Charlotte, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The second-ranked Florida State Seminoles and 12th-ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will collide at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. on Saturday evening, with the Atlantic Coast Conference championship on the line.
Jimbo Fisher's Seminoles have staved off defeat more than a few times this season but have come through the battles unscathed, as they have now won 28 straight games. The defending national champions knocked off rival Florida last weekend, 24-19 to finish the regular season at 12-0. The team won the ACC's Atlantic Division a couple of weeks ago and is eyeing up its 15th ACC championship since joining the league in 1992. FSU is playing in its fifth ACC Title Game and fourth in the last five seasons.
Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets are a formidable obstacle in the way. Georgia Tech earned the Coastal Division title and will be playing in its third ACC Championship Game in the last six years. The Yellow Jackets moved to 10-2 on the season with a thrilling 30-24 overtime victory over archrival Georgia last weekend. Earlier this week, Johnson was named the ACC Coach of the Year for the third time.
"I accept this award on behalf of our football program - assistant coaches, players, staff, and everyone involved," Johnson said. "As everyone knows, this is not a one-person award. I appreciate the honor."
These two teams are meeting in the title game for the second time in the last three seasons. Florida State won that matchup (21-15) and holds a 13-9-1 series advantage all-time.
The Seminoles have been playing with fire this season, but have not been burned yet, thanks in large part to Jameis Winston and his cool demeanor in the face of defeat. Last year's Heisman winner has engineered three game- winning drives this season alone to keep the Seminoles win streak going.
The offensive numbers on the year are pretty good, with the team averaging 34.6 ppg on 430.2 yards of total offense. A good portion of that yardage comes via Winston's arm, as FSU's signal caller has completed 65.1 percent of his passes, for 3,250 yards and 21 TDs. However, he has been prone to make mistakes in 2014, with a whopping 17 interceptions, including four last week against Florida.
FSU's all-time leading receiver is at Winston's disposal on the outside, as senior Rashad Greene is having yet another stellar season, catching 86 balls, for 1,183 yards and five TDs. Tight end Nick O'Leary (44 rec, 517 yds, 5 TDs) is a viable option downfield as well.
The FSU ground game has posted modest numbers this season (131.2 ypg), but freshman Dalvin Cook has come on late and really showed signs of explosive play. He currently leads the team with 728 yards (5.9 ypc) and seven TDs. Fellow tailback Karlos Williams (609 yards, 10 TDs) can move the chains as well, although he is listed as questionable with concussion-like symptoms.
"He'll have to be judged," Fisher said of Williams. "We'll keep him out for a couple days no matter what. They always do that. Then day by day we'll see how he's doing."
Florida State has shown itself vulnerable on the defensive side of the football this season, yielding 22.0 ppg on 371.1 yards of total offense. The team has recorded 23 takeaways, but just 17 sacks in 12 games.
Linebackers Reggie Northrup (101 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR) and Terrance Smith (83 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INTs, 2 FF) lead in the way in the middle of the defense. Defensive backs Jalen Ramsey (69 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 2 INT, 2 FF) and P.J. Williams (51 tackles, 1 INT) highlight the play in the secondary, while Mario Edwards Jr. (41 tackles, 11.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) and Eddie Goldman (35 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks) have been productive up front.
The Yellow Jackets prefer to run the ball right down the throats of the opposition and they use their potent triple-option to near perfection week-in and week-out. Georgia Tech is averaging 333.8 yards per game on the ground, ranking third in the nation in rushing.
Everything is set up by redshirt sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas. The 5-11, 189-pounder leads the team in rushing with 861 yards and five TDs, while showing rarely seen passing skills for a Tech QB, throwing for 1,460 yards and 16 TDs this year.
Of course, Thomas isn't the only Yellow Jacket chewing up yardage on the ground. Both Zach Laskey (748 yards, 8 TDs) and Synjyn Days (686 yards 3 TDs) have contributed a great deal. In all, Georgia Tech has scored 37 times this year via the run.
The team may have to rely even more on the run than usual, as Tech's top receiving threat DeAndre Smelter (35 rec, 715 yds, 7 TDs) tore his ACL against Georgia and is out.
Georgia Tech's defense hasn't quite kept pace with its explosive offense this season, but has had its moments of dominant play. In all, the team is giving up 24.1 ppg, on .388.8 yards of offense and has forced 27 turnovers this year.
Linebacker P.J. Davis is the team's top tackler and is closing in on the century mark in stops with 97 on the year. He also has four sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles to his credit. Fellow LB Quayshawn Nealy (84 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 2 INT, 3 FR) has made his share of plays as well. Freshman DE KeShun Freeman (46 tackles) leads the team in TFL (9.0) and sacks (4.5), while safety Jamal Golden (46 tackles) paces the team in INTs (4).