I feel were getting some value going against Florida State here. The closer I look at FSU’s defense the more I feel like their outstanding numbers are at least partially the product of facing some really anemic offenses.
FSU ranks 4th nationally in defensive yards per carry, which ordinarily would be a gigantic red flag for that GT flexbone offense. However, ranking FSU’s opponents by their ypc rankings versus FBS teams, we get the following: Wake Forest (112th) Clemson (61st), USF (41st), NC St (118th), Boston College (112th), Miami FL (52nd), Duke (104th), Virginia Tech (82nd), Maryland (120th) and Florida (50th).
Georgia Tech, who ranks 8th nationally by this metric and is schematically vastly different from everyone FSU has seen, presents an interesting challenge to this statistically stout Seminole defense.
Last week I went for a max play against Georgia Tech, but that was what I felt was a really poor spot for the Jackets. They were at Georgia, who was still trying to keep their national title hopes alive and had just gotten a great primer on GT’s offense by facing a FCS foe who is very proficient in the triple option in Georgia Southern the previous week. While it was a huge rivalry game for GT, they were already locked into the ACC title game this week that would ultimately define their season. To me this is a much stronger spot for the Jackets, with FSU coming off a demoralizing home loss to the rival Gators that dashed whatever National Title hopes they may still have harbored.
What is really interesting to me is the way that this FSU defense seems to be struggling coming down the stretch, after allowing only 230 yards a game and less than 3.5 yards per play through October they allowed 316 yards a game and 5 yards per play in November. Looking at that, you would expect that they played a murderer’s row down the stretch but in truth they actually played 3 statistically poor offenses (Florida is 90th in yards per play, VT is 86th and Maryland is 120th).
Florida just really beat them up in the trenches last week and was able to successfully gash them between the tackles as the game wore on. To me it looks like a group wearing down as the season has worn on (take a look at their list of walking wounded here), and matters won’t be helped this week after losing one of their top DE’s in Tank Carradine and the news that their DC is taking the Kentucky job. I’ve said this many times, but facing this GT offense is all about being able to completely and successfully change your mentality and play assignment football on defense, and if FSU struggles to do that they will give up big plays.
Georgia Tech has really struggled defensively, and that match-up is my concern that is keeping this game as an average sized play. Honestly, I can’t make a convincing case that Georgia Tech will shut down FSU, because they haven’t done that consistently to many teams and have really struggled at times. But what I do expect to happen is that GT should limit FSU’s offensive opportunities with their ball control offense, and keep their defensive front relatively fresh. If they are able to put together solid, clock consuming drives then it significantly ups the pressure on the FSU offense to do the same and to produce when on the field. EJ Manuel hasn’t progressed like many people around the program expected and I have no issues with going against him in a high pressure situation as I feel his decision making is really poor at times.
What we have here is a 2 TD line where the favorite has been big chalk all season but failed to cover most of these big lines (0-5 ATS outside of Tallahassee, all 5 games saw FSU go off as DD favorites) in what I think is a pretty tough spot to bounce back. I see no reason to trust an extremely banged up and somewhat deflated FSU team laying this big number, there’s a fair chance that Florida State is psychological toast at this point. Florida State has never played Georgia Tech with Jimbo Fisher as the head coach so you have to wonder just how well this team will be prepared. In what is potentially the most volatile conference in the nation, would it really surprise anyone to see FSU blow it again and Georgia Tech win outright? I won’t call for that but I do see GT controlling the football successfully and keeping this one close. FSU 35-GT 31.