Florida State Opponent Preview: Georgia Tech

Florida State will be back in action this Saturday after getting a bye week to rest up and get refocused for the final five game stretch of the season. The Noles will be looking to end a three-game losing streak in a game against a struggling Georgia Tech team.  The game will take place inside Doak Campbell Stadium in the Noles first noon contest of the season. The Yellow Jackets will be coming off a Thursday night loss to Virginia in a game that saw starting quarterback Jeff Sims go down with an injury and not return.

Georgia Tech got off to an abysmal 1-3 start that included a scoring margin of 110-20 against FBS teams which led to the firing or former head coach Geoff Collins. The Jackets then seemed to gain some momentum winning two games in a row including a surprising win over the 24th ranked Pitt Panthers.

On paper Florida State should win this game comfortably and currently sits at a 24-point favorite. However, FSU has lost the last two matchups against Georgia Tech including Mike Norvell’s debut at FSU in 2020. When we look at how Georgia Tech has performed this season statistically, there has not been much positive apart from a few areas they have managed to excel which has allowed them to win or at least compete in a few games. They are 4th in the country in turnover margin, 17th in interceptions and 15th in the country in tackles for loss.

FSU needs to play a clean game and not allow Georgia Tech to hang around or else they may find themselves in a game in the fourth quarter which is what happened against Pitt. Georgia Tech also kept it close for three quarters against Clemson in the season opener only being down one score with under 2 minutes left in the third before Clemson opened things up and the game got out of hand.

Two of the biggest x-factors in this game are whether Jeff Sims will play or not and if so, how close to 100% will he be? Currently, it seems to be trending that he won’t play, and backup Zach Gibson will get the start.

The other x-factor, which is not as impactful given the level of competition, is whether we see Fabien Lovett return for the Noles. He has been practicing for the past two weeks and will likely make a limited appearance if he does return. However, given his ability that would still be an immediate boost to the interior of the FSU defensive line which has struggled to stop the run in his absence. Let’s look at what the Yellow Jackets are bringing to Tallahassee starting with some overall numbers on the game seen below.

GT vs FSU by the numbers

Offensive Preview

The Georgia Tech offense has been downright terrible to put in nicely. They are near the bottom in almost every statistical category and that was with their starting quarterback. When Sims exited the UVA game their offense fell flat on its face, and they did not score a single offensive touchdown. I suspect they will have a better game plan for Gibson this week assuming he’s had a full week to prepare as the starter.

However, the Jackets have just found themselves out manned on most occasions this season. They have a young inexperienced offensive line up front and lack difference makers at most other positions after losing their best playmaker Jahmyr Gibbs to the portal. Against FBS opponents this season, Georgia Tech has only scored six total offensive touchdowns and no more than two offensive touchdowns in a single game. Here’s a look at the offensive stats for Georgia Tech so far this season.

GT Offense stats

Statistically, FSU will be the highest ranked total defense that Tech has faced this season. If they are to get Fabien Lovett back even in a limited capacity and Sims is out it’s likely Tech will have to try to beat FSU with the pass. This could be a good thing for the FSU pass rush if Gibson in behind center. He’s been sacked 7 times in only 38 drop backs this season.

Sims obviously poses a running threat if he is available and healthy enough to run the ball effectively. FSU has faced two mobile quarterbacks this season which gave them a little trouble at times. Gibson will run the ball on an occasional scramble and is not exactly slow but he’s not Sims when it comes to running the ball. He doesn’t throw a bad ball either but behind a struggling offensive line and lacking real weapons at receiver it’s not the best scenario for him.

The last update I read was that Sims was day to day. Sometimes back up quarterbacks are tricky because you don’t have a lot of film on what they can do but FSU at least knows to prepare for both quarterbacks this week. If Gibson is the starter, I could see this one getting out of hand. Below is our passer profile for both quarterbacks incase Sims can go.

Jeff Sims Passer Profile

If the FSU offense doesn’t put the defense in tough positions with short fields like it has the past few games, then I think they will have a good outing. It would be nice to see FSU get their first shutout since 2015 but if not, it feels like holding them under 20 should be enough to win the game which I expect them to do.

Defensive Preview

Things get a little better for Georgia Tech on the defensive side of the ball but not by much. They do have some decent veteran players who have graded out well on pro football focus, but they also have as many holes which has caused them to struggle. Georgia Tech has been worse against the run which makes me excited knowing FSU was able to put up over 200 yards on Clemson’s top 10 rushing defense. Georgia Tech has already given up over 300 yards on the ground to Ole Miss and 284 yards rushing to UCF. The Tech defense has been good at creating TFL’s this season (15th) and interceptions (17th). FSU needs to take care of the ball first and foremost because if there is one thing Georgia Tech is good at its turnover margin (4th). Here’s a look at the stats for the Georgia Tech defense.

I like what the offensive line was able to do in the run game against Clemson and even if Treshaun Ward is out, Toafili and Benson are a nice 1-2 punch. I look for FSU to have a big day on the ground which should open up the pass as well. It would be nice to see the offense get back to firing on all cylinders and I could easily see them getting into the 30’s or better if they do. Statistically this defense is similar to what FSU saw against Boston College who they put up 31 points in the first half against.

Special Teams

Special teams could be a big component of this game for both sides. Ryan Fitzgerald has said he switched a few things up and had a bye week to try and get right. FSU could really use some reliability at kicker after seeing how it has affected some of the situations in the red zone this season. However, the one area I feel FSU has a real opportunity in this game is blocking kicks. Georgia Tech has allowed 5 blocked punts and 4 blocked kicks this season. FSU kick coverage teams have been good this season minus one return against Clemson. 

Georgia Tech is also 128th in punt return defense and 130th in Net Punting this season. We’ve seen Mycah Pittman have a few nice returns this season and it appears he will have an opportunity to make something happen in this game. With the emphasis FSU puts on special teams and seeing some weaknesses for Georgia Tech I have a feeling this could be a something FSU takes advantage of on Saturday.

Final Thoughts and Prediction

My main concerns are this being Florida State’s first noon game of the season, they are a 24-point favorite and there is a rivalry game next week. Those all are all reasons to come out flat and play down to the competition. However, after losing three games in a row and coming off a bye week I think this team will be hungry to get back on the field and back to winning. FSU needs to play a clean game and not allow Georgia Tech to hang around because of mistakes.

If FSU comes out firing on all cylinders this game should be a comfortable win but nothing is guaranteed with this team. In my opinion this isn’t as much of a must win game for Norvell and staff as it a can’t lose game if that makes sense. FSU simply cannot afford to lose this game at home to a bad Georgia Tech team with a interim staff and possibly a backup quarterback. We’ll have to wait and see if Jeff Sims plays or not but either way, I think Florida State will handle business and Norvell gets revenge for the Yellow Jackets spoiling his FSU debut. Give me FSU 38 Georgia Tech 10. Thanks for reading and Go Noles!

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