The Preview: The Florida State Seminoles @ The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

I apologize for taking a while with this one, but I refuse to write a lame preview that consists only of "kicking game", "turnovers", "penalties", and "stop their offense".  That's ridiculous.  Who would ever think that "stopping the opposition" would be a key to the game?  That's not a preview, and that's not analysis.  Why not just include "outscore Tech"?  Nole Fans deserve more, and they should want more, especially if they are paying for Nole info!

Trick or Treat

This game will feature the physical matchups, but it also puts a ton of emphasis on scheming.  The option.  The difficulties that our OLine against their DLine presents.  Their baby-faced secondary.  Suffice to say, confusing the opposition and popping a big play could be the difference maker in this game.

What have we already done this week for this game?  Went in-depth on the Noles playoff chances, Broke down the Noles film from the VT game, ditto here, discussed discipline standards and things going up in smoke ;), and had an interview with a GT Blogger.

Make sure to get your entry in for our Know Your Noles Pick 3 Contest!.

I'm skipping all of the fluff stuff today as I'm pretty pressed for time.

The experts are very split on this one. 

Picking GT: Dinich, Warchant, Ira Schoeffel, Bruce Feldman

Picking FSU: Scalpem, Phil Steele, College Football News, Jeff Cameron

Let's get to it.



Our Announcers?  Griese, Nessler, and McGuire.  Expect good from the first 2, and annoying from the 3rd.  Stacy Dales is your sideline girl. 

Our Uniforms?  All Garnet.

When FSU has the ball

Perhaps no other FSU game this year will be determined by injuries as this one will.  Well, injuries and suspensions.  Corey Surrency's chances of playing in this game went up in smoke.  Antone is really dinged (Elbow and Ribs), and Parker has a deep thigh bruise, that he suffered on Tuesday.  He was limping badly yesterday.  My guess is that Antone plays some, and Pakrer is a scratch. 

If you follow Tomahawk Nation closely, or read anything sports related, you know that the Noles start the youngest offensive line in college football, and that they've been brutalized in pass protection.

In fact, in "The Kool-Aid Debate", I previewed the upcoming tests for the offensive line.  Know who was number 1?  GTech.

Let's get to know Georgia Tech's defense. 

The Yellow Jackets have gone away from the crazy blitzing schemes of John Tenuta (Now at Notre Dame), and now run primarily cover 3 type stuff.  We've seen this before: (Colorado, and NC State).  Tech rarely blitzes, but they still generate a ton of pressure.  How do they do that?  Oh, well, um:







A member asked: 1) What if anything can be learned about the way VTech played against the Noles in the first half last week? Do the Yellow Jackets have the speed/talent on defense to consistently blitz?

They get pressure with only their front 4. 

One of the questions I didn't get to ask the GTech blogger was:

How good are your DE’s & how would you rank them as a unit in the conference?

Their DE's are excellent.

The guy in the pictures is Michael Johnson.  He is their Everette Brown.  Not only do they have Johnson, but DT Vance Walker is an NFL 1st round possility, and the other 2 guys will also play on Sundays. 

This does not bode well for us.  The last time that a team ran Cover 3 and got pressure from their defensive line was NC State. 



Georgia Tech's defensive line might be the best in the country, and even if they are not, they certainly are much better than NC State's.  We will struggle all day with these guys, especially in passing downs. 

GTech's LB's are nothing special.  I really doubt any of them would make FSU's squad.  I wish I could say more here, but none of them stand out on film.

The secondary had been playing really well, but they are now in trouble.  CB Jahvid World-Daniels (no relation to World B. Free) is out, and Safety Dominique Reese is questionable as well with a concussion.  Tech is really having to scramble here, and they've moved stud safety Burnett to Corner.  This is good for us and shows that they are in desperation mode. 

Tech's secondary now looks like this:

CB: SO,  CB: SO, SS: JR, FS: FR, Nickel Corner: FR

Tech's defensive line is amazing, and their back 7 are seriously lacking.  You probably know where I am going with this, but here it comes:  we have to find ways to block the front 4.

...pass protections usually start out with the understanding that if the defense rushes five guys, you can pick them up, but your blockers will have to be able to block at least one defender (more likely 2) one-on-one. No pass protection scheme can count on double teaming all possible rushers. If you can’t handle anyone man-for-man, then a five man rush effectively becomes like a seven or eight man blitz, but also with sound coverage behind it.

I really doubt we can consistently block these guys without doing some different stuff.

So, how do we move the ball in the face of the monster that is the GTech line? 

Screens.  All sorts of screens.  Bubble screens, middle screens, traditional screens.  I expect to see a lot of screens this week.  If we can't block Tech, why even try?  Let them through and get to the second level.  FSU is an excellent screen team, and Tech has had a lot of trouble defensing all types of screens.  That's probably because their back 7 really isn't anything special.

Moving the pocket will also be a crucial part of our gameplan.  This should work well since Tech doesn't often blitz, and we're not likely to run into pressure off the corner. 

Remember the play that got picked against Wake on the first play?  Here is something very similar:


This play puts a lot of pressure on the young defensive backs, can be thrown quickly, and can push the ball downfield with anticipation.  His pre-snap read is "man or zone.  if zone or off-man, hit the hitch on the left.  If Zone-up, hit the corner or look the corner and hit the divide route.  The route combo with the Corner and the Hitch/in on the right is a zone beater.  I like this play a lot with a rolling pocket.  GTech doesn't have Alphonso Smith and they won't defend this well.  Ponder must throw to spots in this game, or we will be in trouble.  He has to trust his eyes, and in this game, he really should, because Tech isn't complicated.  Jeff Cameron points out that Ponder hasn't thrown well on the run yet, and to an extent I agree.

The whole idea of the screens, the moving pocket, etc, is to get the ball in the hands of our playmakers, and have them take it to the house. 

I really doubt we can consistently drive on these guys.  We will need to hit big plays.  There are 2 ways to do this through the passing game: get the ball to a playmaker and have him beat his man, or get the guy behind the defense and hit him.  My guess is that Tech is not going to let us launch deep.  We still have to try it though, in order to keep things loose underneath.  The deep ball is where losing the threat of Surrency will hurt the most.  Losing Parker will hurt more on the underneath stuff.  Both are excellent blockers, and that will hurt as well.

Keeping the deep threat alive is also important for the run game.  This should be an ugly game, and Jimbo will likely go very conservative, in an attempt to give our defense the chance to win the game for us.  In keeping with that thought, we will probably run the ball a lot, and not have a lot of success.

I also think he throws Ponder to the wolves here.  If we're going to win this, we're going to need Ponder to run like a maniac and when he does that, he will take some kill shots.  I expect to see  a lot of the zone read here, to take advantage of GTech's aggressive line. 

Oh, I almost forgot.  Remember that young secondary for GTech?  That's trouble for them.  I'm hearing that they will be forced to play more man.  Miami did that, and Ponder burned them with his feet.  These guys don't run anything schematically that should give us trouble.  This is important, because Ponder will have to get the ball off quickly.  He can read the defense pre-snap, and already have a pretty good idea where he is going with the ball.  That's half the battle right there.  If he knows his throw, he can quickly set and fire.  Expect Tech to be extremely vanilla here.  Think they will show one thing and then do another?  Not with those young DB's.  You don't move your ALL-ACC FS to corner unless you have real problems at corner, and you don't do it unless you are going to play man coverage.  We run better against man coverage than zone, and that's probably because we see man in practice all the time.

Offensive Goals

So, the goals for the FSU running game?

  • 55% of carries by FSU RB's on First down go for 2 or more yards (win first down).  This seems like a strange goal, but it is all about staying out of 3rd and long.  I know this number seems low, but I'm trying to set realistic goals here. 
  • 60% conversions running on 3rd/ 4th & 2 or less
  • 1 or fewer fumbles (Not fumbles losT, but Fumbles)
  • 40 yards rushing from Christian.  This does not count sacks.  I will parse our the sacks.

The goals for the Passing Game?

  • Less than .33 drops per 5 throws (works out to 2 or less per 35 throws)
  • QB Rating of 105+   Clearly, we're not a high completion % pass game, but Jimbo has stated that he doesn't care about that.  Low completion % but big plays are fine by me.  
  • No careless throws into the flat.  This is big, since these almost always go for a Pick-6. 
  • Special Sack Rate  (sacks + Holdings on dropbacks / sacks + pass attempts + holding on dropbacks) of less than 20%.  Yes, 20%.  That isn't a typo.  If we have 30 pass plays, we must not allow more than 6 combined holding penalties and sacks.  Obviously, I would prefer 6 holdings and zero sacks, as we don't risk injury or fumbles with the holding, and as we all know, the team that commits more penalties usually wins the game.  it's true.
  • 7 Yards per Attempt.
  • 3 plays with 15+ YAC
  • No more than 1 BadReadBadThrow (BRBT) per 10 passes.  This is very important if they play zone. 
  • No more than 1 bad blitz pickup miss per 15 attempts (Marcus Sims, this is you).  Tech doesn't blitz much, and I doubt they bring 6+ guys more than once or twice, because of their inexperienced back 7. 

General Offensive Goals

  • 4.6 YPP(Yards Per Play).  66 Plays at 4.5 YPP = 304 yards. 
  • No Personal Fouls (except clipping, I'm fine with that here).  I know that the team committing more penalties usually wins the game, but these are non-aggression penalties. 
  • Less than 2 turnovers
  • No more than 1 bad snap (McMahon, please step your game up and play like what a FROSH AA should play like as a Soph)
  • 60%+ Red Zone Touchdowns (Kicking is losing).  We've done a decent job of this this year.

So, what will happen?

First, don't freak out if we struggle along the offensive front.  Support these guys.  They are very young.  In fact, our entire offense is young this week.  If Parker doesn't play, our projected lineup will be: 5 Freshmen, 3 Sophomores, 1 Junior (Caz), and 2 Seniors ('Tone and Carr).

Stop saying that the pressure is on the offense.  The pressure needs to be on the defense.  The defense is extremely veteran and talented, and our offense needs to assume that the defense will hold Tech under 20 points.

In the running game, expect to see a lot of the lead draw.  I often refer to this as the "Dallas cowboys draw", because the 'Boys ran the heck out of that with Emmit.  We run this play really well with Atone (we scored on it against Miami).  We won't lose the physical battle every time, but we will consistently try to avoid the physical battle whenever possible.  Misdirections, counters (not traditional, but fakes), end arounds (welcome back Bert Reed!), are all in the cards.  Ponder will also a run a lot, and I imagine that we could see D'Vo as well.  Remember that the goal of the running game here isn't so much huge yards as it is staying ahead of the chains, and giving the offense an opportunity to remain balanced.  Tech's DLine does not want to play the run!  These guys want to get in our backfield and hit Ponder.  They'll get their chance, but I hope it's not in a full sprint. 

So, once again, this game will fall on the shoulders of Ponder, just as it did against NC State and Virginia Tech.  I love and hate this matchup.  I hate it because we can't consistently pass block their guys.  I love it because I am not impressed with Tech's back 7.  I hate it because we probably won't have Surrency or Parker.  I love it because we are likely to see true pre-snap reads.  I trust Ponder to check us into the right play.  If we can run a little, we will see play-action.  That's a good thing for us.  We already dicsussed the screens.  Obviously, I'd prefer if GT went man.  If they don't however, then we will have to use the zone beaters.  This is where we miss Parker.  I'm not sure how much I trust the young guys to settle down in the zones, and I'm not sure how much Ponder trusts them.  He has no choice in the matter.  He absolutely must trust what he sees, and trust his pre-snaps. 

We're going to see FSU have a lot of negative plays, mixed with some big gainers.  I expect a hyper-conservative game plan.  The Noles will run for 120 yards (including sacks), and Throw for 180, on 64 plays.  Don't boo if we run draws on 3rd and long.  Jimbo will play to the defense.  Jimbo will fool the Tech secondary at least once, and we'll get a TD there.  I also expect a TD off of excellent field position resulting from a turnover.  Graham Gano will knock home 2 field goals to cap stalled drives, and we will have 2 or fewer turnovers.  The offensive line will not play well, but they won't have a horrible meltdown, and that's what we need.  That's 20 points.

When Tech has the ball...

I am not going to re-write 2 articles that are excellent.  My defensive preview will be shorter here.  Please read these 2 articles.

First, the explainer on the Flexbone.

Second, Chantrant's explainer piece on the flexbone.

Those are excellent. 

I'm now going to take the time to answer some of the remaining questions.

To most effectively run a Triple Option consistently you need a good Fullback. There has to be a real threat to make the LB’s hesitate. How is yours?

Jonathan Dwyer is probably the best running back in the ACC, and GT uses him as their "B" back.  Stopping him IS stopping their offense.  This offense has 2 NFL players: Dwyer, and the LT Gardner (who has a bum shoulder and might not play).  He is about 6'2 230, and fast.

How is Nesbitts arm? (not statistically but in regards to his accuracy, velocity, etc).

Nesbitt is terrible at throwing anything but the bomb off of the option play-action.  Laughibly bad.  The entire goal for our defense will be to get Tech into 3rd and long.  We will destroy Tech on each and every 3rd and long.  Option teams don't pass practice pass pro nearly as much as traditional teams and struggle when they get into obvious passing downs.

There are no major injuries on defense for the Noles.  DT Justin Mincey is a scratch, but we're deeper at DT than many expected.  Moses McCray will see some snaps there, and he is a beast. 

The Seminoles defense is very good, and I've profiled them throughout the year.  The focus of the defense needs to be stopping Dwyer within the overarching theme of assignment football.  The Noles practiced without a football this week to emphasize the importance of sticking with your assigned man.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that we play the perfect defense to stop this option scheme.  We are a great tackling team; maybe the best in college football.  Our secondary is very solid from a tackling standpoint, and they've been playing very well as a unit. 

Why is stopping Dwyer so important?  Tech doesn't have that special back to get to the outside.  I think we can win the battle against their offensive line.  I think we will have decent success on 1st down, and will not allow long drives.  Our speed should give Tech trouble.  Not "shutout" type trouble, but trouble nonetheless.  If we load up against Dwyer, and use our speed to contain the corner, we should take care of business.  Va Tech's defense is good, and they gave GT trouble.  We are better on D, and should have similar success.

Want an underrated angle for this game?  This is the 3rd week in a row that we've prepared for a mobile quarterback (NC State's Wilson, VT's Taylor, and now GT's Nesbitt).

"We have to stop the run and make them pass, that's every game but especially this game.  We have to win first down, that's a big key for us."_ Nicholson

The Goals for the Seminole Rushing Defense:

  • Keep GT in 2nd and long: 33% of First Down Rushes for 1 or fewer yards.  (The STUFFED %)
  • Use penetration to get stops: 40% Win Rate on 3rd+ 4th n short rushing
  • Tackle Well: Less than 15 missed tackles (A Mickey Andrews Goal-- adjusted for GT)
  • Don't have your good work go for naught: 2 or fewer draws of 3rd and 8 or Longer for first downs.
  • No rushing TD's in the red zone.  Make GT throw the ball in the red zone.
  • Take good angles to the football: No more than 6 runs over 15 yards and no runs over 40 yards. 

The benchmarks for the FSU Pass Defense

  • Bad Day: Nesbitt under a QB Rating of 100.
  • Capitalize on 3rd and long.  Keep Nesbitt under a QB rating of 75 on 3rd and long. 
  • Limit Big Plays:  no more than 5 passes of 15+ yards
  • Selective Pass Interference: do not give up the deep ball!  If they do throw it, interfere like crazy.
  • Trust your assignment: don't leave your assignment and fall for play action.
  • Hit Nesbitt: Play to the echo of the whistle.  Have a sack rate (sacks / (pass plays + sacks)) of 8% or more.  As Mickey said... "you never want to hurt anybody, but our kids understand that if a guy wants to take himself out of a ballgame that is his business. You have got to hit him, you have got to inflict some pressure on him with contact for that to happen...."
  • Be studs on 3rd down: make the tackle when they throw underneath and don't allow them to get the 3rd down.  Limit Nesbitt to double digit QB rating on 3rd down.
  • Do not fall for play action on short yardage downs!: DB's rarely make these plays but are usually the ones burned for trying to help out too much. 
  • Confuse Nesbitt.  Mix the coverages enough to confuse Willson.  I'm annoyed that we give away our blitz too early.  Let's wait to walk down, and at other times walk down and then back out.

Final Goals For FSU's defense

  • LESS THAN 4.25 YPP
  • No Plays of 50+ Yards.  I doubt GT can repeatedly drive on this team.  Let's make them try.  
  • Create 2 turnovers
  • 10 "Stops" Mickey defines a stop as a turnover, punt, or a surrender on downs.  That's fine by me. 
  • Less than 50% Red Zone TD Scoring
  • No scores off sudden change (make GT get a first down off a turnover.  Do not allow the home run after a turnover).  They LOVE to throw deep off of a turnover.
  • Hold GT under 280 yards.  Mickey's goal is 300, and that is generous.  This team has been way lucky so far to get their yards and wins.

After practice this week, Everette Brown called a players only meeting.  He's a quiet guy usually, but apparently he got into these guys.  That's a good sign.  We'll need our special playmakers ot be special.  Penetration up front,  block shedding and great tackling from the back 7, and lockdown coverage from Patrick Robinson.  I have no doubt that Robinson can cover their "stud" WR Demarrius Thomas.

Georgia Tech will hit a few passes, including one for a TD off play action.  My guess is that GT will throw 15 times, for 90 yards.  They'll run 50 times, for 190 yards.  I expect 1 rushing TD.  Their field goal kicker sucks (longest of the year is 39 yards).  Because of this, they'll go for 4th down often, but it could cost them in the end.  They'll hit one field goal, and score 17 points.  We need the defense to be special in this game.  When the Noles turn it over, it will probably be down the field (let's hope we don't have any fumbles off sacks).  When Tech turns it over, it should be close to the line of scrimmage.  Maybe we get lucky and take a fumble back for a TD?  In the end, FSU's defense carries the day, as the Noles win 20-17.  Why?  Special teams and turnovers ;)


The Curtain Jerker WWF Clip

A 'lil background here is required.  After the Wake forest debacle, I psoted a clip of the Undertaker rising out of a grave, to prove to everyone that he, much like the Noles were not dead.  Correlation?  I think so.  In any case, we've done 2 things ever since then.  The first is the WWF clip.  The other?  Updating people when Nigel sets his facebook status to "Beast Mode."  FSU is undefeated when these 2 events happen.

This week I proposed to our resident WWF expert, Curtain Jerker, that we go with a weird match, to represent GTech's strange option attack.  CJ disagreed, and said that he was already working on something.  I think everyone will like what he came up with:


I wanted to focus on what I think will be a cruical matchup for the FSU-Ga Tech game: The Georgia Tech D-Line against our O-Line. This will be a very physical battle, and I truly believe that whichever side wins this batle will win the game.

So, I found a clip illustrating how physical I think that battle will be...A June 2004 Hell in a Cell match between Triple H and Shawn Michaels that went a record 47 minutes and resulted in a legit concussion for Triple H and a legit broken right hand for Michaels (which he broke punching Triple H over and over and over...). Also, Michaels's legendary back bak (he herniated two disks in Janurary of 1998 and had to retire for 4 years because of it) forced him to take a few months off because of this match.

This clip is a highlight compilation - you can find the full match on youtube if you so desire. I'd recommend it if you need to kill an hour.

WWE Bad Blood Triple H vs Shawn Michaels Hell in A Cell (via HBKHHHDgenerationX)

Go Noles!

Curtain Jerker


Nigel went into BEAST MODE!!! @ 9:29 Central Time on Wed Night! 


Nigel, let's hope you have enough beast mode to last the whole weekend.  It seems a little early for this (He usually does it via blackberry an hour or 2 before the game).  Despite this being highly irregular, I support this move!

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