The College Football Playoff committee released its penultimate rankings Tuesday night, with Alabama, Oregon, TCU and Florida State comprising the top four. All four of those teams will be in action this weekend, but the one that should be the most on upset alert?
That would be Florida State (12-0, 8-0), which plays No. 11 Georgia Tech (10-2, 6-2) in the ACC Championship on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. Could the Yellow Jackets actually pull off the upset?
In a word, yes. In two words, heck yes.
“Florida State’s the game that I think is the best chance for one of the top four teams this weekend to lose,” CBSSports.com college football writer Tom Fornelli said on Ferrall on the Bench. “First of all, Georgia Tech is a good team. It’s just the fact that they run that option offense, which, as a defense, it’s something entirely different that you have to prepare for. The assignments that you have on a week-to-week basis if you’re a middle linebacker, it’s the same thing every week. If you face an option offense like Georgia Tech’s, your normal assignment – your normal role – is completely different, so it’s like you’re preparing to play a different sport.
“Think about it,” Fornelli continued. “Florida State hasn’t faced an option offense like Georgia Tech since the 2012 season. In that game, Florida State beat Georgia Tech, but they just squeaked by them, 26-21, so it was a close game. So I just think with the way Florida State’s been playing all season – and especially in the last few weeks – I feel like they could have problems preparing for Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech could give them problems on offense, and if (the Seminoles) turn the ball over – if that continues – they’re ripe for an upset. So I do feel like Florida State smells vulnerable.”
Georgia Tech has won five straight games, including a 30-24 overtime win at then-No. 9 Georgia this past Saturday. Georgia Tech entered as a two-touchdown underdog but rushed 70 times for 399 yards – 5.7 yards per carry – and three touchdowns.
“They’re not going to change their approach for Florida State,” Fornelli said. “If you look at Florida State’s defense, it’s had trouble slowing down other teams’ run games. That’s why Boston College gave it some trouble. That’s why Miami gave it a bit of trouble for a while. A lot of the problems Florida State has had in these close games – aside from Jameis Winston throwing the ball away – is stopping the run. And I think that could play another factor.”
As Fornelli explained, facing an option offense isn’t about filling gaps; it’s about playing assignment football.
“If one guy on the defense screws up his assignment against an option offense, the next thing you know there’s a wing back flying down the sideline for 70 yards for a touchdown,” Fornelli said. “It’s so important to play disciplined football. And it’s just sometimes from what I’ve seen for Florida State this year, they get out of their disciplines and it costs them. So it might cost them a lot bigger. It might cost them a playoff berth on Saturday.”