This is NOT the Time to Play ‘Up’
Momentum is critical when your team is a three-star cobbled together program struggling to get out of the basement and coming off of a skid-stopping convincing win over an old peer rival. The Hokies rarely play the Seminoles, and the last time that they did, in 2018, was in Florida against a surprisingly inept FSU coaching regime that had been turned over since their former Head Coach in Waiting turned Head Coach “Jimbo” Fisher had been lured to College Station, TX.
The Hokies won that one, but the last ten meetings of the teams haven’t been kind to Tech. The record there is 3-7 with some rather nice wins in those three, but some very disappointing losses to go with them. The most disappointing being the National Championship game on Jan 4, 200.
That all should be put in a storage bin, soon enough, we’ll cover that news when it finally breaks, but for now, the Hokies have a three-pronged trident of a chore ahead of them for this Saturday. The Hokies need to find some way to hold on to their positive momentum, they need to present a serious challenge to FSU even if they can’t get the win, and they need to stay healthy in what could be a very physical game.
Well, the Hokies just had to be lucky enough to draw a game against the Seminoles, on the road, after FSU has finally found a coach, and a winning track. It’s Hokie Luck, I suppose. With the new jumbled up, non-championship ACC melee this sort of matchup at this time was bound to happen, though. Typically, we hope to get this sort of game out of the way either really early in the season, which helps get over adverse reactions, or very late in the schedule when bowl eligibility issues have already been sorted out.
This is not the case, and Tech is “blessed” with having to show up in Doak Campbell Stadium with a smile on and ready to take some punches. The Florida State Seminoles are not in the same talent league as the Virginia Tech Hokies, and given the current state of affairs, there is little doubt in any analysts’ minds as to the outcome of this game.
FSU is currently undefeated at 4-0 and coming off of a weekend off. Sometimes a break is good, and sometimes it isn’t. We’ll see if the ‘Noles are a bit stale, and even a bit chastened. For all of the crowing about how great FSU is, they have had two games in a row, where there were some serious scares thrown into them by 2 ACC Teams that only one of which should have been an even match-up. The Seminoles are coming off of a tightly fought overtime win against Clemson (31-24) where the teams were locked up 24-all for the entire 4th quarter. It was a top tier contest that very well could be repeated in the Fake ACC Championship Game the first weekend in December.
The bigger news was that hapless Boston College (2-3, like Tech but worse) battled the ‘Noles hard and only lost the game 31-29, which destroyed the spread and the O/U for the bettors out there, but also stunned the college football world into realizing that maybe FSU wasn’t the monster that everybody thought it was. In short, FSU can be beaten, and if I was running the film show for the Hokies, I’d be looking hard at what the Eagles did to challenge the ‘Noles, and figuring out out to better it. Even with the ‘L’ hung, it was a contest that BC should be encouraged by and warn the Hokies since we face them in Chestnut Hill later in the season. Haplessness is relative.
Okay, back to the specifics on the Florida State Seminoles and what we see isn’t hugely daunting from the offensive side of the ball. Their starting QB, Jordan Travis has been modestly successful this season. His best peer game (He didn’t play a full game for their “play down” contest against Southern Mississippi.) was their season opener against a struggling, inconsistent LSU. He completed nearly 75% of his passes, and that game seems to be a huge chunk of his current passing stats. His two ACC contests things settled back to a more above average to very good range effort. The two issues to notice, for the Hokies on dealing with Travis is that he is experienced, as a senior. He is also careful with the ball. He’s only thrown a single pick this season, in the first game against LSU, and he’s also tossed 10 TD passes along with rushing for 2. That ratio will make any college OC drool, and certainly will make any DC sweat. Travis is going to be a problem for the Hokies pass defense.
On the running side of the ball, the ‘Noles have four running backs, three of whom have nearly split the total running yardage for the season. Their “feature” back seems to be Trey Benson who has toted the rock for 189 yards so far this season. That doesn’t seem like much for four games and a feature role, but then you have to add the reality that FSU looks like they are balancing the load with three supporting running backs, each of whom have some significant running totals when you add everything up. Rodney Hill and Lawrance Toafili have accounted for significant yardage. The big thing to note is that QB Jordan Travis is the #3 running back with 93 yards on the ground. The big news is that FSU has a grand total of 9 TD’s on the ground, and more than a few were scored against Southern Miss. The Seminoles don’t seem to be prone to slamming the ball up the middle in attempts to score in the red zone. That’s a problem for the Hokie defense, not a benefit.
The Hokies Need To...
In order to win this one, the Virginia Tech Hokies need to remember some stuff, and forget everything else. The stuff they need to remember is what they did against Pitt on both sides of the ball, and then they need to forget nearly everything else for at least 23 years.
Alrighty then... I am going to make a statement that will have some folks rolling their eyes thinking that I am losing my mind, but IF the Hokies remember what they did for Pitt, and forget all of the buzz, predictions, nay saying, and history they have an actual real shot at winning this game. I realize that this is a big “if” because they haven’t been consistent in anything else but losing, of late.
Now, take a breath, I am not predicting a win and the risk that Tech presents to the ‘Noles is only modestly better than the Low rating that we presented before the Pitt game. However, the Seminoles’ last two games, particularly against BC, are showing them to be a bit less of a total threat than first blush predicted. The Hokie odds of winning might have crept back up to the 35-65/40-60 range.
Hokie Offense Needs...
On offense, the Hokies need to continue to leverage the improved running capabilities of Kyron Drones. The addition of Drones to the offensive package has meant that the remainder of the running game has suddenly bloomed. This was predictable since the “Power Spread” offense is largely a Bowling Green Read/Option style operation where the quarterback is the second priority running back in the play scheme. Nearly every running play in that offense depends on the credible threat of the QB running the ball. That concept finally seemed to get drilled into the Hokie offensive staff’s collective noggins. They actually did only one innovative and “different” thing for Pitt, and that was to abandon the run up the middle as a primary ground attack method and went after the edges on the Panthers. Whether or not that will work with the Seminoles is another matter, but the Hokies would benefit greatly from finding a seam, and exploiting it.
The second thing that they did was not particularly innovative, but it was critical to the success of the offense, and that was to cut Drones loose, get him out of the pocket, and allow him to move to a one-read and go style of attack where if the first passing read didn’t develop, he wasn’t hanging around looking for someone else. He was free to choose open grass as an option. This little “innovation” made Pitt’s very capable defense have to defend the entire line of scrimmage, and the open territory on the edges of the 2nd level zone. That opened up the pass a bit, and it also opened up the running game for Bhayshul Tuten.
FSU’s defense might be slightly better than Pitt’s but Narduzzi actually fields a reasonably stout defense, so beating that means that Tech’s offense, as run in the Pittsburgh game, has a credible chance of challenging the FSU defense. There is no guarantee, but it’s a chance.
FSU’s offense is bound to its own variation of the Bowling Green Read/Option. The same rules apply to it that apply to all of the other trillion college football programs running that high school offense. Tech’s defense needs to control the ‘A’ gap and contain the FSU quarterback since he’s a dual threat. The linebackers absolutely have to play assignment football, but Florida State has shown some offensive balance. The bright defensive note is that the ‘Noles seem to be more prone to the pass in tight situations than the run. If the Tech defense can keep Travis corralled and running for his life for only a few yards, there might actually be a chance that their passing game can be limited by pressure.
With their running game operating a bit less effectively than the pass, there might be some benefits in forcing a more one-dimensional look on the Seminole O. Either way, they present a major challenge for the Tech Defense which hasn’t been consistent in stopping the run and has, at times, been gashed in the pass as well.
The Odds... Say...
Well, the odds say that Tech should stay home and just hand the game to the Seminoles. Right now, the ‘Noles are giving the Hokies a whopping 24 points, and the O/U is 52 some of the action is beginning to show the Over is trending. The opening spread was 27.5 so maybe the Pitt game is changing some of those early prognostications.
Well, that’s what “They Say”, What Do You Say?
What’s going to happen against the ‘Noles in 2023?
This poll is closed
Blowout. Tech’s going to get manhandled. FSU is currently so far out of the Hokies’ league that the odds makers should have just said ‘No’ not worth the action.
Hokies surprise everyone, sort of like BC did. Seems like the Seminoles are benefitting from the hype wagon and might actually have some weaknesses that the Hokies can exploit. They might actually win this one. It’d be fun to confound the wise-guys.
Momentum is a magic thing, and even a close loss would manage to keep the Tech emotional rollercoaster going up instead of hitting rock bottom. It’s still going to be a loss, but this is a game where looking better is very good, indeed.
Hey, I’m Al Davis on this one. The Hokies have a better shot than expected and predicted. SO!!! "Just win... BABY!"
Bryan’s “How to Watch” and game info is up next, and predictions will be out sometime tomorrow. Still mulling some things over...