By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Just one step remains between Florida State and a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff, and it’s a big one. The Seminoles face No. 11 Georgia Tech in search of their third straight ACC championship and maybe more. Here’s a look at the players, numbers and notes you need to know before the Seminoles and Yellow Jackets kick off.
2014 ACC Championship Game: No. 4 Florida State (12-0, 8-0 ACC) vs. No. 11 Georgia Tech (10-2, 6-2 ACC)
(Note: We’re using the College Football Playoff committee’s rankings since they will decide the matchups that determine the national championship.)
When/Where: Saturday, 8 p.m., Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. (73,778)
TV/Radio: ESPN/Seminole IMG Radio Network (103.1 FM in Tallahassee)
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Coach: Paul Johnson (57-34 in seven seasons at GT)
Last game: Zach Laskey’s two-yard touchdown run in overtime lifted the Yellow Jackets to a dramatic, 30-24 victory at Georgia. Kicker Harrison Butker hit a 53-yard field goal as time expired in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime. Laskey ran for 140 yards and Synjyn Days added another 94 for the Jackets, who beat their archrivals for just the second time since 2001.
Last game vs. Florida State: Then-linebacker Karlos Williams grabbed his first career interception to stop Georgia Tech’s late rally and seal a 21-15 victory at the 2012 ACC Championship Game in Charlotte. Sophomore running back James Wilder Jr. ran for two touchdowns and earned MVP honors.
Georgia Tech vs. Florida State all-time: Florida State leads the all-time series 13-9-1 and is 13-2 since joining the ACC in 1992.
Florida State vs. Georgia Tech
1952: No. 2 GEORGIA TECH 30, Florida State 0
1955: No. 13 GEORGIA TECH 34, Florida State 0
1958: GEORGIA TECH 17, Florida State 3
1962: No. 15 GEORGIA TECH 14, Florida State 14
1963: No. 17 GEORGIA TECH 15, Florida State 7
1970: GEORGIA TECH 23, Florida State 13
1971: GEORGIA TECH 12, No. 19 Florida State 6
1975: GEORGIA TECH 30, Florida State 0
1992: No. 6 Florida State 29, No. 16 GEORGIA TECH 24
1993: No. 1 FLORIDA STATE 51, Georgia Tech 0
1994: No. 8 Florida State 41, GEORGIA TECH 10
1995: No. 1 FLORIDA STATE 42, Georgia Tech 10
1996: No. 3 Florida State 49, GEORGIA TECH 3
1997: No. 3 FLORIDA STATE 38, No. 21 Georgia Tech 0
1998: No. 6 Florida State 34, No. 20 GEORGIA TECH 7
1999: No. 1 FLORIDA STATE 41, No. 10 Georgia Tech 35
2000: No. 2 Florida State 26, GEORGIA TECH 21
2001: FLORIDA STATE 28, Georgia Tech 17
2002: No. 17 Florida State 21, GEORGIA TECH 13
2003: No. 10 FLORIDA STATE 14, Georgia Tech 13
2008: GEORGIA TECH 31, No. 16 Florida State 28
2009: No. 22 Georgia Tech 49, FLORIDA STATE 44
2012: No. 13 Florida State 21, Georgia Tech 15 (ACC Championship Game)
2014: No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 11 Georgia Tech, Saturday, 8 p.m.
One offensive and defensive player from each team who could swing the game
Smelter wasn’t just Tech’s top pass-catcher, he was also its best blocking receiver, which is crucial for runs around the edge. So the next man up, Darren Waller, has a big part to play, both in keeping FSU’s defense honest in the passing game and holding his blocks when the Jackets run.
Senior linebacker Quayshawn Nealy garners most of the attention, but fellow linebacker P.J. Davis, a sophomore from nearby Cairo, Ga., actually leads the Jackets in tackles (97), has eight TFLs and four sacks and has the most forced fumbles (three) on a team that has 10.
Obviously quarterbacks can be the key to any game, but it feels especially true for Florida State this week. Jameis Winston is coming off one of the most difficult outings of his career, having thrown four interceptions in last week’s win over Florida. This will be the first time that Winston has to bounce back from that type of game, and how he responds could go a long way in determining the outcome on Saturday.
FSU defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. deflects a pass from Florida quarterback Treon Harris.
Mario Edwards Jr. raised eyebrows two years ago with a breakout performance against Georgia Tech. Making the first start of his career, Edwards defended the triple-option almost perfectly. It turned out that Edwards had often seen that type of offense as a high school player and now exactly how to handle it. He said earlier this week that it doesn’t look like the Jackets have made any changes to what he saw in their last meeting.
Total Offense: FSU: 430.3 YPG (46th nationally); GT: 469.1 YPG (23rd)
Scoring Offense: FSU: 34.6 PPG (29th); GT: 37.2 PPG (15th)
Passing Offense: FSU: 299.1 YPG (13th); GT: 135.3 YPG (120th)
Rushing Offense: FSU: 131.2 YPG (102nd); GT: 333.8 YPG (3rd)
Total Defense: FSU: 371.1 YPG (46th); GT: 388.8 YPG (58th)
Scoring Defense: FSU: 22.0 PPG (27th); GT: 24.1 PPG (42nd)
Passing Defense: FSU: 225.3 YPG (62nd); GT: 220.8 YPG (57th)
Rushing Defense: FSU: 145.8 YPG (43rd); GT: 167.9 YPG (70th)
“I’ve seen a lot of people come at Jameis in bad ways. I’ve seen people call him everything but a child of God. You see all the negative things, but nobody sees the good things he does. It’s definitely something that he understands now. He doesn’t have the stats that he had last year, but he’s a tremendous leader and great quarterback.” – FSU offensive lineman Cameron Erving on quarterback Jameis Winston
“We had the confidence there from the beginning of the season, but, yeah, definitely beating Clemson and beating UGA back‑to‑back weeks, whether people are going to say it or not, definitely gives you a lot more confidence. Those are two pretty big‑name schools.” – Georgia Tech RB Synjyn Days on the Yellow Jackets’ recent hot streak
“Eyes are the greatest thing any athlete has, bar none. … I say it’s not how good a player you are. If you’re looking at the wrong thing, you might as well have them shut.” – FSU coach Jimbo Fisher on the importance of eye discipline against Georgia Tech
“Winning is hard, and you look and they’ve won 28 consecutive games. I mean, that’s really hard to believe in this day and age. …You know, they haven’t blown as many people out as maybe a year ago, but they’ve still got a really fine football team, make no mistake about that.” – Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson on detractors of FSU’s unbeaten run
Georgia Tech might have the most underrated fight song in the country. Any song that make references to whiskey and takes clear shots at a heated rival are OK in my book.
And since it’s the postseason, here’s a bonus video. Everyone associates Charlie Ward with his Heisman-winning season in 1993, but, in many ways, his legend began with a comeback victory at Georgia Tech in 1992. You can relive it here:
Winston is so good we’re all stunned he could have a bad game, writes Corey Clark of the Tallahassee Democrat
Tech taking confidence from 2012 title game, writes Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Everything that Florida State has accomplished over the last two years – the 28-game winning streak, the national championship, and the two ACC titles – began here in Charlotte against the Yellow Jackets on Dec. 1, 2012.
So it feels appropriate that Georgia Tech is FSU’s next obstacle.
The Yellow Jackets are really good, maybe the quietest 10-2 team in the nation, and have really clicked since back-to-back losses midway through the season.
And Tech’s strengths – running the ball, third-down conversions and time of possession – seem to play into FSU’s weaknesses.
But the Seminoles have succeeded against run-heavy offenses in recent weeks and have some experience against triple-option offenses after playing the The Citadel earlier this season.
The defense doesn’t need to be perfect, just good enough. And if Jameis Winston is back in his usual form after last week’s aberration, then the Seminoles’ offense should be able to move the ball against one of the statistically weakest defenses it’s faced in recent weeks.