By Scott Carswell, Jr.
The season is here! On Labor Day night at 8 PM the Virginia Tech Hokies will be playing the Seminoles under the lights in Doak Campbell Stadium. Even legendary coaches Bobby Bowden and Frank Beamer will be there serving as honorary captains.
The last time these two teams met was in Blacksburg, VA in 2012. Florida State won 28-22 as they scored on an E.J. Manuel pass to Rashad Greene in the final minute.
Florida State offense versus Virginia Tech defense
Deondre François and company will be going up against a very young defense that lost 7 starters from last season. A couple players expected to replace them have had their seasons ended by suspension or injuries. The Seminoles will only have two pass catching options that have made consistent plays for the offense in the past so it will mostly be up to the new guys to help take advantage of the even younger and less experienced VA Tech secondary.
The running game will be where this FSU team will put most defenses including this one on its heels. Virginia Tech has two very capable interior defensive linemen but after Ricky Walker and Vinny Mihota there isn’t much depth. Look for Taggart to put his no huddle style to the test by trying to wear those two out. When Mihota and/or Walker need a break Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick will get plenty of carries.
The edge goes to Florida State because of FSU’s very talented backfield and the effect of the faster pace offense on Virginia Tech’s lack of depth. If Virginia Tech did not have defensive guru Bud Foster as their defensive coordinator FSU would have an easier time against Tech’s youthful defense. However, I know Foster will have some tricks up his sleeve and whoever is on the field for the Hokies will be coached up very well.
Virginia Tech offense versus Florida State defense
Josh Jackson is Tech’s signal caller and struggled with turnovers against solid defenses but beat up on some bad defenses. With Virginia Tech’s all-time leading receiver Cam Phillips graduating, Sean Savoy is their leading receiver returning from last year with 39 catches for 454 yards.
Fuente’s offense will include 3 backs, Jalen Holston, Deshawn McClease and Steven Peoples. All three are very shifty and reliable pass catchers that will split the snaps. These guys will need to make their plays in the passing game as I don’t see them getting too much on the ground against the deep defensive tackle rotation for the Seminoles.
Virginia Tech did not have very many explosive plays last season and that trend will probably continue throughout the season, but with FSU’s new defensive scheme and fairly inexperienced safeties the Hokies might get a few more chunk plays than expected. The biggest deciding factor on the side of the ball will be how freshman left tackle Silas Dzansi deals with Bryan Burns. I think Burns will be double teamed most of the game so it will be up to the other Seminole pass rushers to beat the seniors on the right side of the Hokie line.
The advantage will have to go to Virginia Tech, but the margin won’t be as wide as it is on the other side of the ball. Josh Jackson is a talented quarterback that will be using his steady slot receivers and big tight ends to do some damage versus the linebackers and safeties on Harlan Barnett’s defense.
Rick Agauyo, who was 18/21 on field goals, gives the Seminoles the edge at kicker. Oscar Bradburn was 7th in the nation in return yards given up in 2017 and gives Virginia Tech the advantage at punter. FSU has more explosive athletes that return kicks but Tech was much more sound at covering them last year. When it comes down to it the special teams it is about as even as it gets.
Prediction and why
I think FSU wins 38 to 34 by being able to get just one more stop on defense than the Hokies. I think this happens because Virginia Tech will not get enough yards on first and second down to make third down easier. On third and long the pass rush lead by Burns and the home crowd will be too much to allow Jackson to convert.