CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Two weeks ago, it was supposed to be a rout. Two hours before it began, even with all the goings on of a busy week in both Atlanta and Tallahassee, it still was supposed to be a blowout.
For the better part of three quarters, Saturday night's ACC Championship Game was trending just that way.
But another Florida State fourth-quarter fiasco made Saturday night's ACC title tilt between the Seminoles and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets much closer than the vast majority of college football fans believed the game would initially be. It got so close that it appeared the mighty Seminoles were even going to lose it late.
Thanks to FSU safety Karlos Williams, however, the game followed its long-expected course. When Williams jumped a Tevin Washington passing route with one minute remaining in the fourth quarter and returned it out of bounds near the Tech goal line, the Seminoles secured a 21-15 win to claim their 13th ACC championship.
The title-game victory was FSU's second in the eight-year history of the conference championship contest. Staving off the surging Jackets for the win, the Seminoles claimed a victory that propelled the once-punchless program toward an automatic berth into the Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens on New Year's Day.
"What a play," Fisher said about Williams' interception. "He saw it and he burst it. He's so athletic."
Williams returned the interception 41 yards to the Tech 4 before the Seminoles' offense lined up victory formation to secure the victory.
But the win almost didn't exist.
Leading 21-6 with 16 minutes and eight seconds remaining in the ballgame, FSU allowed the team that wasn't even supposed to be in the there surge back with the type of vengeance that had to have reminded the Seminoles of Week 6 in Raleigh, N.C., and Tallahassee a week ago.
The only difference between those fourth-quarter flops and Saturday night's, though, was that they ended in losses. The Seminoles lost at NC State 17-16 after the Wolfpack rallied for a game-winning score with 19 seconds left. The Gators powered past FSU last week for a 37-26 win.
After that loss, a bizarre week began in North Florida.
And for seven days, the odds were ever out of Florida State's favor.
Exactly one week ago, the Seminoles had lost to their biggest, most hated rival for the first time in three years. Two days later, their defensive coordinator raised fan fears when it was announced he was soon leaving for a head-coaching opportunity in Kentucky.
In the time that followed, rumors — which continue to persist — about the status of other coaches, including the head man, Jimbo Fisher, revealed themselves, too. Are they staying? Are they going?
All of it made for potent, potentially disastrous and lethal cocktail a team didn't need to imbibe ahead of a conference championship game.
The Jackets had a similar week of drama after the NCAA flip-flopped on whether it would allow them to reach a bowl game with the championship game loss. Ultimately, it ruled that they could go to a bowl game. Tech could go to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, or the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn.
FSU running back James Wilder Jr. was the difference for the Seminoles on offense. He rushed for 69 yards and two touchdowns. The effort was enough to give him game MVP honors.
Receiver Rashad Greene also had 82 yards receiving on nine receptions.
The Seminoles gained 328 yards of total offense. Of FSU's yards of offense, 194 of them came on the ground as the Seminoles were committed to running the ball.
Likely the final game of defensive coordinator Mark Stoops' career at FSU, the Seminoles allowed 301 yards of offense to the Jackets.