Against one of the strongest defenses in the country, Georgia Tech produced 426 yards of offense but scored just 10 points against Georgia last Saturday.
One of the most talent-loaded defenses in the country slowed down Tech’s point-scoring barrage last Saturday, when Georgia kept the Yellow Jackets out of the end zone for 3 ½ quarters in its 42-10 win in Athens.
Saturday in the ACC Championship game, Florida State figures to pose as great an obstacle as the Bulldogs did, perhaps even more. Tech has another opportunity to test itself against an elite defense.
“There’s no doubt they’re excited,” quarterbacks and B-backs coach Brian Bohannon said. “I think you’ll really get a great effort out of these guys Saturday night.”
For Tech to have a chance, it’ll take at least that. Against Georgia, Tech moved the ball but produced just a touchdown and field goal on six trips inside the Georgia 30-yard line. The Bulldogs forced two key turnovers and limited Tech’s big-play capacity, holding the Jackets to three plays of 20 yards or more.
“We had to grind and grind and grind,” coach Paul Johnson said. “When that happened, we couldn’t finish.”
The Seminoles are ranked No. 2 in total defense (249.4 yards per game), No. 4 in rushing defense (85.1 yards per game) and No. 2 in defensive third-down efficiency (27.3 percent).
“They’re probably better up front (than Georgia),” Johnson said.
The star of the unit is defensive end Bjoern Werner, the German-born pass-rushing terror who could go in the top five of the NFL draft. Werner leads the ACC in sacks with 13 and is second with 18.0 tackles for loss.
A left end, he will likely see plenty of matchups with Tech right offensive tackle Morgan Bailey.
“He’s real big and he’s fast and he makes a lot of plays,” quarterback Tevin Washington said.
Tech received a break in that it won’t have to face defensive end Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, another possible first-round pick. Carradine, who has 11 sacks and 80 tackles, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in last Saturday’s loss to Florida.
Still, the Seminoles have speed, strength and depth all across the field. Besides Werner and Carradine, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Lamarcus Joyner were also named first-team All-ACC. Defensive tackle Everett Dawkins and linebacker Christian Jones were both named second-team.
Tackles Dawkins and Anthony McCloud are “really physical, really good at getting hands on people, basically blowing guys up,” guard Omoregie Uzzi said. “It’ll be a challenge come Saturday.”
In the face of the FSU all-star defense, Uzzi is the only Tech player to receive All-ACC recognition, named first-team All-ACC for the second year in a row.
Tech isn’t stocked with advantages, but one is that Florida State has not played the Jackets and their spread-option offense since 2009. That was prior to defensive coordinator Mark Stoops’ arrival in Tallahassee. Over the offseason, coach Jimbo Fisher’s staff spent a couple days planning for the possibility of facing Tech in the ACC title game and assembled a plan for the Jackets’ unorthodox offense. That said, Stoops has not coached against an option team in several years. That is an advantage for Tech but perhaps also for Florida State, as Tech won’t be entirely sure how the Seminoles will defend the offense.
Another edge Tech may gain is that Stoops was hired Tuesday as Kentucky’s new coach. To some degree, even though he will stay with the team at least through the title game, his attention will be divided as coaches will try to instruct players in a style of defense that is often foreign over the course of three practices leading up to Saturday.
“I don’t think you can change a whole lot,” Bohannon said. “I’m sure they’ll try to just get them lined up correctly and let them play, because they’re good athletes.”
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Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog