After months of uncertainty and speculation, Tech is set to take on the Seminoles as underdogs this Saturday in what promises to be a tough matchup. The away game could make for an electrifying win for Tech, currently trying to rebuild from a disastrous 2019 season. Florida State has also struggled in the recent past and has not won a season opener since 2016.
The year before, the Seminoles had lost to Tech in one of the most incredible season openers in recent history, with Tech scooping up a blocked field goal kick in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. A lot has changed since that fateful night. Both teams have different head coaches and totally new systems. Now, five years later, Tech will take the field as double-digit underdogs, facing a team under the leadership of a brand-new coach.
Mike Norvell took control of the Seminoles last December, having just delivered Memphis its first 12-win season in school history. He came to Memphis from Arizona State, having coached the Sun Devil offense to a 473.8 yards per game as offensive coordinator. Known for high-tempo, powerful offenses, he brought the same approach to Memphis, calling the plays himself.
Coming with him from Memphis, Adam Fuller brought along a new philosophy as defensive coordinator. Having been impressed with his defensive acumen, Norvell brought Fuller with him, who gained notoriety by instituting quick defensive turnarounds.
What does this mean for Tech? For starters, Tech will face a team that will look entirely different from the year before. In his initial press conference, Fuller had promised a much more aggressive defense. Fond of big plays and momentum-changing moments, Tech’s offense should be on the lookout for turnovers. For the offensive line, whose two returning members consist of Jack DeFoor and Zach Quinney, this means winning a decisive upfront battle against a stout Seminole defensive front.
Behind them at quarterback presents an entirely new set of issues. Freshman Jeff Sims has shown some talent during the offseason and might see some playing time. The very fact the quarterback position is currently known says enough for itself. Last season saw a rotation in the position, before settling upon James Graham, who saw more than his fair share of struggles. For Tech to win Saturday, whomever is selected to play needs to put on an impressive and dependable performance.
On the defensive side of the ball, Tech looks to make progress specifically on the defensive line. Having struggled the past few years, the team looks to use this season as a reset. With seven returning players who’ve previously started, experience could prove to be very useful. Florida State’s offense was the number 26 -fastest in the nation last year, a ranking the team considers outdated after working to quicken the tempo during the off-season. A quick offense can present problems for a defense, especially when it has the talent of a Florida State team.
Saturday presents an opportunity for Tech, currently predicted to finish last in the ACC. A big win over double-digit favorites could energize the team for a surprisingly successful season. Either outcome, the game marks the first in a season that looks to have its fair share of surprises.