Georgia Tech football coach Paul Johnson isn’t quite sure what to make of a college football playoff system that currently ranks an unbeaten team that won last season’s national championship as fourth-best in the country.
“I consider them to be the No. 1 team in the country until somebody beats them,” Johnson said of Florida State, the Yellow Jackets’ opponent in Saturday’s ACC championship game at Bank of America Stadium. “Defending champs and undefeated.”
The Seminoles (12-0), who have won 28 consecutive games over three seasons, are back in the ACC title game for a third consecutive time, also winning it in 2012 and ’13. They’re playing a Yellow Jackets team (10-2) whose high-octane, triple-option offense has shredded defenses all season.
Florida State, however, has bigger things in mind. The Seminoles are hoping to defend their national title – but will do it in a different manner than in any other season leading up to now. For the first time, the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision will use a four-team playoff.
The Seminoles – currently fourth in the playoff rankings behind one-loss teams Alabama, Oregon and Texas Christian – dropped from the top spot in recent weeks after less-than convincing victories against Miami (30-26), Boston College (20-17) and Florida (24-19).
Which makes no sense to Georgia Tech’s coach.
“I don’t know why they let anybody leapfrog Florida State,” said Johnson. “The bottom line is you try to win the games. I saw where (Seminoles coach) Jimbo (Fisher) had talked about it’s not style points. I’m sure the (ranking committee) have their criteria for what it is they do.”
Fisher, whose team has what is now tied for the 14th-longest winning streak in FBS history, tried not to make too much of what appears to be a significant amount of disrespect the committee has shown the Seminoles.
“I can’t control what other people think,” said Fisher. “All I can control is how we play and what we do and we just keep putting ‘W’s’ on the board. If we keep handling our business, everything will work out.”
The Seminoles, of course, get most of their opponents’ best shots. That’s what happens when you haven’t lost since the 2012 season and have a Heisman Trophy-winning sophomore quarterback in Jameis Winston.
“Everyone is going to prepare for us,” said Florida State receiver Rashad Greene. “Everybody is going to bring their ‘A’ game. We have to realize that.
“I’m not disappointed in our team at all. We find a way to win. What more can you ask for?”
The main focus for Florida State will be stopping Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense, which leads the ACC in several categories, including scoring (37.2 points per game), yards per game (469.1), rushing offense (333.8) and third-down conversion (57.4 percent).
“With a triple-option offense, it’s a lot of discipline (for the defense),” said Florida State linebacker Terrance Smith. “You’ve got to have everybody on their man. It’s assignment football. It’s not necessarily where the ball is. If one person is out of place at the wrong time, they could break a big play for long yards.”
Will Georgia Tech’s triple option be enough to snap the nation’s longest winning streak and knock the Seminoles out of the playoff?
“We’re approaching the game in our mind, that Florida State is the No. 1 team,” said Johnson. “They’re undefeated, they’re reigning national champs. Until somebody beats them, they’re No. 1 to me.”