The eighth-ranked Florida State Seminoles begin a two-game road trip with a critical ACC affair this Thursday night at Virginia Tech.
Jimbo Fisher's Seminoles were idle this past weekend and as a result, the Clemson Tigers have moved into a tie with Florida State atop the ACC's Atlantic Division at 5-1. However, it is the Seminoles, who have won three straight games, that hold the tie-breaker by virtue of their victory over Clemson back on Sept. 22.
The bye was much needed according to Fisher.
I think we need a break," Fisher said following the Duke game. "Nine straight weeks is a long time, plus your four weeks of camp; that's 12, 13 weeks now that you've been grinding. You need a couple days to get away [and] recharge your batteries."
Frank Beamer's Hokies have had a disappointing season to date, as a streak of 10 or more wins will end at eight straight seasons. Virginia Tech has struggled to a 4-5 overall mark, including a 2-3 record in-conference. The Hokies have lost two straight entering this contest, including last week's 30-12 setback to Miami-Florida.
Florida State holds a 22-12-1 series advantage. Two of the last four meetings have come in the ACC Championship Game. FSU owns a 9-2 edge in games played since 1980, but it is Virginia Tech which has captured two of the last three affairs, including a 44-33 shootout in the last meeting, the 2010 ACC title game.
The Florida State offense takes a backseat to the defense in terms of notoriety, but maybe shouldn't in 2012, as the Seminoles have been extremely potent and balanced, putting up averages of 44.8 ppg, with 234.6 yards coming on the ground and another 290.0 yards through the air.
Quarterback EJ Manuel has played extremely well under center, completing 70 percent of his passes, for 2,315 yards, with 16 TDs and just four INTs. His 174.03 passer rating ranks second nationally. The passing game gets it done with no clear cut go-to-guy on the outside. However, it is made that much more dangerous because of a lethal ground attack.
Lead tailback Chris Thompson is gone for the year with an injury, but James Wilder Jr. (439 yards, 5.9 ypc, eight TDs) and Devonta Freeman (391 yards, 7.4 ypc, five TDs) are more than capable of filling the void.
The defense is the driving force behind FSU's run to the conference crown, as the team leads the nation in total defense (227.1 ypg), ranks third in scoring defense (12.0 ppg) and rush defense (72.9 ypg) and fourth in pass defense (154.2 ypg).
Bookends Cornellius Carradine (53 tackles, 9.0 TFLs, 8.0 sacks) and Bjoern Werner (27 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, 8.0 sacks) have been devastating coming off the edges. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (25 tackles, two INTs) gives the team All- American talent in the secondary.
The Hokies have certainly shown the ability to move the football, averaging just over 400 yards per game (401.4). Still, the team has failed in taking care of the football.
The main culprit in that regard is quarterback Logan Thomas. What was supposed to be a huge season for the junior signal-caller just never materialized. Thomas has completed just 53.3 percent of his passes, for 2,109 yards. He has thrown 13 TDs passes, but has been guilty of 12 interceptions.
Marcus Davis (36 receptions, 686 yards, four TDs) and Corey Fuller (29 receptions, 547 yards, four TDs) are a decent one-two punch in the receiving corps. However, replacing All-American tailback David Wilson has proved difficult, as Thomas currently leads the team in rushing (422 yards, six TDs).
The Hokies have long been known for their stingy defense, but that has not been the case for the most part in 2012. Virginia Tech has been average at best on that side of the football, allowing 24.7 ppg on 367.9 yards of total offense.
Linebacker Jack Tyler leads the team in total tackles (85) and TFLs (9.5). Safety Kyshoen Jarrett is a distant second in stops (64). Defensive end James Gayle (30 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 4.0 sacks) was projected for a big season, but his overall numbers are modest at best.
Beamer is aware of the mistakes in all phases of the game and commented on that following the loss to Miami.
"We didn't produce points, and points are the name of the game," Beamer said. "We turned the ball over in the red zone twice. It's execution. Defensively, we give up a couple of long plays. It's execution. We get a punt blocked. It's execution. On kickoff coverage, we get a guy out of position and one pops on us. It's execution."