Thursday, October 23, 2008

What to Watch vs. FSU

Most of the stats below are from


- It doesn't look good. It's been highly publicized that the Hokies are No. 110 in the country in total offense, No. 11 in the ACC ahead of NC State. They will face a Seminole defense that is loaded with talent, experience and, of course, speed.

- At some point, the Hokies are going to have to move the ball through the air. FSU already plays a lot of man in its secondary, and they probably won't have to do much else against Virginia Tech. The Seminole secondary has more speed than the Hokies do at wide receiver, this presents a lot of matchup problems for the Hokies because it allows FSU to load to box against Virginia Tech's rushing attack.

- The Hokies have the least amount of passing yards in the conference, even fewer than Georgia Tech, which runs an option attack. That's just embarrassing.

- The passing has to improve against FSU because it can't get much worse. The media has harped on Tyrod's ability to throw against man defenses. But I don't think it's going to matter much against FSU. The receivers can't get open and when they do, they are either overthrown or drop the ball.

- The Hokies need to focus on working the middle of the field against FSU by getting the ball to the tight ends and running backs. Greg Boone disappeared against BC. He and the rest of the tight ends need to reemerge this week for Tech to have a chance.

- FSU's defense is fast enough to keep up with Tyrod, so I think the running backs need to have a good game against Florida State. They didn't have much success against the Noles last year as Branden Ore averaged 2.5 YPC and Kenny Lewis 3.4. Somehow, the interior lineman need to find a way to win the battle against Budd Thacker and Co.

- Virginia Tech's rushing attack will be the best FSU has seen so far, but there is no overlooking how good the Noles have been against the run this year. They're giving up 79.5 YPG, best in the ACC.

- The problem is the Hokies never do anything unexpected. Our M.O. is well-documented and when that fails, that's pretty much the ballgame. The current offensive staff has shown no imagination when it comes to designing a game plan with built-in countermeasures for when the power run game fails. I realize the goal is to wear down the opposition and then dominate them on the ground in the fourth quarter. But some teams don't wear down. BC didn't and I doubt FSU will, especially at home.

- The Hokies face the No. 2 red zone defense in the country one week after facing the No. 1 red zone defense. FSU has allowed opponents into the red zone 18 times and have allowed opponents to score 11 times (61.1 percent). In fact, the Noles are even better at forcing red zone field goals than BC. Only five touchdowns have been scored on FSU in the 18 times the opponent has been in the red zone (27.8 percent). That's not good news for the Hokies, who are No. 11 in the ACC in red zone touchdown percentage at 44.8 percent (13 of 29). Last week against BC, the Hokies had only one trip into the red zone, which resulted in a field goal.


- The Hokies are +12 in the turnover department, best in the ACC. They are tied for the second-most forced turnovers in the conference with GT with 19, one behind WF. The Noles, meanwhile are -5 in turnovers, No. 11 in the ACC ahead of Clemson. The Noles have coughed the ball up 14 times, No. 8 in the ACC. The cause of the turnovers is fairly even for both teams. The Hokies have 10 fumble recoveries and nine picks. The Noles have lost six fumbles and had eight passes intercepted.

- Tech will need turnovers Saturday just like they had against BC. They need to keep the field short for the offense and have turnovers lead to points.

- Missed assignments, blown coverages and cornerbacks getting beat have all been an epidemic for the Hokies. BC had marginal success taking advantage of mistakes in the secondary last week, but couldn't break a big touchdown because its receivers didn't have the speed. FSU's receivers do have the speed. If they get behind the Tech secondary, it's six.

- FSU quarterback Christian Ponder is not the same QB the Hokies saw last year. He's matured, made the quarterback job his and led a Seminole comeback last week on the road. The Hokies can't afford to sit back and wait for mistakes from Ponder. They will have to put pressure on him.

- However, like Chris Crane, Ponder is just mobile enough to turn potential big losses into no gain or even pick up a couple yards.

- The Seminole ground game is better than it was last year and features Antone Smith, a home run-hitter on the ground for the Noles. He's broken a couple big touchdowns so far this year and is tough to bring down. It's one of the reasons he's the ACC's leading scorer with 66 points.

- Smith averages 4.8 yards per carry, 3.7 in three conference games. He, along with the entire FSU team, struggled against Wake Forest. However, the Seminoles have improved vastly in their last three games against Colorado, Miami and NC State. All three of those games were away from Doak Campbell Stadium.


- For the first time ever, I am going to a Virginia Tech game fully expecting the Hokies to lose. Assuming I make it to the Florida Panhandle, it will be the 24th Hokie game I've seen in my life and for the first time, I'm making the trip with no hope. We're going to lose. Usually I'm delusional: I thought we would win the 2000 Sugar Bowl, I thought we would win the 2005 Sugar Bowl, I even swore we would upset LSU last year. But I can't see a way the Hokies escape Tallahassee with a win. Both teams are young and will make mistakes. However, FSU has a lot more talent on both sides of the ball than the Hokies. I know they haven't played very good teams. I know how bad they looked against Wake. But they've gotten a lot better, especially Ponder.

Check the Box Score for:
1. VT passing yards.
2. FSU rushing yards.
3. Turnovers.
4. FSU special teams YPR.

VT Players to Watch:
5 - Tyrod Taylor, So., QB
88 - Andre Smith, So., TE
45 - Purnell Sturdivant, SR., LB
1 - Macho Harris, Sr., CB

FSU Players to Watch:
7 - Christian Ponder, So., QB
5 - Preston Parker, Jr., WR
72 - Budd Thacker, Jr., DT
3 - Myron Rolle, Jr., ROV

Score: Florida State 31, Virginia Tech 10

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