8:00 | ESPN | Line: -13.5 | Note:
What They Did Last Week: Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech lost to Miami in a game that was close everywhere but the scoreboard. The Hokies actually outgained Miami on offense but two early special teams miscues and a Logan Thomas interception put Tech in a hole they could not recover from. This Virginia Tech team is certainly better than this and the issues seen in its losses are certainly fixable. Can they get those fixed by Thursday?
What They Did Last Week: Florida State
Hopefully Florida State took a much needed rest to work on ball security and offensive execution because they are going to need it.
v. Virginia Tech's Defense
VA Tech has been inconsistent on defense. They have done a good job on stopping what a team wants to do on a majority of its plays but will then give up a 50 yard run. Tech has reconfigured their defense a bit going with more of a 4-4 look with 4-2-5 or 4-3 personnel. This change in defensive scheme also allows Virginia Tech's defensive linemen to be more aggressive in their rushes as opposed to taking up blocks to allow linebackers free reign.
While the Hokies have not struggled in pass coverage they have given up some big plays. Virginia Tech is talented but young in the secondary and injuries have not lessened their learning curve. Teams have routinely picked on Antone Exum and FSU will likely do the same. FSU could also see some mismatches in the passing game over the middle as Tech's linebackers are solid but no terribly athletic. Florida State as attempted to get Nick O'Leary into the passing game early on but has had mixed results. This could be the game the Noles see dividends from their investment.
The biggest problem the Hokies have faced on defense is short fields. The Virginia Tech offense has struggled mightily and special teams have not been that great, which has put the defense in bad positions. The Tech defense held Clemson to 4.5 yards/play but gave up 31 points due to poor field position.
- more than 6 yards a play before garbage time (420 yards on 70 plays)
- No more than 1 turnover
- 50% or greater TDs in the red zone
v. Virginia Tech's Offense
For better or worse Virginia Tech's offense is triggered by Logan Thomas. Thomas has all the tools to be a solid quarterback but lacks the consistency you'd like to see. On one play Thomas will make the correct read and complete a beautiful pass for a good gain and throw an interception to a wide open linebacker on the next. Much like the rest of the team his inconsistency is frustrating for VATech fans.
Of course the offense malaise is not all Thomas's fault. Gone is ACC-player of the Year David Wilson. Gone is the offensive line (Andrew Miller was Tech's only returning starter but was lost during the Duke game). While Virginia Tech did lose Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin last year receivers Corey Fuller and Marcus Davis have filled in nicely. Unfortunately both receivers have struggled with consistency.
FSU's main goal is to keep Thomas from running free. Expect a similar game plan from the USF game with FSU running a cover-3 and forcing Thomas to beat them short. Virginia Tech will run Thomas out of the zone read, inverted veer, power and draw which are all plays the Noles have seen plenty of. Thomas runs the draw and power better than the zone read or inverted veer so the Noles should pay special attention to these plays.
Tech will try and run the ball, mostly up the middle, with J.C. Coleman and Michael Holmes but they have not had a great amount of success. As such Thomas has been their main ground threat. Against Miami, one of the worst run stopping defenses in the nation, Virginia Tech struggled to get any sort of push. While this was likely an aberration there is a large difference between the quality of line play from FSU and Miami.
When VATech does drop back to pass do not expect much pressure on Thomas. Just like against USF Florida State is going to have to control its rush. Expect the defensive ends to get as deep as Thomas's drop and work their way towards him. This could be a big opportunity for the Noles' defensive tackles to record sacks. Florida State could bring back the 4-3 alignment seen earlier in the year but that will likely depend on Tech's alignment. Behind this front FSU will likely play a cover-3 zone with some man mixed in along with a QB spy. Florida State is not likely to blitz much.
If the Hokies are to drive the field against FSU the Noles need to make sure it is done using short passes. Just like every other quarterback with a strong arm Thomas likes to throw deep. Unfortunately just like every quarterback with a big arm Thomas will force the ball into coverage at times. He will also over throw some passes meaning safeties need to keep their heads up when driving on an intended receiver.
When Thomas does look short he mostly looks to throw curls and intermediate crossing routes over the middle. Linebackers and safeties should look to aggressively attack these zones to force Thomas to throw outside. Thomas will float a few balls outside and either throw a pick or get his receiver hit hard. While Tech does not run play action too often they do like to throw to the tight end or H-back to the flats.
- less than 4.5 yards/play before garbage time (270 on 60, 315 on 70)
- Force 2 turnovers
- 50% or less TDs in the red zone
Virginia Tech does a decent job on both kick off and punts on both sides of the ball. FSU has routinely kicked the ball short on kick offs but may end that practice starting this week. Nobody is describing any of the three remaining offenses FSU has to play as decent so why risk the possibility of giving up special teams yardage or a long touchdown? Certainly the Noles could possibly pin the Hokies deeper by kicking the ball to the one but the gain is not likely worth the reward. Florida State could begin the game by kicking the ball short only to abandon that practice half way through the game.
A.J. Hughes is a decent punter averaging just under 40 yards/kick. Cody Journell is a solid kicker for Virginia Tech and has hit 12/14 of his attempted field goals with a long of 41. Florida State likely worked on fielding punts over the bye week and it is imperative they do not give up a short field to Tech throw a muffed or blocked punt.
Miscellaneous triumphantly returns for the Thursday night game! Fans have to be wondering about the mental state of Virginia Tech. For only the third time since 2005 Virginia Tech will not be in the ACC Championship game. Even worse for the first time in eight years Virginia Tech will not win ten games. While nobody expects Tech to roll over against FSU where will their mental state be if the Noles jump out early, especially after Miami did the same thing a week ago?
Much like Virginia Tech last week Florida State is going on the road for a Thursday night game after a bye. While Virginia Tech's road trip did not turn out how they would have liked how will FSU fair? The Noles have had ample time to work on offensive execution and ball security and both will be needed in the three games that follow. For the FSU offense things only get tougher.
Prediction: FSU 24 - Virginia Tech 13