Georgia Tech A-back Orwin Smith isn’t blind to the perception of this game.
He knows Florida State has been penned in (not penciled) by many to play in the Discover Orange Bowl long before the season even began.
He knows the Seminoles are a two-touchdown favorite.
And he knows many outside the program scoff at Georgia Tech’s back-door entrance into the Dr Pepper ACC Championship Game, thanks to Miami declaring itself ineligible.
If you don’t think those things will add up to some motivation for the Yellow Jackets on Saturday in Charlotte, think again.
“Whoever we would be playing in the championship they wouldn't be giving Georgia Tech a shot,” said Smith, whose status for Saturday’s game is still uncertain. “It doesn't really matter who we'd be playing. We know that just from how the season has been going that we'll pretty much be the underdog in possibly every game. We're just coming into the game just like any other game with a chip on our shoulder and ready just to prove the doubters wrong.”
Florida State, much like Georgia Tech, is coming off a disappointing loss to rival Florida, but if there’s one thing seasoned ACC fans should be leery of, it’s letdowns. Florida State has already proven to be beatable when it lost at NC State earlier this season. The Seminoles have not been a dominant team by any means outside the state of Florida. And if Florida State plays anywhere near the level it did last weekend against Florida -- with five turnovers and allowing 244 rushing yards -- you better believe there is a very good chance Georgia Tech won’t need that bowl-eligibility waiver after all.
Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins knows better than to assume this game has already been won.
“Oh, yeah, there's definitely a sense it's not a gimme,” Hopkins said. “I mean, Georgia Tech ... has made the championship, first of all, that's not an accident, but they haven't played as well as I know they wish they would have, but the offense they run and just their team, they're going to have a chip on their shoulder, and they're scary, just because I know they're a talented team. They have a lot of weapons.
“Yeah, it's not a gimme game by any means,” he added. “I hope none of our guys think that way, and I don't think we do. And I'm sure that's something that's going to be reiterated to us, that needs to be reiterated from our leadership positions to our guys because when you're playing for a championship game, teams come out to play, regardless of games in the past. It doesn't affect being in the moment and being ready to play on that Saturday on this Saturday coming up. So yeah, we'd be sadly mistaken, we'd be remiss if we came in lightly to this game.”
Both teams have a chance to make a statement and finish the season on a positive note, but for Georgia Tech, the burden of proof is far greater. The Noles are the better team, from top to bottom. They should win. Georgia Tech, though, is looking to punctuate its season with its biggest turnaround yet.
“That would be a great story to end the year off of and to make it to the Orange Bowl,” Smith said. “We've had a lot of adversity, and we feel like our story is very, very inspirational, and we just need to keep going and finish it off.”
It would be the definition of an upset -- something Florida State, once ranked No. 3 in the country, is all-too familiar with.