Coming in to this season, we knew the chances of Florida State being in this game were going to be very high. And that came to be, as for the second straight season, the Seminoles ran through the regular season undefeated. Who represented the Coastal Division was more of a crapshoot. In the end, Georgia Tech ended up winning the division, going 6-2 in the ACC, and winning by one game.
You're definitely going to get two different styles of offense in this game. Georgia Tech's triple option offense puts up 333 yards rushing per game, which is far and away the best in the ACC, and ranks fourth in the nation. Led by quarterback Justin Thomas, and running backs Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days, they rushing attack will be able to get yards in chunks against the Florida State defense.
The passing game is a bit more of a question, however. While Justin Thomas has proved to be a competent passer at points this season, losing top receiver Deandre Smelter for this game due to injury will be a giant blow for the passing game. Senior Darren Waller, with 16 receptions, may end up being the go to guy here.
Florida State has a bit more of a traditional offense. The Seminoles have thrown the ball on 53.6% of their plays, and run the ball 46.4% of the time. Jameis Winston has had a bit of a down year, having thrown 17 interceptions, which led the ACC. Eleven of those interceptions came in the last five games. But he's also a great quarterback in the second half of games. Winston completes 62% of his passes in the first half of games, and completes 68% in the second half. Thirteen of his 17 interceptions were thrown in the first half as well.
The running game took a bit of a hit this week with the news that Karlos Williams will miss the game with a concussion. But the emergence of Dalvin Cook has been big for the rushing attack. The freshman has three 100 yard games this season, and like Winston, is a much better player in the second half of games. Cook's yards per carry average goes up by nearly two yards per carry in the second half of games, from 4.9 to 6.6.
We expected a bit of a drop off this year for FSU's defense. It was as dominant of a defense as there was in 2013, but this year's defense has been pretty average. The Seminoles rank 10th in the ACC in total defense, eighth against the run, and 12th against the pass. The pass defense won't be much to worry about, since Georgia Tech doesn't pass much, but the run defense allowed 250 yards to The Citadel, which runs a similar style of offense as Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech's defense is worse. The Yellow Jackets rank 12th in the ACC in total defense. They rank 10th against the run, and 11th against the pass. The Yellow Jackets defense only allowed two quarterbacks to throw for over 300 yards this season, but allowed three teams to rush for over 200 yards this season.
This has all the ingredients of a shootout. Two offenses who can move the ball against two defenses that struggle to stop offenses. What will be the key to this game will be how each team adjusts to missing a key player on offense, with FSU missing Karlos Williams, and Georgia Tech missing Deandre Smelter. Smelter is a bigger loss because he pretty much was Georgia Tech's lone pass receiver. Smelter caught 35 of the 91 passes Georgia Tech completed this year. Williams was part of a system that used a a few different backs, so Cook and Mario Pender will help fill the void. Because of this, I'll take Florida State to once again reign supreme in the ACC again, and make the College Football Playoff. Florida State 38, Georgia Tech 31