Florida State v Georgia Tech: Preview and Prediction Championship Edition

Mike Ehrmann

Florida State travels to Charlotte to take on North Carolina Miami Georgia Tech. WTF, Coastal?

8:00 | ESPN | Line: -13/61

What They Did Last Week: Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets entered Athens riding a three game win streak but left on a one game losing streak. Turnovers sank Tech's chances pretty early as their first five possessions ended in fumble, field goal, turnover on downs, interception and missed field goal. Georgia was up 28-3 at the half and the route was on. Tech's defense was only able to hold UGA out of the end zone on one of its first six possessions.


Stopping Tech isn't just assignment football


What They Did Last Week: Florida State

Florida State pretty much mimiced Georgia Tech's experience (ACC solidarity!). The Noles did pretty much the opposite of everything they needed to do to win the game. While FSU was able to take a lead in the fourth quarter a fifth turnover combined with a tired defense gave Florida all the opportunity it needed to put the game away. Florida State looked soft on the defensive interior and outcoached most everywhere else. Jeff Driskell was sharp on his short throws and Florida was able to pound Mike Gillislee until Florida State could not take anymore.

v. Georgia Tech's Defense

DO NOT TURN THE BALL OVER. That's about all FSU has to do. Georgia Tech's defense is really bad. Former UVA head coach Al Groh was started the 2010 season as Tech's defensive coordinator but could never quite get Tech up to speed and was let go after a loss to Clemson. Tech now runs more of a 4-2-5 as opposed to the 3-4 it used under Groh, but has not seen a marked improvement, although the sample size is somewhat small. There are certainly good players on the Georgia Tech defense, but neither Groh, nor current defensive coordinator, Charles Kelly have been able to assemble the pieces into a competent defense.

Per Football Outsiders the Noles have faced only one BCS defense worse than the Yellow Jackets this year and that was Duke. Most teams look to run early against Tech not only because their front seven get little penetration but also because their secondary has not tackled well.

Georgia Tech's best defensive players are Jeremiah Attaochu and Brandon Watts and are really the only way Georgia Tech can get any sort of pressure on the quarterback. Tech suffers from a dearth of talent on the line but could pose problems for the Seminoles if the Noles can't pick up the blitz, which is still a work in progress, though it has improved over the last two games.

Look for the Noles to pound the ball early and often to soften up the Tech defense and then throw out of play action looks. The problem the Noles will have coming into this game is in not losing to Florida twice. While the offense did not have many injuries against UF, they were leaned on a bunch. How is EJ Manuel's mental make up? He's probably fine as EJ seems to bounce back well but he had arguably his worst game ever, and on senior night against a rival.

Goals:

- more than 6.5 yards a play before garbage time (390 yards on 60 plays, 455 yards on 70 plays)
- No more than 1 turnover
- 75% or greater TDs in the red zone

v. Georgia Tech's Offense

Too often people think of the triple option as a boring, slow plodding, grind it out, B1G type of offense. That could not be further from the truth as Paul Johnson's offense consistently performs well and produces explosive plays. Georgia Tech will stay in front of the chains with the dive but really wants to break the play outside as the pitch part of the option is generally the big hitter. This offense is built to outflank a defense by forcing the defense to key on the dive and create a numerical mismatch on the perimeter.

Many pundits will tell you that teams need an extra week to prepare for the triple option, but the data says otherwise. Florida State could use an extra week to heal up from the Florida game and the lack of a break could really hurt FSU here.

While Tevin Washington keys the option most of the time for Tech look for Vad Lee to see some time under center. Johnson has been giving Washington the first two series, Lee the next two and then going with the hot hand. Lee is a more dynamic runner and a better passer than Washington but he doesn't bring the same amount of experience and leadership Washington brings. Whoever plays quarterback this offense will hum if FSU doesn't do its job.

While Orwin Smith has been Georgia Tech's best A back, he was injured enough to miss the Georgia game and his return or effectiveness if he does return is questionable. Robbie Godhigh is the other A-back that will see the field. Godhigh isn't as shifty as Smith but is tough to bring down as his 5'6" frame gives him a lower center of gravity.

So how will the Seminoles defend the option? With pure physicality. Florida State must beat Georgia Tech up front. If the Noles can take care of the dive play without delegating it's whole front 7 to doing so it can maintain the numerical dead lock outside. However, FSU will need to tackle better in space than they did against Florida. While the Noles have played a good bit of 2-gap discipline with their defensive tackles, look for more of a 1-gap look allowing the linebackers to flow a bit faster to the B-back. If the Noles can get into the backfield they stand a better chance of stopping the option before it gets going.

Expect Georgia Tech to try and attack away from Bjeorn Werner as the Noles will have to rely on defensive ends Mario Edwards Jr and Georgio Newberry because of Cornelius Carradine's injury. While both ends are very talented they are inexperienced and showed against Florida they lack understanding of what an offense wants to do. Florida was able to run right at both ends because they were interested more in sacks rather than playing their position and consistently lost containment.

When Tech does run to Werner's side look for the Yellow Jackets to make him the option man (leaving him unblocked and optioning off him).

Florida State will also need to be quick with their adjustments. Paul Johnson has had so much success with his offense because of the changes he can make on the fly. Watch the offensive line in this game to see most of those adjustments. Sometimes they will cut block, pull a guard or just try and maul the FSU defenders. The variety in how a defensive linemen has to react and the speed at which he needs to make the right decision makes the triple offense a tough one to defend. Making this offense more potent is the fact that Tech will throw the ball a bit more and run non-option plays.

Outside the Noles will likely play a cover-3 or cover-1 defense allowing Terrence Brooks to stay in the box. The cover-3 defense is normally strong against the run allowing both safeties to start closer to the line of scrimmage and delay their drops. Georgia Tech does not have that big powerful wide receiver like it did in Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, or Stephen Hill and blocking has suffered a bit because of it. They also do not scare too many teams and as such Orwin Smith has almost as many receptions as the Yellow Jacket's leading wide receiver (Jeff Greene). FSU's DBs will need to shed blocks quickly to help attack the run and they have done that well this year.

Florida State is not likely to stonewall Tech's offense but does need to force Tech to work its way down the field. The more plays the Yellow Jackets have to run the more opportunities FSU will have for a turnover or negative play. Negative plays kill an offense like Georgia Tech because they are not built to pass. Tech moved the ball well against UGA this last week but turnovers and negative plays shut down the offense once they crossed the 50.

Goals:

- less than 5 yards/play before garbage time (300 on 60 plays, 350 on 70)
- Force 2 turnovers
- 50% or less TDs in the red zone

Special Teams

Florida State really has an opportunity to put this one away with special teams. Since Groh's firing special teams coordinator Dave Walkosky has been coaching the defensive line and the special teams have suffered because of it. Kenny Shaw did a very good job against Florida not only catching the ball but getting up field and providing FSU with better field position. It looks like Fisher has decided one Shaw is better than a combination of Rashad Greene and Tyler Hunter and FSU will just have one returner back for punts.

Sean Poole is punting quite well for Georgia Tech. The senior punter from Tallahassee is averaging about 40 yards/kick on the year but because of Tech's offensive success has only attempted 23 punts so far. Cason Beatty has certainly had an up and down year so far but kicked well against Florida averaging over 41 yards/punt with a long of 54. While he should not get many opportunities against Georgia Tech FSU fans hope Beatty keeps up the strong leg.

Georgia Tech has five kickers on its roster. This is all you should need to know about their kicking game. David Scully and Justin Moore battled in the off season with Scully winning the kicking job but injuries have sidelined both of them. Walk-on Chris Tanner has taken over in their absence and has performed admirably going 3/4 and making all of his extra points. Expect Johnson to forgo field goals in favor for a 4th down play against FSU and Tanner does not have a leg Johnson can be confident in. On FSU's side Dustin Hopkins is Dustin Hopkins. The end.

Miscellaneous

This is the type of game Florida State could easily lose. While they are favored by more than two scores they are also physically and mentally beat up. FSU is playing for the ACC Championship but the loss to Florida was tough. Specifically, E.J. needs to get his head straight quickly as Tech will likely force FSU to beat them through the air, if they can. Thankfully for Seminole fans E.J. has done a good job of bouncing back from poor games. A pro Florida State crowd in Charlotte will likely help.

Prediction: Florida State 38, Georgia Tech 27

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