Plant The Spear is a weekly column previewing the upcoming matchup for the Florida State Seminoles. Opponent strengths and weaknesses are discussed, a plan of attack is formed, and an honest prediction by yours truly is given.
*Author’s Note* Regardless of my membership with the Seminole Boosters, or my being an FSU fan since I was 10 (I’m 31 now), or the fact that my wife is finishing her master’s degree from Florida State, this is still a No Homer Zone. Always has been, always will be. I’m a college football fan above all else, and you-the fans, deserve a voice of the people. With all that being said…..Go Noles!
Of all the places I’d want to be on a Thursday night in November, Lane Stadium on the Campus of Virginia Tech is not one of them. Toss in a brisk 38 degrees at kickoff, a raucous Hokie crowd and Metallica’s Enter Sandman blaring through the speakers and you’ve got a long, cold night of hard-hitting football. Before the season started, many pundits, including myself, picked the Hokies to run away with the ACC Coastal Division title. Here they are nine games into the season and must win two their three remaining games to even become bowl eligible. A loss to Florida State would all but knock the Hokies out of contention to get to Charlotte and a rematch with the Noles. If the Noles want to get to Charlotte for the third time (2005, 2010) since the inception of the ACC Championship Game in 2005, then a victory of the Hokies is paramount. FSU currently controls its own destiny in the Atlantic, and with lowly Maryland coming up next week (starting a former linebacker at quarterback after losing all scholarship QB’s to injury or transfer) the Noles can all but punch their ticket to the title game and a rematch with either Duke or Miami likely looming. A loss for Florida State on Thursday would be a disaster, likely sending the Noles to the chicken tenders bowl in Atlanta and holding off being “back” for yet another season.
This game is beyond huge for the Seminoles.
The success of Virginia Tech rests solely on the very large shoulders of redshirt junior QB Logan Thomas. The 6-foot-6, 260 pound Thomas was getting a lot of NFL buzz and dark horse Heisman press before the season began, but his performance thus far in 2012 has cooled the chatter. He has an unbelievable skill set but has yet to put everything together on the field for the Hokies. Thomas has thrown for more than 2,000 yards this season, but has also thrown an ACC-leading 12 interceptions, including two against Miami last week. Florida State has historically struggled a bit when it comes to mobile quarterbacks, and Thomas could present a load of problems in broken plays. He has the ability to beat you with his arm and legs, so it will be important for the Noles to contain Thomas and not allow him to create opportunities for his offense.
Thomas also has some dangerous weapons lining up against the FSU defense. Redshirt senior Marcus Davis (6’4″/232) is the leading receiver for the Hokies. Davis has hauled in 36 catches for 686 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 19.1 yards per reception. Thomas’ other top targets are Dyrell Roberts and Corey Fuller. Fuller has hauled in 29 catches for 547 yards and four touchdowns, while Roberts has 26 catches for 327 yards and a touchdown this season.
Thomas has carried much of the load on the ground for the Hokies so far this season with a team high 114 carries for 422 yards. Last week against Miami, Thomas showcased his wheels when he bolted for a 73-yard touchdown run and finished with 124 yards on the ground in the loss. His durability will surely be tested against Florida State, one of the most physical defenses in all of college football.
Helping carry the load for the Hokie ground attack are the fairly inexperienced but talented duo of true freshman JC Coleman and redshirt freshman Michael Holmes. Coleman has 361 yards and two touchdowns while Holmes has racked up 282 yards and four touchdowns heading into Thursday night’s game.
The traditionally strong Virginia Tech defense has been anything but this season. Usually, Bud Foster’s defense is making plays all over the field, creating turnovers and wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. This year that simply isn’t the case. The Hokies have given up 27 points or more in each of their five losses this season, and for the season opponents are averaging 24.7 points with an average of 367.9 yards of total offense per game. Virginia Tech gives up an average of 166 yards per game on the ground, so look for Jimbo Fisher to attack early and often with Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Lonnie Pryor. Jimbo might even throw in a few designed runs for EJ Manuel while he’s at it.
Virginia Tech has racked up 18 total sacks on the season and could be disruptive to the young Seminole offense line in a very hostile and cold Lane Stadium.
The Noles come off a much needed bye week well rested and ready to go. Virginia Tech is heading into its second Thursday night game in as many weeks, coming off a 30-12 beating by the hands of rival Miami. The Hokies are desperate, backed into a corner and at home on a Thursday night. They are two games shy of being bowl eligible and have lacked a signature win to define their season. There will be nothing fun about this game at all for the Noles. Florida State needs to come out strong and keep their foot on the gas – take the crowd out of the game early and put the Hokies away when you have the chance. If Virginia Tech is hanging around in the fourth quarter, no doubt the crowd will be hanging around in the fourth quarter. This could spell trouble ala NC State earlier in the season, and then Seminole fans can look forward to yet another year of not quite living up to the hype, and a spot in a bowl game that doesn’t really matter.
Relevant teams go on the road and win games like this. I think the Noles will be rested and ready to hit someone on Thursday night, and Virginia Tech just happens to be next. Essentially one win away from a division title and a spot in the ACC title game, the Noles will stay focused and pull out a very tough, very close game in Blacksburg.
FSU 27 Virginia Tech 20
Coach Fisher Talks Virginia Tech
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