CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Florida State has no option but to stop the option if the Seminoles want to win their 13th ACC title.
Jimbo Fisher said Friday that the key to the Seminoles winning another ACC Championship Game and clinching an automatic bid to the Orange Bowl is shutting down Georgia Tech's triple-option offense.
The 13th-ranked Seminoles (10-2, 7-1 ACC) are two-touchdown favorites over unranked Georgia Tech in tonight's matchup. Still, Fisher knows defending the Yellow Jackets' deceiving offense can be a monumental task if you're not properly prepared.
The Yellow Jackets (6-6, 5-3) averaged 40 points per game during ACC play and their running game ranks third-best in Division I-A, averaging 323.3 yards per game.
Fisher said his staff has devised a good game plan to stop it. But he's quick to point out it's difficult to simulate the speed of Georgia Tech's offense because it's so unorthodox.
"It's hard to simulate," Fisher said. "It's one thing to do it in practice when you have your assignments, but we have to get used to the speed of it and how well they execute it. So it will be a huge challenge for us, no doubt."
Whatever happens, both teams could be heading for a bowl game.
This week, the NCAA granted Georgia Tech a waiver to ensure it would be bowl eligible even it loses and drops to 6-7.
The Yellow Jackets hope they don't need the waiver. Whether they do could depend on the Seminoles' defense.
Florida State ranks fourth in Division I-A against the run, allowing just 85.1 yards per game and a mere 2.7 yards per carry.
But the Seminoles' task could be a little more difficult without defensive end Tank Carradine, their leading tackler, who'll miss the final two games of the season with a torn knee ligament. He led FSU with 80 tackles and was second on the team with 11 sacks.
Even without Carradine, Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson said FSU has the best defensive line his team has faced this season. They are led by Bjoern Warner, the ACC defensive player of the year.
"They're huge, and they've got a lot of them," Johnson said of FSU's defensive line rotation. "So they roll them and they play a lot of guys. It's going to be a huge challenge."
Georgia Tech's leading rusher Orwin Smith did not play last week, and Johnson said he's doubtful for tonight, which could put more pressure on quarterback Tevin Washington. Washington has only thrown for seven touchdowns this season, but he leads the Yellow Jackets with 18 rushing TDs.
Florida State and Georgia Tech have spent the week trying to forget about last week. Both teams suffered losses to rivals.
Florida State's loss was particularly painful as they let a fourth-quarter lead slip away and lost to fourth-ranked Florida 37-26. But Fisher believes his team has bounced back with a good week of practice.
"I think it hurt them, but I think they're ready to flush it because they understand what they have to accomplish and that's win a conference championship and still have a phenomenal year," Fisher said. "I look forward to them doing that."
Georgia Tech was blown out by No. 3 Georgia 42-10. The Yellow Jackets defense has had its problems and Johnson said he's concerned about his special teams, which has given up a number of big plays.
Today's state games
UCF at Tulsa
C-USA title, noon, Chapman Stadium, Tulsa, Okla. TV/radio: ESPN2; 1350-AM Line: Tulsa by 2 Weather: Mostly cloudy, low 70s, 20 percent chance of rain, wind 20- mph
USF vs. Pittsburgh
7, Raymond James Stadium TV/radio: ESPN2; 1010-AM, 98.7-FM Line: Pitt by 7 Weather: Clear, high 60s, no chance of rain
Scouting reports, 4-5C
No. 13 FSU vs. Ga. Tech
ACC title, 8, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C. TV/radio: ESPN; 820-AM, 620-AM Line: FSU by 14 Weather: Clear, high 40s, no chance of rain
OTHER TITLE GAMES
SEC: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia, 4, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ch. 10, 620-AM
Big Ten: No. 14 Nebraska vs. Wisconsin, 8, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ch. 13, 1040-AM