Early Analysis: Florida State vs. Virginia Tech


No. 10 Florida State at Virginia Tech
Thursday, 7:30 PM, ESPN
Line: Florida State -13.5

When the master schedule for the season came out this summer, this was one of the matchups that most people circled, expecting it to serve as a preview of the ACC title game. Sometimes, reality does not match our expectations, as has been the case this season.

Instead of being a clash of the titans kind of game, this is instead a run of the mill Thursday night game, as the Hokies have stumbled through most of this season. A win on Thursday would help the Hokies get closer to a bowl game and an outside chance at winning the Coastal Division, although a lot of dominoes would have to fall in their favor for that to occur.

Florida State could all but cinch the Atlantic Division with a win, as they hold the tiebreaker over Clemson and would only have to face Maryland and their linebacker quarterback before a non-conference tilt with Florida.

Will Florida State get one step closer to Charlotte and the ACC Championship game? Or will some of that old Thursday night at Lane Stadium magic bubble up for the Hokies?

For Florida State to win: Be successful on special teams. The unit that gave rise to the phrase, "Beamerball" in the late 1990s and early 2000s has been less than special this season, culminating in some disastrous play in last week's loss to the Miami Hurricanes. In that game, the Hokies had an extra point and a field goal blocked, had a punt blocked and gave up an 81 yard kickoff return for a touchdown. If the Seminoles can be on top of their game and take advantage of a vulnerable unit, it could be another long night for the Hokies.

For Virginia Tech to win: Finish drives. The Hokies have only scored touchdowns on about 54 percent of their red zone possessions, which, when coupled with shoddy special teams misadventures, leads to a lack of offense for a team that had high expectations coming into this season. The Hokies are currently 70th in the country in points per game with 27.1. Florida State has only been allowing 11.3 points per game since losing to North Carolina State. In other words, if the Hokies are going to pull off the upset, they have to take advantage of any favorable field position that they receive and punch it into the end zone. Sixes will get it done, not threes.

Key Player, Florida State: E.J. Manuel, quarterback. Manuel has been a key cog to the success of the Seminoles this year, and in particular over the last three games. The senior from Virginia Beach has been electric during the recent three game winning streak, throwing for 950 yards and six scores. For the season he has completed 70 percent of his passes for 2315 yards and a 4:1 TD to INT ratio (16-4).

Key Player, Virginia Tech: Logan Thomas, quarterback. The junior has regressed this year, already throwing more interceptions at this point in the season (12 in nine games) than he did all of last season (10). His completion percentage is down by about six percentage points, athough he has contributed a bit with his legs. Thomas will need to make plays against a recently stout Florida State defense, and it will not be an easy task.

Key Stat: 13/15. Florida State has won 13 of the last 15 matchups against the Hokies, but Virginia Tech has won two of the last three. The Hokies desperately want to run that to three of the last four.