ACC Championship - FSU vs. Georgia Tech
Posted Nov 28, 2012

ACC Championship Fearless Prediction - Florida State vs. Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech (6-6) vs. Florida State (10-2) Dec. 1, 8:00, ESPN

Here’s The Deal … Florida State is heavily favored to win an ACC championship for the first time in seven years. Yet, no one is ready to pop the champagne in Tallahassee.

While the Seminoles are on the verge of a BCS bowl game, there remains a sense around campus that the program still hasn’t fulfilled expectations under third-year head coach Jimbo Fisher. The 2011 squad was supposed to wear the league crown, but instead lost four times, finishing the season at the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The current team was installed as a preseason sleeper to compete for a national championship, but an Oct. 6 loss to NC State lowered the bar considerably. And then just as Florida State was about to flex its muscles and answer its critics, such as the various computer models that comprise the BCS rankings, it fizzled out late in a 37-26 loss to rival Florida.

The ‘Noles need to take care of business, this Saturday in Charlotte and five weeks from now in the Orange Bowl, or else it’ll go down as another step sideways for the program.

Georgia Tech got an early Christmas gift—a ticket to the ACC title game that it frankly didn’t deserve . The Yellow Jackets are 2011 UCLA, a middling 6-6 team that has no business being a win away from a berth in a huge-payday postseason game. Had Miami not self-imposed a bowl ban for a second straight year, Tech wouldn’t have represented the Coastal Division at Bank of America Stadium. Oh, and there’s also the business of last week’s 42-10 loss to rival Georgia in Athens. Still, Tech is holding a lottery ticket … and it know it.

For Paul Johnson, this is a classic feast-or-famine situation. His Yellow Jackets are either going to shake up the BCS bowl menu by appearing in the Orange Bowl or, at a game below .500, will be waiting to hear about a postseason waiver it applied for this past Monday. It’s been a tough year on the Flats, but the program has a rare opportunity to change the mood with a monumental upset.

Players to Watch: With its base run out of the triple-option, Georgia Tech naturally wants to establish the ground game this weekend.

It runs the ball an average of almost 60 times a game, and is No. 3 nationally in rushing. Still, there are no stars in the stable, which has been a part of the problem this year. Tevin Washington has been fine, but has left the door open for redshirt freshman Vad Lee to create a quarterback controversy. And who is the feature guy? Big-play Orwin Smith sat out last week with an ankle injury, and no back has rushed for more than 673 yards. The Yellow Jackets will get their yards, but they’ll need someone to erupt in order to put a deep dent in a Florida State D that ranks No. 4 nationally against the run, and yields just 2.6 yards per carry.

That nasty Florida State defense did take a hit in the Florida game, losing tenacious DE Cornellius Carradine to a season-ending ACL tear.

It was a tough blow since the senior had a team-high 80 tackles, and was one of its top run defenders. The ‘Noles still have one of the game’s best ends, Bjoern Werner, and some talented youngsters just itching to get on the field. FSU fans will get an unexpected glimpse into the future, with freshmen Mario Edwards Jr. and Giorgio Newberry being asked to pick up some of Carradine’s slack. More will also be asked of linebackers Christian Jones, Telvin Smith and Vince Williams, as they look to fill running lanes and accurately follow the ball from the quarterback’s hands.

‘Noles QB EJ Manuel wants to rebound from a week ago. He has a good opponent with which to get it done.

Georgia Tech fired defensive coordinator Al Groh at midseason, and made some nominal strides, yet still wound up No. 10 in ACC scoring and pass efficiency defense. The Yellow Jackets have some nice players in the back seven, such as LB Jeremiah Attaochu and S Jemea Thomas, but none who’ll keep the Seminoles up late at night in the film room. Manuel figures to employ a two-pronged, pounding Tech on the inside with backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., while getting his receivers and tight ends out into space. WR Rashad Greene possesses the wheels to get behind the secondary, and sure-handed TE Nick O’Leary will work underneath it. Wilder deserves more touches, despite getting just 15 carries over the last three games.

Georgia Tech will win if … it can start fast and maintain beyond halftime.

The Yellow Jackets have had to hear all week how they don’t belong in this game. If they go down early, forget about the possibility of the upset. They’re liable to get trucked, much the way they did last week Between the Hedges. Tech has got to keep this game to no more than a single-digit deficit, because the offense is not built to survive in comeback mode. It has also been a bad second-half squad, which won’t cut it in Charlotte. In their six losses, the Yellow Jackets were outscored by an average margin of 20-9 over the final 30 minutes, an indictment of the staff’s locker room adjustments.

Florida State will win if … the backs make Georgia Tech a little green with envy.

Even without injured star Chris Thompson, the Seminoles feature plenty of talent in the backfield. Freeman and Wilder don’t necessarily need to be prolific, but if they pick up chunks of yards on first down, Manuel becomes markedly more efficient through the air. It’s no secret that Fisher wants to achieve offensive balance, which didn’t happen in Raleigh on Oct. 6 or last week when Florida descended upon Doak Campbell Stadium. The Yellow Jackets are already wobbly in the knees on defense. If Freeman and Wilder are able to work the body early, Tech will be getting a standing eight-count before the break.

What Will Happen: As consolation prizes go, a coveted ACC title and a trip to the Orange Bowl aren’t so bad after all.

Sure, Florida State wanted to reach higher goals this season, and last week’s loss to the Gators left a lasting impression. However, it’s time to claim league superiority, which the Seminoles are eminently capable of doing.

Georgia Tech has only escaped the grips of mediocrity once this season, beating Carolina in Chapel Hill, 68-50. Another breakthrough moment in the Tar Heel State isn’t about to happen this weekend. Florida State will locate its offensive mojo at the expense of the Yellow Jackets, balancing out more than 400 yards for the first time in a month. The defense will take care of the rest, bending at times against the run, but snapping infrequently. By early in the second-half, the ‘Noles will have amassed a comfortable lead that, unlike in its two losses, it will not relinquish.

CFN Prediction: Florida State 38 … Georgia Tech 13 …

ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Florida State -14 O/U: 63.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Crossfire Hurricane, 1 – Comic Book Men: 3.5