BLACKSBURG, Va. (CBSMiami) – The Florida State Seminoles can seal up a berth in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game Thursday night if they can pull out a road win against the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Florida State comes in as the heavy favorite to knock off Virginia Tech. The Hokies are in the middle of their worst season in 20 years and at 4-5 on the year are struggling to become bowl eligible in 2012. But FSU knows it must be on guard because nothing would make the Hokies’ season more than to knock FSU off.
“I think I saw that a little bit in the N.C. State game,” said FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel. “Not to say that we took them lightly, but they played lights out, they had a good game. If they have a chance to knock us off, it will kind of make their season.”
Still, that’s going to be easier said than done against a Seminoles team that if it hadn’t lost to NC State would be in the thick of the national championship discussion.
FSU brings one of the nation’s toughest defenses into the game with the Hokies against a Virginia Tech team that has struggled to get any sense of offensive continuity going this year.
The Seminoles are allowing an average of 12 points per game this season and have given up more than 20 points just one time the entire season, in a week four win over Clemson.
If that wasn’t enough, opponents are rushing for an average of just 2.45 yards per carry and are averaging just 3.49 yards per offensive play, according to cfbstats.com.
The Noles are doing much of their damage with a monstrous defensive line loaded with NFL talent. Bjoern Werner and Cornelius Carradine have 16 sacks between them on the season from their defensive end position.
A tough defense is the last thing the Hokies struggling offense need to see coming. Last week against the University of Miami’s horrendous defense, Virginia Tech managed just one touchdown which came on a 73-yard run by quarterback Logan Thomas.
Va. Tech is averaging 27.1 points per game, which is seventh best in the conference. The Hokies average 401.4 yards per game in total offense, but getting to 400 yards against the Noles’ defense may be too much to ask of the Hokies this season.
The Hokies and Seminoles (8-1, 5-1) have split four meetings since Virginia Tech joined the ACC in 2004, each winning once when the matchups came in the ACC championship game. The Hokies have never seen a Seminoles team as accomplished as they will this time.
It starts with Manuel, who hails from Virginia Beach. He’s completing 70 percent of his passes this season and has thrown for 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He also makes plays with his feet as Clemson learned when he threw for 380 yards and ran for 102 more in a 49-37 victory on Sept. 22.
With the very efficient Manuel at the controls, the Seminoles rank third nationally with an average of nearly 45 points per game. The Noles also love to run the football and do so at an incredible clip, averaging 6.07 yards per carry behind one of the better offensive lines in football.
Coach Frank Beamer thought his team put it all together in a 41-20 victory against Duke on Oct. 13, but they followed that with a 38-17 loss at Clemson, and then last week’s frustration against the Hurricanes.
He still believes it’s only a matter of time before they get it all working again.
“When you get playing well, you get some momentum, you make a play, you make another play, now here comes a turnover,” the coach in his 26th season said. “When you’re on the other side of that, everything’s kind of a struggle. I personally believe if you keep playing hard, all of a sudden, it’s going to turn around. I do believe we’re a good football team. We just haven’t always played well.”
Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher expects them to see that turnaround on Thursday night, especially on the big stage.
“They’re 4-5 and they’re going to want a winning record and go to a bowl game, so this will be a significant game,” Fisher said. “I think everyone looks at us this way. People look at us and target that and that’s something we have to face and prepare for. We can’t control how they play, all we can do is control how week.”
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