Coley Harvey | Orlando Sentinel FSU reporter
7:50 AM PST, November 26, 2012
TALLAHASSEE -- Welcome to Week 14 on the college football schedule. Sadly, the arrival of these next six days means the 2012 season is nearing its end. After this weekend, teams across the country will have only one game left before they enter that cold, long winter (and spring and summer) without playing games.
Before you know it, we'll all be in the middle of March again asking: Is it college football season yet?
And then, before we can blink, another season will have passed us by yet again.
There is one good thing about this week. For those of us in need of a few extra hours of sleep that were lost the past four months (read: sportswriters), we'll finally begin playing catch up. Our eyes and bodies will thank us.
But all of that must come after this weekend, though.
For this Saturday, Conference Championship Saturday, will be a big day for the Atlantic Coast Conference and Florida State. At 8 p.m., inside Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., the 13th-ranked Seminoles will do battle with unranked Georgia Tech in the ACC's title game.
The 10-2 Seminoles are coming off a tough 37-26 loss at home to rival Florida. The 6-6 Yellow Jackets also are looking to rebound after dropping their own in-state rivalry game to third-ranked Georgia, 42-10.
Now, before we get into our weekly look at FSU's newest and latest opponent, here's a bit of personal housekeeping.
As some of you know, I have had the distinct pleasure of covering FSU athletics for you since spring 2011. I've seen a lot, written a lot and made a host of new friends along the way here in Tallahassee. Before arriving here, though, I saw a lot and wrote a lot on the Georgia Tech beat for The Telegraph (Macon, Ga.).
After four seasons, I got to know the good people in Atlanta quite well. Just as I do here, I still have several friends on the Flats who continue to work in varying capacities around the athletic programs at Tech.
I'm only pointing this all out so that everyone who visits this blog this week (from Seminoles to Yellow Jackets fans) knows that my allegiances are to the Orlando Sentinel (and yes, my 9-3 alma mater that plays 1,000 miles away in Big Ten country). It is very easy to assume sportswriters are fans of the teams they cover. They are not. Sure, part of you pulls for the people you're around everyday because it's hard to root against those who you consider friends and close allies. But at the end of the day, this is a job -- albeit a pretty fun one.
So that said, you'll get the same objective and professional coverage this week as you've gotten for the last two years, and that you hopefully had a chance to peek at in Georgia a few years ago.
Now that we're beyond all of that, let's get down to it. FSU fans, let's get to know the Yellow Jackets, shall we?
First off, to any Tech fans reading this blog, welcome. I'll extend the same salutations to any new FSU readers following this, as well. Those who follow the Chopping Block reguarly know that these "Getting to know" blogs can be quite lengthy each week. We like to give stats, players to watch and just an overall good, early glimpse into the team the Seminoles are set to face.
Something we also like to do with these posts is provide you with a group of newspaper reporters you MUST follow throughout the week for the week for the latest information from the other side in the lead-up to Saturday's game.
This week, we only have two newspapers that I'll push you to follow. The first, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, staffs the Tech beat each day with a former colleague of mine, Ken Suguira. You can follow Ken all this week on Twitter @ajcgatech. He's a witty follow and a solid reporter.
Also, make sure you check out Macon.com and The Telegraph (Macon, Ga.) this week. Stan Awtrey covers Tech for the paper out of Atlanta.
With all of that out of the way, let’s get to know the 2012 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets:
Georgia Tech at No. 13 Florida State, 8 p.m., Saturday, ABC or ESPN, ACC Championship … 23rd meeting. Seminoles lead the all-time series 12-9-1. Tech won the previous meeting 49-44 during a long, weather-delayed shootout in Tallahassee in 2009. The teams first met in 1952, but have played seldom even since FSU joined the ACC in 1992. They play on opposing sides of the ACC. FSU reached the title game by winning the Atlantic Division. Tech earned the Coastal Division championship after Miami and North Carolina were unable to compete for the postseason following sanctions and self-imposed bans.
GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS (6-6, 5-3)
2012 record: 6-6 (5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) Lost to Georgia (42-10) on Saturday
2011 record: 8-4 (5-3)
Coach: Paul Johnson has seen his share of high points and low points since he arrived at Tech in 2008. In his second season, the Jackets earned a berth into the ACC Championship game in Tampa, where they beat Clemson on a last-minute touchdown run by B-back Jonathan Dwyer. Two years later, that conference championship was effectively removed from the ACC record books after an NCAA investigation revealed that players on that title team had received improper benefits that totaled nearly $400.
The last three seasons have been difficult for Johnson. After a 6-7 campaign in Year 3, an 8-4 record in Year 4 (the season began with a six-game winning streak) and this year's current .500 mark, he has had trouble tapping into the success that defined the early days of his tenure. Before athletics director Dan Radakovich bolted for Clemson earlier this year, Johnson had been subjected to rumors about being fired. With his team playing for the conference championship, along with his hefty buyout, such talk around the Flats has cooled.
Johnson's head-coaching career began at Georgia Southern in 1997. During a five-year run there, he won two national championships. He also had 45 wins in six seasons at Navy.
Georgia Tech’s 2012 stats:
Rushing yards per game: 323.33
Passing yards per game: 135.42
Rushing yards allowed per game: 143.92
Passing yards allowed per game: 248.00
Points scored per game: 36.17
Points allowed per game: 30.67
Pass efficiency yards per game: 149.74
Total yards per game: 458.75
Total yards allowed per game: 391.92
Tackles for loss per game: 5.08
Georgia Tech’s 2012 season
Week 1: Lost to Virginia Tech, 20-17 OT
Week 2: Beat Presbyterian, 59-3
Week 3: Beat Virginia, 56-20
Week 4: Lost to Miami, 42-36 2OT
Week 5: Lost to Middle Tennessee, 49-28
Week 6: Lost to Clemson, 47-31
Week 7: Bye
Week 8: Beat Boston College, 37-17
Week 9: Lost to BYU, 41-17
Week 10: Beat Maryland, 33-13
Week 11: Beat North Carolina, 68-50
Week 12: Beat Duke, 42-24
Week 13: Lost to Georgia, 42-10
Stats of note from the season:
—Georgia Tech ranks first in the ACC (and third nationally) in rushing offense (323.33 yds per game) and sacks allowed (0.92 sacks per game).
—Georgia Tech ranks last in the ACC and 115th nationally in passing offense (135.42 yds per game). The Jackets also rank 10th in the conference in pass efficiency defense (137.86 yds per game) and scoring defense (30.67 points per game).
—Georgia Tech has three players with more than 600 yards rushing this season. Quarterback Tevin Washington, B-back Zach Laskey and A-back Orwin Smith are all beyond the 600-yard plateau.
Players to know:
QB, Tevin Washington. A senior who has played meaningful games in each of the past three seasons, Washington is wrapping up a career that likely won't be remembered as fondly as his predecessor's. Joshua Nesbitt led the Jackets to two wins over the Seminoles in the two seasons before Washington took over under center full time. Playing a key role in Tech's run-based, spread option scheme, Washington has rushed for 618 yards and passed for 1,097 this season. Those numbers are considerably down compared to his 987-yard rushing, 1,652-yard passing showing as a junior. Washington currently leads the team with 18 rushing touchdowns.
QB, Vad Lee. Expect to see Lee at some point Saturday. The only question about the backup redshirt freshman is when he will make an appearance in the game. A dual-threat quarterback who has the athleticism necessary to run Johnson's offense, Lee has made numerous appearances this season, playing in every game but two. The reserve ranks fourth on the team in rushing with 489 yards. He also has passed for nearly 600. Lee has had his hand in 12 touchdowns. Some Jackets fans are optimistic that he'll be the quarterback of the future at Tech, and will lead a renaissance to Nesbitt's brightest days.
AB, Orwin Smith. As of now, it appears Smith may not play in Saturday's game. But Johnson, like FSU's Jimbo Fisher and other coaches, likes to be coy about any personnel changes he makes. So, there is still a chance that the Jackets' leading rusher and one of their top special teams threat could play this weekend. The A-back -- or the wing back for those unfamiliar with Tech's terminology -- has 673 yards and five touchdowns. He missed last weekend's game after suffering an injury against Duke the week before. From his position, Smith routinely will be handed the ball in motion or receive it in option pitches to either side of the field. In the pass-catching game, Smith has hauled in 17 receptions for 217 yards.
BB, Zach Laskey. The "B-back" in Tech's offense functions a lot like a fullback in a more traditional scheme. Often, players at the position will be handed the ball for runs up the middle, or can be used to fake a hand off in quarterback zone read runs. The B-back also can get outside and catch pitches and run outside the tackles like Smith, but he is more likely to try to push the pile forward. To illustrate that point, Laskey has lost just one yard all season. He has rushed for 623 total, and has one touchdown. He also has caught two touchdown passes.
WR, Jeff Greene. At 6-foot-6, the lead wide out was one of the Jackets' prized recruits of the 2011 signing class. The sophomore was brought in to replace Stephen Hill, the recent New York Jets second-round draft pick. Before Hill, current Denver Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas was Johnson's primary go-to receiver. Since Tech's offense is predicated on running instead of passing, Greene isn't expected to see many balls thrown his way Saturday. The tall receiver has only caught 18 this season. That leads the team. As Johnson is apt to say, though, this offense is predicated on making its few passes "hurt." That means look for the Jackets to go deep downfield whenever they do throw. Seldom will they call for a short out route or drag or curl.
S, Isaiah Johnson. The junior defensive back leads the team in tackles with 82. He's had 22 stops in the last three games alone. When the Jackets brought Johnson to campus, they expected him to be a ball-hawking safety who could give them an interceptions jolt. They're still waiting on it. He had three interceptions last season, but this year, he has been more of a tackling safety. His high tackle numbers are in part a product of poor, changing play on Tech's defensive line. Halfway through the year, the Jackets fired defensive coordinator Al Groh and have tried to go from a 3-4 base setup to a 4-3 scheme.
S, Jemea Thomas. Thomas has turned into more of the pass-catching safety this season, coming away with three pickoffs. The junior also has benefitted, statistically, from the defensive line's poor play. He ranks second on the team in tackles with 74. He also has three tackles for loss.
LB, Quayshawn Nealy. The Lakeland native ranks third on the team in tackles with 68 total stops. While much has changed defensively for the Jackets this season, the sophomore has played his same, solid role in the heart of Tech's defense. In fact, his play appears to have gotten better since Groh's midseason firing. Nealy has had double-digit tackle performances twice since the defensive change was made. He didn't have any before it. The Jackets are hoping he'll have a bounce-back game this week, though, after being held to just one stop against Georgia last week.
LB, Jeremiah Attaochu. Arguably the Jackets' biggest defensive leader, Attaochu has had a steady impact in opposing backfields this season. The junior outside backer has 59 total stops, including nine that were deemed sacks. In the offseason, he became the team's vocal and emotional defensive leader after fellow linebacker Julian Burnett was diagnosed with a career-ending neck injury. Burnett suffered the injury during last year's Sun Bowl loss. After multiple tests and evaluations, doctors decided not to clear the small-statured, but promising linebacker.
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