Florida State wrapped up an ACC championship Saturday, and though the win was expected it hardly came easily. While a handful of youngsters (Karlos Williams, Mario Edwards Jr.) provided some of the biggest plays, the Seminoles' penultimate game of the season also provided a showcase for a few veteran stars, and, for its struggling quarterback, one more missed opportunity to win over a tepid fan base.
With only a bowl game remaining on the schedule, FSU's defensive line dominates the top spots in the power rankings as the offense still struggles to find consistency. Last week's rankings are in parentheses.
1. Bjoern Werner (1)
Saturday's ACC championship might have been the quietest game of the season for Werner, who had just one tackle. Part of it was scheme, and Georgia Tech's triple option eliminated the pass rusher's greatest strength. Still, it hardly undermines what has been a remarkable season, as Werner has picked up the slack as two of FSU's top defensive ends went down with season-ending injuries.
2. Cornellius Carradine (2)
A torn ACL late in last week's loss to Florida ended Carradine's season, but with 80 tackles and 11 sacks, his place near the top of the rankings was already secure. Edwards stepped into Carradine's role Saturday, however, and showed the future has promise despite the loss of the star defensive end, as the freshman finished with seven tackles, including one for a loss.
3. Timmy Jernigan (7)
With Werner quiet and Edwards getting his first career start, it was Jernigan who held down the fort. The sophomore was dominant at the line of scrimmage, finishing with nine tackles, including 1.5 for a loss and his first unassisted sack of the season. With Jernigan setting the tone, FSU held Tech to just 183 rushing yards -- more than 150 below the Yellow Jackets' season average.
4. Xavier Rhodes (4)
Against Tech's run-heavy offense, Rhodes' role was an unfamiliar one as he was rarely tested downfield but asked to play physical with receivers blocking for the Yellow Jackets' backs. Rhodes held his own, and he managed to come away with his third interception of the season.
5. EJ Manuel (3)
Manuel has turned in a spectacular season statistically, exceeding 3,000 yards passing, becoming just the seventh FSU quarterback to do so. Still, it's hard to shake how rocky Manuel's past two games have been -- he has coughed up the football six times while throwing just one touchdown in the process.
6. Rashad Greene (8)
The sophomore receiver finished with a season-high nine receptions Saturday, including a 9-yard grab late in the fourth quarter to convert a key third down. The drive didn't end with a score, but the conversion helped run extra time off the clock and set up the defense's final stand. After a slow start to the season, Greene has had at least five catches per game in five of his last eight games.
7. Lamarcus Joyner (5)
Joyner was burned early on Tech's only successful passing play of the first half, and that came after an injury sent him to the locker room early in the first quarter. Still, Joyner responded with a solid overall performance, making four tackles, including half a TFL. Joyner has had a strong season, but his numbers and size will combine to make for an interesting decision at year's end about whether he should head to the NFL draft.
8. Christian Jones (6)
It was a busy day for FSU's linebackers against Tech's triple option offense, and Jones got his share of work, recording nine tackles, including one for a loss. But Jones had a few hiccups in coverage late, which is a rarity for him. Overall, the numbers never developed quite the way many predicted at the start of the season, but he has held his own and occasionally looked great in his role on the weak side.
The middle linebackers have worked together almost flawlessly this season, and Saturday was another stout performance. Both were busy, acombining for 17 tackles, including two for a loss -- both by Williams. Neither has earned a ton of praise individually this season, but combined, their numbers rank among the best in the ACC.
10. James Wilder Jr. (NR)
The bulk of Wilder's work was limited to the first half, but his success on the ground was essential for FSU to build a sizable lead it never relinquished, even during the offensive slumber in the second half. Wilder had 69 yards rushing on 10 carries with two touchdowns, giving him 11 rushing scores for the season. He's just the second FSU runner to reach double-digit touchdowns in the past 16 years.