Under Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia is off to a 2-0 start. After shutting out Pittsburgh in the second half of a 30-14 win to open the 2019 season, the Cavaliers easily disposed of William & Mary last week.
FSU was able to bounce back from a disheartening loss to Boise State to open the season, but the Noles didn't instill much confidence with last week’s 45-44 overtime victory over ULM. The Seminoles led by 18 in the opening loss and by 21 last week before holding on in overtime.
The contest will be the first meeting between the schools since a 34-20 victory for the Seminoles in Tallahassee back in 2014. FSU won the last meeting in Charlottesville by a 34-14 score in 2010.
Florida State at Virginia
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Virginia -7.5
When Florida State Has the Ball
The offensive side of the football under first-year coordinator Kendal Briles has been a noticeable area of improvement for Florida State through two games in 2019. Although it required overtime and came against ULM, the Seminoles scored more points last week than in any game all last season.
Quarterback James Blackman is averaging better than 300 yards passing per game and has thrown at least three touchdowns in four straight starts dating back to 2017. Cam Akers, the FSU junior running back, is coming off a monster day; he leads the ACC with 309 yards rushing and is tied for the conference lead with four total touchdowns.
Tamorrion Terry headlines a deep corps of FSU wide receivers. The offensive line remains a major question mark, however. Last week, the Seminoles lost starting tackle Jauan Williams, and his status for Saturday in Charlottesville is unknown.
Through two games, the Cavaliers rank second in the ACC in total defense behind only NC State, and in the top 15 nationally. Virginia is yielding just 228 yards per game and fewer than 71 on the ground.
Senior linebacker Jordan Mack is the player to watch for Virginia, as he ranks second in the ACC with three sacks on the young season. The Cavaliers lead the ACC and rank third nationally with 11 sacks.
In the secondary, cornerback Nick Grant and safety Joey Blount are off to outstanding starts. Grant returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown in last week’s win over William & Mary. Blount has two sacks and a pick of his own. Through two games, Virginia is holding opponents to a 48 percent completion rate — good for ninth best in the country.
When Virginia Has the Ball
Senior quarterback Bryce Perkins is without question the straw that stirs the drink for the Virginia offense. Perkins is a dual-threat signal-caller who accounted for more than 3,500 total yards and 34 total touchdowns last season. Perkins enters Saturday as the team’s leading passer and rusher.
It’s been ball-carrier-by-committee on the young season for Virginia, which averages 5.1 yards per rush as a team. Behind Perkins in the yardage category is freshman Mike Hollins, who has 78 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just 11 carries. Leading returning receiver Hasise Dubois leads the team with 95 yards receiving this season.
The Virginia offensive line has allowed just three sacks through two games and will be facing an FSU defense that has been gashed so far this season. Junior defensive tackle Marvin Wilson is the face of the defense for the Seminoles and has a sack, but getting consistent pressure has been an issue.
Linebacker play has been a weak spot, and FSU has allowed opponents to convert too many long third downs. The biggest bright spot for Florida State thus far has been junior safety Hamsah Nasirildeen, who tops the team with 22 tackles and is tied for the national lead with three forced fumbles.
Virginia is a very good defensive team that could ultimately slow down the FSU offense — at least for a while. The Seminoles have not put two good halves of football together this season and have not shown the ability to come up with a key stop in a critical situation. UL Monroe’s Caleb Evans gashed the Seminoles last week with his arm and his legs. They’ll see a better version this week in Perkins.