Florida State began its long winning streak by knocking off Georgia Tech two years ago. The Seminoles extended the streak to 29 in a row Saturday night with another win over the Yellow Jackets.
In the process, they remained in the national title hunt.
The Seminoles all but cemented a spot in the first College Football Playoff with a 37-35 win over Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Championship Championship Game that, like so many of their contests this season, didn’t come without a struggle.
Although the field of four teams won’t be known until the selection committee announces the bracket at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, the Seminoles, ranked No. 4 in the CFP coming into the game, would appear to be a safe bet to make it in.
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“I don’t have a message to them,” Fisher said of the decision-makers. “But there ain’t no decision to be made. The decision just got made. This team is an elite team. It takes everybody’s best shot and just keeps playing.”
At 13-0, they’re the nation’s only unbeaten team, not to mention the defending national champions. If the rankings from last week don’t change, the Seminoles would likely face No.1 Alabama in New Orleans on Jan.1 in one of two semifinals.
“That would be a dream come true to play against those guys,” said FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, who hails from Alabama. “I want to play ’em real bad.”
Oregon and TCU — Nos.2 and 3 in the rankings, respectively, and both big winners over the weekend — have the inside track for the other two spots.
But those particulars remain to be seen, and the specially appointed playoff committee has already shown it doesn’t always follow conventional thinking when coming up with its rankings.
On Saturday, the Seminoles withstood a ferocious ground attack by the No.12 Yellow Jackets before prevailing.
And, once again, they had to come from behind to pull out the win.
For the eighth time this season, the Seminoles had to dig their way out of a deficit, as Georgia Tech relied on the run to build a 21-14 lead.
Even though the Noles knew what was coming, they couldn’t find a way to stymie the nation’s third-best rushing offense early on. Georgia Tech scored on its first two possessions without attempting a pass and didn’t put the ball into the air until it had reeled off 27 consecutive rushing plays.
Tech’s opening three possessions culminated in touchdowns following successive, time-consuming drives of 71, 75 and 75 yards.
Not that FSU was stagnant offensively.
The Seminoles answered every one of Georgia Tech’s first-half scores with one of their own and tacked on another for good measure.
“If that’s the kind of game we’ve got to play, we’ll do it,” Fisher said.
Winston found Nick O’Leary on a 46-yard scoring pass, freshman running back Dalvin Cook scored from 1 yard out following a drive in which he accounted for all 75 yards, and Rashad Greene came down with a 44-yard pass by Winston to make it 21-21.
Cook, who started in place of injured running back Karlos Williams, was close to unstoppable. The true freshman out of Miami’s Central High piled up 177 yards and broke Greg Allen’s school single-season rushing record for a freshman. He also caught five passes.
“I trusted the line, so I just had to run hard,” said Cook, who was named the game’s MVP.
Said Fisher: “It’s amazing what he does. This guy is a special guy.”
Cook wasn’t a one-man show, though.
Winston came up large, as well. Winston rebounded from perhaps his worst collegiate performance a week ago, a game in which he threw four interceptions in a win over Florida, by completing 21 of 30 passes for 309 yards and three TDs.
And it was a Winston pass that put the Seminoles on top for the first time, a 9-yard scoring strike to Greene just before halftime.
“We’re being balanced now on offense, and it’s really helping us,” Fisher said.
But Georgia Tech didn’t scrap its run-heavy game plan. It took the second-half kickoff and marched 77 yards on 14 plays — all runs — to tie the score at 28. The drive consumed seven minutes.
Following three field goals by Roberto Aguayo, the Seminoles looked as though they had outcome safely in hand. But they allowed Tech to go 97 yards on only six plays to whittle the lead to two points with under two minutes remaining.
FSU recovered the onside kick, however, and ran out the clock for the win.
The Seminoles didn’t turn the ball over once, a significant factor in their favor given Georgia Tech’s propensity to take advantage of takeaways. The Yellow Jackets ranked fourth in the nation on points scored off turnovers.