ACC Championship Preview: Georgia Tech vs. Florida State


The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets emerged with a crazy victory over the Georgia Bulldogs in the annual rivalry battle last week, but the biggest game of the season for Paul Johnson and his crew awaits on the horizon. The Ramblin’ Wreck will travel to Charlotte on Saturday to face off with the undefeated, reigning National Champion Florida State Seminoles for the ACC Championship, and we will preview the game in this space. Let’s get to work.

Time/TV: 8:00 pm ET, ABC

Georgia Tech Offense vs. Florida State Defense

This is the side of the ball that brings joy and optimism for the Georgia Tech faithful. The Jackets have been cooking offensively for the majority of the season, and there is a belief that they can impose their will (via the triple option) on the ‘Noles on this side of the ball.

Justin Thomas, Zach Laskey and company deploy the fourth-best rushing offense in the country this season, averaging 333.8 yards per game on the ground. The Jackets were not quite as dominant as “usual” in topping Georgia last week, however, and if anything, Florida State more closely resembles the athletic level of UGA or Clemson than any other team on Tech’s schedule this season. FSU ranks a modest 43rd in the country in rushing defense, though, and the Seminoles have not exactly been strong in playing “assignment football” at times this season.

Through the air, Georgia Tech will be missing its most dynamic playmaker, as DeAndre Smelter suffered a torn ACL against Georgia that will force him to the sideline. Darren Waller leads a contingent of pass-catchers more than capable of breaking a big play or two in this spot, but Justin Thomas will likely need to rely heavily on his running game (even more so than usual) in order to keep the FSU offense off the field and maintain long, efficient drives.

This isn’t the FSU defense of old that was basically impenetrable, and that is a good thing when attempting to secure an ACC Championship.

Georgia Tech Defense vs. Florida State Offense

On defense, the Jackets have been much better down the stretch of the season. The Clemson game, when they held the Tigers to just six points, was the gold standard, but Ted Roof’s crew was very, very good for most of the game in Athens last Saturday, and this is another tall task.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston has not quite been himself this season, including a multi-interception game against Florida in a narrow win, but he is extremely dangerous. FSU also has an All-American candidate in Rashad Greene (1,183 receiving yards) on the outside and an elite tight end in Nick O’Leary that is capable of patrolling the middle of the field all day.

Still, the FSU running game has been a mess this season, averaging just 131.2 yards per game (104th in America) and for all the weapons offensively, the ‘Noles have not been as dynamic as you may think. Georgia Tech’s defense should not be “favored” to shut down Jimbo Fisher’s crew, but this is a spot where the team from Atlanta should be able to hold its own for the most part, and if the offense is effective in possessing the ball for the majority of the night, that should provide some extra emphasis when the defense takes the field in a rested state.


It would be easy to say that “no one expects Georgia Tech to win”, but in this case, that may not be true. The Jackets are getting a surprising level of respect nationally, despite FSU’s two-year winning streak, but in the same breath, there aren’t many pundits flatly picking the Ramblin’ Wreck to emerge victorious. The ACC Championship is just sixty minutes away for Paul Johnson and his team, but there is a big-time opponent standing in the way, and it will take a fantastic effort to bring the trophy home to Atlanta.

Stay tuned for post-game coverage, and a live game thread that will open on Saturday morning. Check it out!