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On Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., the Florida State Seminoles (10-2 straight up, 3-8 against the spread) look to claim another championship banner and punch their ticket to a BCS bowl game in the process. Standing in their way is an unlikely opponent, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-6 SU, 7-5 ATS), but someone had to win the Coastal Division in the ACC, right?
Georgia Tech must not be too confident in their own chances in this one, as they petitioned the NCAA for a bowl-eligibility waiver in the event they slipped to 6-7, which would be under the .500 winning percentage requirement for a bowl bid.
Georgia Tech is an outstanding rushing team, ranking third in the nation with 323.3 yards per game on the ground. It is difficult to run on Florida State, but the Yellow Jackets will have to do so if they wish to remain in the game. If they fall behind, they will have a difficult time playing catch-up since they rank 119th in the nation in passing with just 135.4 yards per game through the air.
Yellow Jackets QB Tevin Washington (wrist) is probable for the game. He has managed 1,097 passing yards this season, throwing seven touchdowns and just three interceptions. Washington does most of his damage on the ground, running 151 times for 618 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. His rushing yardage total is third on the team behind just RBs Zach Laskey (124-623-1) and Orwin Smith (75-673-5). It is looking more and more like Smith, the team's leading rusher, will not be available for Saturday's game due to an ankle injury suffered back on Nov. 17 in a win against Duke. If Smith cannot go, more responsibilities will fall upon the shoulders of the less proven Robbie Goghigh, B.J. Bostic, Synjyn Days and Deon Hill. Officially, Smith is considered doubtful to play, or, as we know from the NFL, he has about a 1-in-4 chance of suiting up.
Georgia Tech and Florida State did not square off this season. For what it's worth, the Yellow Jackets knocked off the Seminoles 49-44 in the last meetings back on Oct. 10, 2009.
The Seminoles are outstanding across the board on defense, ranking second overall in the nation by allowing just 249.4 yards per game. FSU ranks sixth in passing yards allowing, giving up 164.3 yards per game through the air. The Seminoles rushing defense gives up just 85.1 yards per game on the ground, ranking fourth in the nation in the category. That will be the key to the game, as it is strength vs. strength. The Georgia Tech prolific rushing offense against the Florida State prolific rushing defense. Whoever wins that battle will likely will the game, or at least cover the two-touchdown spread.
When Florida State has the ball on offense, look for RB James Wilder Jr., son of the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers great, to get it done. He really came on down the stretch, running 89 times for 514 yards and nine rushing touchdowns. He added two receiving scores for a team-leading 11 total visits to the end zone. Wilder Jr. and RB Devonta Freeman took right over for the injured RB Chris Thompson (knee), who is out for the season. Thompson is still the overall rushing leader with 687 yards and five scores, but don't let that fool you. Freeman and Wilder Jr. are RBs 1B and 1C, and there is no dropoff whatsoever.
The passing game is also strong for Florida State, as QB E.J. Manuel will go over 3,000 passing yards in this one. He is 221-for-328 with 2,967 yards, 22 TDs and nine INTs this season, and Manuel is a threat to run, too. He posted 235 rushing yards with three touchdowns. WR Rashad Greene led the team with 614 receiving yards with five touchdowns, while the speedy WR Kelvin Benjamin has managed 479 yards with four scores.
On the defensive end, Florida State DB Tyler Hunter has managed three interceptions to lead the team. He is a Georgia guy, so he might be playing with a little extra incentive. DLs Bjoern Werner (13 sacks) and Cornellius Carradine (11 sacks) have no problem getting to the quarterback. Watch out for Ga. Tech DB Jemea Thomas, who led the team with three INTs.
-- The Seminoles are 10-1-1 ATS in their past 12 neutral site games, and they are 6-1-1 in their past eight games in the month of December. However, FSU is just 2-5 ATS in their past seven ACC battles, 1-4 ATS in their past five games overall, and 1-4 ATS in their past five battles on a grass surface.
-- The Yellow Jackets are 4-0 ATS in their past four ACC games, but just 1-5 ATS in their past six neutral site games. Georgia Tech is also an underwhelming 1-6 ATS in their past seven games in the month of December.
-- In head-to-head matchups, the Seminoles are 0-2-2 ATS in the past four meetings against the Ramblin' Wreck, and the underdog is 2-0-2 ATS in the past four meetings.
-- As far as the total is concerned, the over might be the play. The over is 3-0-1 in Florida State's past four games overall, and the over is 3-1-1 in their past five ACC contests. In addition, the over is 5-2 in FSU's past seven games in the month of December. For Georgia Tech, the over is 6-2 in the past eight games against a team with a winning record, and 5-2 in their past seven ACC tilts. The over is also 7-3 in the past 10 games overall. However, with Florida State's defense, and the fact Smith, Georgia Tech's leading rusher, is likely to be sidelined, that total of 61 points might be a bit ambitious.