Inside The ACC: Looking Back At The ACC Championship

The battle-tested Florida State Seminoles survived another nail-biter Saturday night and  punched their ticket to the inaugural College Football Playoff in the process. The Seminoles held off a valiant effort from the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte, winning 37-35.

A Florida State offense that has struggled to maintain the pace they set last season had a resurgence Saturday, looking more like the team that rolled to the National Champion a season ago. Jameis Winston, who has been heavily critiqued during his sophomore season, reminded many naysayers why he won the Heisman Trophy last season as a freshman. Winston was 21-for-30, for 309 passing yards and three touchdowns. He also avoid throwing an interception, a problem that has plagued him this season.

Receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary, both first team All-ACC players, had big nights for the Seminoles. Greene lead the team in receptions with seven, yards with 123 and a pair of touchdowns. O’Leary only caught three passes, but made them count, averaging 32.3 yards per catch. His 46 yard touchdown half way through the first quarter tied the game 7-7 after the Yellow Jackets took an early lead on a short touchdown run.

The effectiveness of the Florida State rushing game was called into question when it was announced earlier in the week that senior running back Karlos Williams would miss the game with a concussion. However, Dalvin Cook picked up the slack behind excellent offensive line play, rushing 31 times for 177 yards and a touchdown. In the fourth quarter Cook prolonged drives, and ate up the clock, leading to a pair of field goals from Roberto Aguayo which would prove to be the game winners.

For Georgia Tech Saturday it was business as usual, relying on their run first, triple-option offense to set the tone. Quarterback Justin Thomas completed only 8 of 14 passes for 134 yards, but rushed for 104 to lead the team in that category. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 331 total yards, only two behind their season average, showing just how consistent Paul Johnson’s well oiled triple-option can be.

Fullback Zach Laskey came back to earth following a stellar 140 yard, three touchdown performance against Georgia a week earlier. Laskey was held to 40 yards on 11 carries with one touchdown on Saturday. Running back Synjyn Days instead was the focal point for the Yellow Jackets backfield this week, running for 67 yards and three touchdowns to keep his side close.

The loss of leading receiver DeAndre Smelter to a torn ACL earlier in the week severely limited Georgia Tech’s options through the air in the championship game. Darren Waller filled the gap as well as could be expected, catching five of Thomas’ eight completions for 73 yards and a late touchdown. In the end however, two failed fourth down conversions in a four minute span mid way through the fourth sealed the Yellow Jackets fate — a narrow loss to a Seminoles side that has now won 29 consecutive games, dating back to 2012.

# 3 Florida State (13-0) will now take on #2 Oregon (12-1) in the Rose Bowl on January 1st, the first stop in their quest to back-to-back National Championship’s. The winner of that contest will take on either Alabama or Ohio State for the National Championship on January 12th.

#12 Georgia Tech (10-3) will settle for a trip to Miami, where they will take on #7 Mississippi State (10-2) in the Orange Bowl on New Years Eve. The two schools enter the bowl game from opposite directions. The Yellow Jackets finished the season on the upswing, while Mississippi State ended the year by losing two out of their last three games and falling from the Nations top spot in the process.

Stay with InsideTheACC for coverage of these, and all of the ACC schools during bowl season!

Follow me on Twitter @GQuintero_84

Leave a Reply