Key matchups of the week: FSU vs Georgia Tech

Florida State’s first game under new head coach Mike Norvell and his regime is set to kickoff this Saturday, at 3:30 p.m, vs Georgia Tech. Norvell and the Seminoles will look to win their first season opener since 2016.

Here are a few key matchups to watch for on Saturday afternoon. 

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Georgia Tech’s Run Game vs FSU’s Run Defense 

Despite their transition from the option to a spread offense, the rushing game should not be overlooked in this matchup. Jordan Mason spearheads the backfield after rushing for 899 yards and seven touchdowns last season as a sophomore. Keep an eye out for true freshman running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who has drawn rave reviews in preseason camp. Norvell and the staff made a late push for him in the past cycle, but Gibbs ultimately stuck with his commitment.

As skilled as the FSU front might be, Georgia Tech’s offensive line is no slouch. Jack DeFoor, who received an All-ACC honorable mention last season, returns. They also bring in Tennessee graduate transfer Ryan Johnson who will start at right guard. Cory Durden, Marvin Wilson, and the rest of “The Mob” must not allow the rushers to get to the second level practically untouched.

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FSU’s O-Line vs Georgia Tech’s D-Line

If the offense expects to find success, the offensive line must set the tone early. The Yellow Jackets defensive line produced only ten of its 17 team sacks total last year, so the ‘Noles should be able to give James Blackman ample time in the passing game. Keep an eye on sophomore left guard Dontae Lucas going up against the top sack leader (2.5) for the Yellow Jackets a year ago, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Ja’Quon Griffin.

Newly appointed offensive line coach Alex Atkins believes this group, which consists of a mixture of youth and veteran players, can make a major improvement from last year. A matchup with a similarly experienced, unproven Georgia Tech defensive line should be a good indicator of where this group is at coming into 2020. 

Tamorrion Terry, Keyshawn Helton, Warren Thompson vs Georgia Tech Defensive Backs

Tamorrion Terry is one of the most explosive wide receivers in the country. Keyshawn Helton and Warren Thompson have the potential to be lethal if Terry attracts double coverage. As good as that may sound, The Yellow Jackets secondary is arguably the strongest position group on the team (finished top 40 in pass defense in 2019). They return depth and experience, led by redshirt junior Tre Swilling, who returns after receiving All-ACC honors last season. He will likely take on the task of covering Terry.

The Yellow Jackets also have senior safety Tariq Carpenter, who finished third on the team in tackles (62) last season. In addition to the passing game, the ‘Noles wide receivers must provide effort in the run-blocking department. Norvell and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham have preached about that since stepping foot in Tallahassee. 

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