When Georgia Tech clinched an ACC Championship berth following Duke's loss to North Carolina, it immediately infused a new sense of excitement and energy into a fanbase which hasn't had a lot to be excited about over the past few years. Over the following weeks, that optimism, that hope of an ACC Championship, would only grow as we watched Florida State struggle to overcome weaker opponents and ultimately when our Jackets upset Georgia in Athens.
As that hope for a win has grown, so too has the expectation for a win over a team which has proven over and over again that it is one of the best in the nation. It is all too easy to get caught up in the media hype surrounding the whole game, especially when there are well-regarded experts picking the Jackets to win over a team which has won nearly 30 straight games. This task at hand is much more daunting than most would have you believe.
Likewise, you must not forget that Florida State is playing for as much as Georgia Tech is. The Noles have a bid in the inaugural College Football Playoff waiting for them if they can manage just one more win. In fact, one could argue that Florida State has more to prove in this game than Georgia Tech does -- they have dropped in the CFP rankings twice now despite being the only undefeated team in all of the FBS and are desperate for some recognition. The FSU players, coaches, and fans alike are all frustrated with the lack of respect that they, the defending national champions, are getting despite another gem of a season. The last course of action to cement themselves as a legitimate playoff-caliber team is to beat Georgia Tech and to do so convincingly.
If there is one thing we can't afford to do, it is to discount Jameis Winston. While he has struggled at times this season, the simple truth is that Winston is an NFL-caliber quarterback who will be playing on Sundays very soon. The Heisman Trophy is college football's highest honor for a reason, and that reason is that it is reserved for the best of the best; the top player in all of college football. Last year, that was Jameis Winston. He was the second freshman to ever bring it home, following only Johnny Manziel the year before, and his success last season was no fluke. Winston, in spite of his baggage, remains one of the best players in the country. To assume that he will continue throwing three interceptions per game would be both naive and inaccurate.
What is perhaps Florida State's greatest strength has been portrayed as their greatest shortcoming all season -- their ability to close out games and play fundamentally sound football down the stretch. The Playoff Committee, like most media, uses this as ammo to justify dropping the Noles in the rankings and to discredit close wins over lesser opponents. They are wrong to do so, especially when you consider that they use the same character traits to talk about how good Alabama and TCU are. Knocking a team for winning a close game is no better than faulting an Olympic swimmer for winning a race by just a fraction of a second.
As I mentioned, the Noles are presently on a 28-game winning streak. This streak dates back all the way to 2012 when Florida State defeated the Coastal Division Champion Yellow Jackets in this very game. Their historic string of games won began against Georgia Tech, and Jimbo Fisher would love nothing more than to continue it with a second straight win in the series. It all started against the Jackets, and don't underestimate their ability to continue it against them as well.
My point in saying all of this is in no way to discredit what Tech has done this season or to suggest that the Jackets have no change on Saturday. In fact, I'm just as optimistic as you are regarding the outcome of the game -- I just implore you to remember that a win is anything but guaranteed. Georgia Tech will absolutely have to play with an underdog mentality, as they have all season, in order to hang with an immensely talented FSU squad.
I'll finish by saying that the myth of Narcissus can be a cautionary tale in this situation. We can't afford to be so caught up in our expectations that we end up disabled and distraught; entranced in a veil of excitement and wonder, only to end on the receiving end of a disappointing consequence. That consequence, in this situation, would be a loss to Florida State.
This game presents an excellent opportunity for a statement to be made, but don't be surprised if that statement is made by the Florida State Seminoles.
Go Jackets, beat the Noles!