EJ Manuel and the juniors and seniors of Florida State have been to Charlotte once before. They traveled there in 2010 to play Virginia Tech for the ACC Championship during Fisher's first year as head coach. The Seminoles lost 44-33 and those who played in the championship game two seasons ago now have a chance to finish a championship game with a win, the way they wished they had done in 2010.
Manuel started the game two years ago, replacing an injured Christian Ponder. He went 23-of-31 for 288 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in the loss.
"We were there two years ago when I was there and that was bitter, not even sweet," Dustin Hopkins said. "Just all bitter because we lost. We're looking forward to finally playing for a championship and it hasn't been done here for awhile."
Hopkins said that this year's team is a different team, with different expectations of themselves. In 2010 the 'Noles were thrilled to make it to the championship game under a first-year head coach. But this year, the Seminoles saw themselves in this position-contending for the ACC Championship-before the season ever kicked off. Hopkins said that he and his teammates won't be satisfied with anything other than a win after the season that they have put together.
"I definitely wouldn't say that we're just be happy to be there, even though it is something you want to be at," Hopkins said. "I don't think we'll be satisfied unless we come out wit an ending and finish that we want to have.
"So it's a different mindset (this season). Last time we were chasing after people at the top. Virginia Tech was a powerhouse at the time and now we're being chased after, so it's a different mentality but I think it's one we're ready for."
The Seminoles were down after the loss in 2010 and the juniors and seniors that played in the game have that experience to bolster their desire this time around, but also to guide them in knowing how to approach a championship game and what it will be like.
"I feel it does offer an advantage (having been there in 2010)," Manuel said. "Personally, playing in a big game like that
the implications of this game are huge and I understand that, my teammates understand that, so we have to get the job done."
Hopkins said that the team will have no shortage of motivation to get the job done. They're ready for round two.
"Just to get that far and really have nothing to show for it is frustrating," Hopkins said. "We just realize what (winning the ACC) means to a program because it hasn't been done in so long here. We want it. We want it bad."
ACC Championship would be 'huge'
Winning a conference championship would be huge, Jimbo Fisher said on Monday. To him, to the team, to the fans and to the program he is developing at Florida State.
The possibility of winning Saturday's ACC Championship Game as helped the Seminoles put a loss to UF behind them and focus on winning their first conference title since 2005.
"We have a lot to look forward to," Fisher said. "We're playing for our first conference championship in seven years
still had a great season and we still have a lot to accomplish. We can have a great year if we play well this week
we correct our mistakes and be able to move on and do what we got to do."
The ACC Championship, and then subsequent bowl win, would end the year the way the team and Fisher want it to end.
"It's huge," Fisher said. "It's been awhile and we haven't had a 10- win season since 2003. We're accomplishing a lot of things and you have to do that. You have to learn to win some of those other games and not let one game slip away and play the big game better. We'll continue to do that. It's a new role for these kids - being the hunted. These kids have never been the hunted. That's a different role."
The Seminoles will be the hunted on Saturday, as 6-6 Georgia Tech will need a win to ensure bowl eligibility. Lonnie Pryor said the Seminoles are ready and excited and they want to bring a championship home to Tallahassee.
"It's great," Pryor said. "Four years I've been here and this is my second time going. It didn't go that good the first time I went there, but I never won a high school state championship or anything like that and we have rings here, but it's not like a main, big ring, so it would be great to go up there and win one and we could all come back with a ring and an ACC Championship."
FSU - Georgia Tech Notables
Florida State (41.5 ppg) and Georgia Tech (36.2) combine to average more than 77 points and 930 yards of total offense per game. The last time the Seminoles and Jackets bumped heads, they combined for 93 points in 2009.
While Georgia Tech ranks third nationally and first in the ACC in rushing (323.3 ypg), Florida State ranks first in the league in rushing defense (85.1 ypg).
The Yellow Jackets ranks second in the ACC in third-down percentage. FSU ranks second in third-down defense.
Two of the ACC's top four sack men will be represented in Saturday's game. FSU's Bjoern Werner (1.08 sacks per game) and Georgia Tech's Jeremiah Attaochu (0.73) rank first and fourth, respectively, among the ACC's sack leaders.
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