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Virginia Tech football: Previewing Florida State with Tomahawk Nation

We learn more about the Seminoles from someone who knows them the best

NCAA Football: Florida State at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Tech Hokies snapped a three-game losing streak last week with a 38-21 win over the Pittsburgh Panther. Quarterback Kyron Drones accounted for all five of Virginia Tech’s touchdowns and was named the ACC quarterback of the week.

Now, the Hokies (2-3) have the unenviable task of traveling to Tallahassee to face the No. 5 Florida State Seminoles. The ‘Noles are back, and this game will look far different than the last time these two teams met in Tallahassee when the Justin Fuente-led Hokies dominated Willie Taggart and FSU.

Mike Norvell has turned Florida State back into a national championship contender.

To learn all about the Seminoles, we spoke with Perry Kostidakis of Tomahawk Nation to get all the lowdown on FSU ahead of Saturday’s game.

1. Is Florida State a legitimate national championship contender?

Heading into the season, on paper, it seemed like they were a fringe playoff spot contender and an ACC Championship hopeful with a chance of on-field play, flipping that perception. With the season having played out the way it has, that’s slightly improved to a likely playoff entrant and a favorite for the conference title, but save the second half against LSU, we’ve yet to see a body of work that indicates they’re legit threats to win the championship.

2. How good is QB Jordan Travis?

He’s as good as you could hope for in a college quarterback and, over the last two seasons, has elevated his play to a level that you could see an NFL team take a flier on him in a later round. He still struggles a bit with consistency in seeing the whole field and as a result of his play opens himself up to shots, but not since Dalvin Cook has Florida State had a player who could legitimately score on every play.

When Travis gets going, it’s awesome to watch unfold — his athleticism is off the charts and helps produce both explosive freelance passing plays and major runs on his end.

3. Jared Verse gets a lot of attention, but how good is FSU’s defense overall? They look to have lots of talented players up front.

We’ll start with the weaknesses — the secondary has left a bit to be desired (11 yards per completion), and an inability to get off the field on third down has very nearly been the end of FSU’s undefeated record.

That said, the defense has talent abound, and most of it is located on the front — Verse, Fabien Lovett, Pat Payton, and Josh Farmer are all names you should hear at some point Saturday — and the linebackers (Tatum Bethune and Kalen DeLoach) have started to find a little bit of consistency in their game.

4. Who is an offensive playmaker outside of Travis to watch?

Keon Coleman has been lights out in his first few games with Florida State — the Michigan State transfer was recruited heavily out of high school by the Seminoles, and that paid off when they managed to get him this offseason. He’s a perfect complement to Johnny Wilson and the rest of the FSU receiving corps, a speedster with great length who is trying to secure a lofty draft position come April.

5. How do fans feel about Mike Norvell now? It seems like he struggled early but the Seminoles stayed patient with him.

It’s been a complete 180 (though, don’t check the Tomahawk Nation mentions whenever FSU goes down early in a game) from where he started. His tenure kicked off with an embarrassing loss at home to Georgia Tech, part of a three-win season that included a historic loss to Miami. That was followed up with a loss to Jacksonville State and Travis Hunter’s flip to Jackson State.

The aftermath produced the necessary kick in the rear for all parties — players, staff and support. The things that Norvell had been building in those rough two years (team identity chief amongst them) are finally coming to fruition. He entered into a terrible situation, given the coaching turnover and talent depletion, and weathered a rough start and plenty of criticism internally and externally and now has Florida State seemingly back into a period of consistent contention.

6. Why did FSU struggle with BC?

Thomas Castellanos went full Lamar Jackson — not just in the sense of play style but to the degree in which Florida State was unable to stop him (akin to 2016) — and Florida State wasn’t able to rise above as football did football things. FSU was comfortably leading 31-10 in the third but then threw in a couple of fumbles, some wild third and long conversions, and the magic of the Red Bandana, and the Seminoles were suddenly staring worst case scenario right in the face.

Additionally, the Eagles nailed the method to beat FSU that we saw Clemson try and employ the next week — don’t let the Seminoles get the ball. Florida State hasn’t been getting many opportunities on offense because opponents have figured out how to sustain drives against the Seminoles’ defense and drain clock.

7. Final score prediction.

Florida State has yet to put together a complete game, mostly due to slow starts. That’s a two-fold soft factor now — are the Seminoles finally due for a start-to-finish domination, or is that just who FSU is in 2023?

I think it falls somewhere in the middle. I don’t expect a 21-0 first quarter, but don’t foresee a 7-7 halftime score either. Virginia Tech will get points, especially with the talent Kyron Drones brings to the table, but the Hokies’ run defense issues unfortunately come at a perfect time when FSU is looking to get its rush game back to form.

Give me the over (currently 53), but I think Florida State fails to cover the current spread (24) late in a 41-23 game that’ll feature plenty of offensive fireworks.