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Can EJ Manuel lead Florida State to a road win over Virginia Tech?
What a difference a couple of months can make. In the preseason, the Nov. 8 showdown between Florida State and Virginia Tech was hyped as a potential preview of the ACC Championship. There’s still plenty at stake for both teams but nothing close to what most expected in August.
Virginia Tech was picked by most to win the Coastal Division but has been one of college football’s most underachieving teams. The Hokies are 4-5, and their wins have come against Georgia Tech, Austin Peay, Duke and Bowling Green – not exactly banner victories. Virginia Tech’s ACC Coastal title hopes are almost finished, which means the top goal for the rest of the way is to get bowl eligible. Thursday night’s matchup against Florida State is the toughest remaining game on the schedule but the season finale against Virginia is not a guaranteed win.
Florida State’s national title hopes ended after a 17-16 loss to NC State, but this team has been on a roll since that defeat. The Seminoles have allowed only 34 points over the last three weeks and are in the driver’s seat to win the Atlantic Division. With Clemson just a game back, the next two weeks in ACC play are a must-win situation for Florida State.
What to Watch in Florida State vs. Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech’s rushing attack
Replacing David Wilson has been more challenging than most expected. The Hokies are averaging 165.2 rushing yards per game in ACC play but most of the production has come from quarterback Logan Thomas. The junior leads the team with 422 rushing yards and six touchdowns. J.C. Coleman and Michael Holmes are the Hokies’ top two leaders at running back and have combined for just 783 and eight touchdowns. Virginia Tech can’t simply rely on the running backs to generate production, as Thomas is the team’s best option. However, the Hokies have a tough matchup to move the ball on the ground, with Florida State’s defense ranking third nationally against the run. Virginia Tech has been inconsistent in generating a ground attack and it cannot afford to fall into third-and-long situations against the Seminoles.
Logan Thomas vs. Florida State’s defense
Virginia Tech’s best hope at winning this game relies on the shoulders of quarterback Logan Thomas. The junior has already thrown more interceptions (12) than he did all of last year (10) but is on pace to rush for more yards and throw for more touchdowns. Thomas has struggled the last two games, tossing four picks and just one score. Florida State ranks first nationally in total defense and only one opponent has scored more than 20 points this season. Virginia Tech’s offensive line will also be under fire, especially with likely All-ACC ends Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine coming off the edge. Thomas can’t win this game on his own, so it’s important for the line to give him time to throw, as well as open up lanes on designed runs.
Considering both teams rank in the bottom half of the ACC in turnover margin, this is one area that could play a large role in the outcome of Thursday night’s game. Florida State has lost 14 turnovers, while Virginia Tech has been more generous in giving the ball away with 19 turnovers. Only two of Logan Thomas’ interceptions have come at home for the Hokies and it’s important for him to continue that trend on Thursday.
Virginia Tech’s vs. Florida State’s offense
While the Hokies have had some trouble getting their offense on track, the defense has been solid. This unit has experienced a few ups and downs but ranks 40th nationally in yards allowed and 31st in pass defense. Florida State’s offense is averaging 54 points per game at home. However, it has managed only 26.3 on the road. The schedule has been tougher away from Tallahassee, but it’s notable considering the Seminoles’ loss to NC State in Raleigh. Virginia Tech’s active defensive line and secondary should present some problems for Florida State’s offense on Thursday night.
Virginia Tech is 11-3 in Thursday night home games on ESPN. Even though the Hokies have struggled, don’t be surprised if they play well in this game. This one should be closer than most expect, but Florida State’s defense holds Virginia Tech in check in the second half to pull away for the win.
Final Prediction: Florida State 27, Virginia Tech 17
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