Florida State travels to Georgia Tech this Saturday in a rematch of last year’s ACC title game. The Yellow Jackets were billed as a possible dark-horse playoff contender in the offseason, but now sit at 2-5 after a very disappointing first half of the season. Injuries have decimated Georgia Tech and this is not the same squad that beat Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl, but Paul Johnson will have his squad fired up for this game.
On the flip side, Florida State travels to Atlanta after a very impressive performance against Louisville last week. While Dalvin Cook continues to be dynamic, Jimbo Fisher seems to have finally tailored the passing game to Everett Golson’s strengths. Even with Clemson looming on the horizon, the Seminoles need to focus on stopping the Yellow Jacket’s triple-option offense that has gashed them before.
What To Watch For
Florida State’s Offensive Line versus Georgia Tech’s Defensive Line: While Florida State’s offensive line has been rather pedestrian so far this season, they have a change to dominate their competition this week. Georgia Tech has a very small defensive line and probably the smallest defensive line Florida State will see all season. Tech’s defensive ends weigh 240 (6’1″) and 241-pounds (6’3″) respectively and their tackles are listed as 282-pounds each (6’5″ each). On the flip side, Florida State’s offensive is listed as (from left to right) 323, 337, 299, 316, and 312-pounds and no starter is shorter than 6’2″. On paper, Florida State’s run game should have a field day against the shorter and smaller Georgia Tech front.
Wide Receiver Rotation: It seems as if Bobo Wilson, Travis Rudolph and Kermit Whitfield have formed a solid trio atop of the wide receiver depth chart. However, Wilson and Whitfield are both under 6’0″, which complicates red zone situations without a bigger target on the field. In recent weeks, we’ve seen Jimbo rotate the red zone personnel more. Auden Tate nearly had a touchdown versus Miami and Ermon Lane is on the field more as well. Mavin Saunders is also a big red zone target, but is still very raw as a pass catcher. If they can’t get Dalvin Cook into the end zone early, look for Florida State to rotate its receiver personnel on long down and distances in order to get a size advantage on the smaller Georgia Tech defensive backs. Tate is out with a toe injury, but perhaps this is a chance for Ermon Lane or George Campbell to get their snaps.
Stopping the Georgia Tech Option Attack: An easier said than done feat, the option attack gave Florida State fits last year in the ACC title game. However, Georgia Tech returns barely any of the same personnel as last year. Justin Thomas is still a very dangerous quarterback in their system, but the Yellow Jackets have suffered a multitude of injuries at both the A-back and B-back positions. Florida State certainly has better depth on the defense line this year, so look for the ‘Noles to keep the rotation steady throughout the game in order to get fresh bodies in. This won’t be a game for Josh Sweat, but Jacob Pugh and DeMarcus Walker should be staples on the outside. Keep a lookout for Rick Leonard (#98) as well, as he is a bigger defensive end they might roll out there to take up space.
The Star Position: Last week, Florida State lost Trey Marshall to a season-ending bicep injury and Tyler Hunter suffered a concussion as well. Those were the top two options at the star position, so now the ‘Noles are left looking to two freshman for help at that position. Jimbo Fisher stated that both Tarvarus McFadden and Marcus Lewis, both true freshman, will play this week in meaningful snaps at the star position. Derwin James might also get snaps there as well. Regardless of which true freshman plays, look for Georgia Tech to try to take advantage of this mismatch early and often. But with Jalen Ramsey on the outside, I doubt Paul Johnson will try to test the boundary side of the field.
One of the biggest tests in this game will be Florida State’s ability to deal with complacency. This game was billed to be a lot bigger in the preseason, but now Georgia Tech will struggle to even make a bowl game. The Seminoles can’t just roll in and expect a win because Georgia Tech’s offense is still very dangerous. If the ‘Noles can escape Atlanta with a win, they have a noon test at home against 3-3 Syracuse next week. Then comes the playoff elimination game/de-facto ACC championship game in Death Valley against Clemson that all Florida State fans have had circled on their calendar for a long time.