoring defense. The Yellow Jackets allow an inexcusable 30.7 points per game, despite playing in the underwhelming ACC.
Miami, Middle Tennessee, Clemson, BYU, North Carolina and Georgia have all scored 40-plus points against Georgia Tech in 2012. Put more simply, they've allowed 40 or more points in half of their games this season.
It's a lot of points to cover, but if Florida State gets rolling, they could run away with this one. Personally, I'd pass. But if for some reason I had to play, I'd take the Seminoles laying 14.
Over/Under: 62.5 (via Las Vegas Hilton)
The number is huge, but that makes sense for all the reasons listed above. Florida State is a scoring powerhouse, and Georgia Tech is just as likely to give up 40 as it is to keep an opponent under it.
On the other side of the coin, the Jackets' unique triple-option offense is usually boom or bust. Once in a while, the other team is dumbfounded trying to stop it (See: 11/10 @ UNC). While other times, the opponent is so well-prepared that it makes Georgia Tech look stupid (See: 9/3 @ VT).
Still, any way you slice it, Georgia Tech's offense is capable of moving the chains and putting points on the board. Even whilst getting steamrolled by Georgia last weekend, they racked up 306 yards on the ground.
Plus, Mark Stoops––the Seminoles defensive coordinator––signed onto the head coaching job at Kentucky this past week.
So, yeah. The number is huge. But it won't be huge enough. Bet the over.
Georgia Tech Injury Report (via USA Today – as of 11/28/12)
|QB Tevin Washington||Wrist||Probable|
|G Omoregie Uzzi||Undisclosed||Probable|
|OL Jay Finch||Undisclosed||Questionable|
|OL Ray Beno||Knee||Questionable|
|RB Orwin Smith||Ankle||Questionable|
|PK Justin Moore||Undisclosed||Questionable|
|OL Errin Joe||Undisclosed||Questionable|
The status of Orwin Smith––the Jackets' leading rusher, and the proud bearer of a 9.0 YPC average––is of paramount importance. He missed last weekend's clash with Georgia, and his absence was palpable. Despite never receiving more than 11 carries in a game (he averages 6.8), Smith has gone over 80 yards five times this season.
Tevin Washington banged up his wrist against Georgia, but he should be healed and ready to go by game time.
Florida State Injury Report (via USA Today – as of 11/28/12)
|QB E.J. Manuel||Head||Probable|
|DB Justin Bright||Concussion||Questionable|
|TE Will Tye||Back||Questionable|
|G Jacob Fahrenkrug||Toe||Questionable|
|OL Trey Pettis||Head||Questionable|
|T Garrett Faircloth||Hip||Questionable|
|DT Moses McCray||Concussion||Questionable|
|DT Derrick Mitchell||Back||Questionable|
|DE Cornellius Carradine||Knee||Out For Season|
|FB Debrale Smiley||Anke||Out Indefinitely|
The major loss here is Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, the star defensive end who tore his ACL against Florida last weekend. The do-it-all senior––and prospective first-round pick in the NFL draft––had 27 tackles and three sacks in his last three games.
Quarterback E.J. Manuel is dealing with a minor head injury, which is worth keeping an eye on, but he's not expected to miss any time.
Saturday's winner will advance to a BCS bowl game, while the loser will be left on the outside looking in. In Georgia Tech's case––should it lose, that is––it will be left on the far outside looking in.
Sitting currently at 6-6, a loss would send the Yellow Jackets to 6-7. That is, a loss would put them below .500––ineligible to play in a bowl game so long as the other 70 spots are filled. As it currently stands, there are indeed 70 teams above .500. And that number could grow depending on how 5-6 Pittsburgh and 5-6 Connecticut fare this weekend.
Georgia Tech has applied for an exemption, but if it loses that off-field battle, it could be facing a "win or miss bowl season" endeavor on Saturday.
If they win, however, it would cause a number of dominoes to fall around the country. Florida State could potentially oust Clemson from the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, setting up a tasty matchup with one of the SEC's elite.
Furthermore, a loss to Georgia Tech would probably send the Seminoles spiraling out of the BCS Top 16. That could be a season-changing result for No. 17 Kent State, who qualifies for a BCS bowl should they finish in one of the Top 16 spots.
Keys to Georgia Tech Victory
If Georgia Tech wants to win this game, it needs to control the clock and keep Florida State's offense off the field.
Fortunately, they have the right system for the job.
When their triple-option attack is working correctly, the Yellow Jackets are capable of moving the chains and frustrating their opponents. They set themselves up for manageable 3rd-and-shorts by plowing forward on first and second down.
Accordingly, the key to this game for Georgia Tech will be converting third downs. If they can keep the Seminoles' defense on the field, and make them endure 14-, 15-, and 16-play drives, they have a chance at stealing victory from the jaws of defeat.
But if they flop on third downs, and let E.J. Manuel and Co. take the field with momentum, they can kiss bowl season goodbye.
Keys to Florida State Victory
The key for Florida State––as it is with most any Georgia Tech opponent––will be stopping, or at least containing, the rushing attack.
That is, of course, easier said than done. The Yellow Jackets' triple-option attack is tricky; stopping it requires a unique blend of power, speed and discipline.
As alluded to earlier, star defensive end Tank Carradine tore his ACL against Florida last weekend and won't be able to suit up. But he wasn't the only future first-rounder playing defensive end for the Seminoles. In fact, he wasn't even the best.
German import Bjoern Werner was the overwhelming choice for ACC Defensive Player of the Year this season, a title he earned, in part, by racking up 13 quarterback sacks. That number ties him with South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney for the most in the nation.
Werner is a machine in run support too, and he'll be counted on to lead Florida State's front against the Jackets' fusillade of ball-carriers.
If he, and the rest of Florida State's front seven, can dominate the line of scrimmage, victory is all but assured.
Normally, a 14-point underdog has nothing to lose, which works in its favor. Here, however, Georgia Tech has even more pressure than the favorite does. If they lose, there's a good chance their season is over.
Despite a couple of hiccups, Florida State has been on a crash course with the BCS all season long. The buck won't stop here.
No need to get cute with this one: Florida State wins big.
Predicted Score: Florida State 41, Georgia Tech 24