Nov. 30, 2012
Charlotte, N.C. -- If there is such thing as a dangerous 6-6 team than its the one that stands in front of No. 12 Florida State on its quest to become Atlantic Coast Conference champion for the first time since 2005.
Despite being .500 on the season and in the league's title game in Charlotte, N.C. because Miami elected to self-impose a post-season ban, the Yellow Jackets boast an offense that is third in the nation with an average of 323 rushing yards per game. Georgia Tech's triple-option offensive attack is predicated on power, deception and wearing opponents down.
The Yellow Jackets don't beat you through the air -- they rank 115th nationally in passing yards -- but they'll schematically test defensive secondaries that become too focused on helping in run support.
"We know that they are pretty good at what they do so we have to be on point with what we do and that's defending the run," FSU safety Lamarcus Joyner said. "They are run, run, run and then try to hit you with those big plays down the field. We have to be disciplined in the run-game so we can be able to defend those big passing plays."
For the 'Noles, discipline is the key and so is "not getting cut; they do a lot of cutting," FSU cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. Although they've been focused all week on watching film of the unorthodox offense and have competed on the practice fields against a scout team running a similar style, it will be much different once the lights of Bank of America Stadium are on and the Seminoles are squaring off against players that were specifically recruited for that type of attack.
With a conference title and BCS-berth on the line, the No. 2-ranked FSU defense must be at its best -- and most disciplined.
"It's going to be real difficult trying to keep your eyes on your man, especially secondary wise because they run the ball so much," Rhodes said. "It can lull us to sleep. We can go to sleep and let the receiver and they could be passing the ball at that time and it could be a touchdown. Our man goal is to keep our eyes on our man."
Like Georgia Tech, FSU is coming off a loss to its biggest in-state rival and focused on capping off the season with the championship that has somehow eluded the Seminoles for six full seasons.
After winning the inaugural ACC Championship Game in 2005 against Virginia Tech, it appeared as though FSU would continue its pre title-game dominance of the league. And even though FSU has managed to earn just one trip back since then -- a 2010 loss to the Hokies in Charlotte -- the yearly expectations haven't diminished.
If anything, the no ACC Championship drought has put more pressure on Jimbo Fisher's program.
"We go into the off-season just thinking about winning our conference," Rhodes said. "We work at it hard. In the season we think about it all the time. Now we've got the chance, we've just got to take advantage of it."
And taking advantage of the opportunity means shutting down that Georgia Tech offense.
The Seminoles are going to get their points -- the Yellow Jackets are 59th in the country in total defense -- but can they prevent their last road block on the road back to conference supremacy from doing the same?
FSU players can see the end goal. Now they just have to get there, with 60 minutes of football and a swarm of bees in front of them.
"It'd be nice to win the ACC, FSU fullback Lonnie Pryor said, "and walk around with that big ring on your finger."