The road to repeat as college football champions has been an arduous one for the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles (12-0, 8-0 ACC). At Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Saturday, Jimbo Fisher’s squad will face perhaps their toughest test of the season when they meet the No. 16 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (10-2, 6-2 ACC) in the ACC Conference Championship.
Six schools have come within a touchdown of defeating the Seminoles this season, which is in sharp contract from 2013, when Florida State defeated opponents by an average of over 45 points leading up to their thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Auburn Tigers in the BCS National Championship. Florida State has often relied on late-game heroics to stay undefeated this season despite facing just two currently ranked opponents.
One more win for Florida State will send them to the first-ever College Football Playoff. Against a streaking Yellow Jackets squad, the Seminoles may not have much room for error.
An improvement to the passing game after lackluster production against the Florida Gators on Saturday might be in order. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston threw four interceptions and passed for just 125 yards against a Florida squad that had previously surrendered 42 points to Alabama. It’s been a sophomore slump for Winston, who threw for 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2013, but has just 21 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions in 11 games this season.
Winston will be tested in the ACC title game. The Georgia Tech defense is coming off arguably their two best efforts of the season, holding then-No. 19 Clemson to just six points, and then-No. 9 Georgia to 24 points in overtime. Against Clemson, Georgia Tech intercepted three passes and returned two for touchdowns.
Georgia Tech uses a balanced attack to defeat opponents, and has not struggled to score points this season. The lowest point total for the Yellow Jackets was 25, when they lost to Duke on Oct. 11.
Eleven players have rushed for over 100 yards this season, and five players have over 100 receiving yards. Quarterback Justin Thomas has thrown for 16 touchdowns and 1,460 yards, but the sophomore also leads the team in rushing with 861 yards off 165 carries. Running back Zach Laskey has rushed for 748 yards, and leads the team in touchdowns with eight.
Georgia Tech has won five straight games, and only Georgia put up a legitimate fight during the streak. The Yellow Jackets also appear to be confident against an opponent that has won 28 straight games. The streak began on Dec. 1, 2012, when Florida State beat Georgia Tech, 21-15, in the ACC Championship in Charlotte.
"(It) would be nice to end their streak in Charlotte considering that they started it with us," offensive lineman Shaquille Mason said this week. "We're definitely looking forward to the opportunity of playing them."
This ACC Championship has all the makings of an upset, but that was also the case before Florida State played Louisville at Cardinal Stadium. After trailing the Cardinals 24-7 in the third quarter, the Seminoles would go on to score 35 points in the final 25 minutes to win, 42-31.
Betting Odds: Florida State by 4 points
Over/Under: 60.5 points
Prediction: Florida State over Georgia Tech, 31-30