Jimbo Fisher said Friday the key to the Seminoles winning another Atlantic Coast Conference championship and clinching an automatic bid to the Orange Bowl is shutting down Georgia Tech’s triple option offense.
The 13th-ranked Seminoles (10-2, 7-1 ACC) are two-touchdown favorites over unranked Georgia Tech in tonight’s matchup. Still, Fisher knows defending the Yellow Jackets’ deceiving offense can be a monumental task if you’re not properly prepared.
The Yellow Jackets (6-6, 5-3) averaged 40 points per game during ACC play and their running game ranks third-best in the nation, averaging 323.3 yards per game.
Fisher said his staff has devised a good game plan to stop it. But he’s quick to point out it’s difficult to simulate the speed of Georgia Tech’s offense because it’s so unorthodox.
“It’s hard to simulate,” Fisher said during a press conference Friday in Charlotte. “It’s one thing to do it in practice when you have your assignments, but we have to get used to the speed of it and how well they execute it. So it will be a huge challenge for us, no doubt.”
Whatever happens, both teams could be heading for a bowl game. The NCAA on Thursday granted Georgia Tech a waiver to ensure it would be bowl eligible even it loses and drops to 6-7 on the season.
The Yellow Jackets hope they don’t need the waiver. Whether they do or not, could depend on the Seminoles’ defense.
Florida State ranks fourth in the nation against the run, allowing just 85.08 yards per game and a mere 2.7 yards per carry.
But the Seminoles’ task could be a little more difficult without defensive end Tank Carradine, their leading tackler, who’ll miss the final two games of the season with a torn knee ligament. He led Florida State with 80 tackles and was second on the team with 11 sacks.
Even without Carradine, Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson said Florida State has the best defensive line his team has faced this season. They are led by Bjoern Warner, the ACC defensive player of the year.
“They’re huge, and they’ve got a lot of them,” Johnson said of Florida State’s defensive line rotation. “So they roll them and they play a lot of guys. It’s going to be a huge challenge. ... Georgia is awfully good at linebacker and safety, and so is Florida State, but Florida State is really good on the defensive front.”
Georgia Tech’s leading rusher Orwin Smith did not play last week and Johnson said he’s doubtful for tonight, which could put more pressure on quarterback Tevin Washington. Washington has only thrown for seven touchdowns this season, but he leads the Yellow Jackets with 18 rushing TDs. Florida State and Georgia Tech have spent the week trying to forget about last Saturday.
Both teams suffered losses to in-state rivals. Florida State’s loss was particularly painful as the let a fourth quarter lead slip away and lost to in-state rival and fourth-ranked Florida 37-26. But Fisher believes his team has bounced back with a good week of practice.
“I think it hurt them, but I think they’re ready to flush it because they understand what they have to accomplish and that’s win a conference championship and still have a phenomenal year,” Fisher said. “I look forward to them doing that. I expect them to do it.”