Saturday at 8 PM on the ACC Network the Seminoles will host the Virginia Cavaliers.
Virginia is 4-4 on the year with wins over Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Abilene Christian. The Cavaliers’ four losses came against Clemson, North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Miami.
The last time these two met was last season in Charlottesville. Florida State lost 31-24 after Cam Akers was stopped on the 1 yard line on the last play of the game. The last time FSU beat Virginia was in 2014, 34-20. Florida State is 14-4 against the Cavaliers in the all-time series.
Florida State offense versus Virginia defense
The Cavaliers defense is led by linebacker/defensive end Charles Snowden and inside linebacker Nick Jackson. The long and athletic pass rusher Snowden has six sacks and three passes defended on the season. How Darius Washington and the rest of the Florida State offensive line deals with him will determine the success of the offense.
The linebacker Jackson already has 85 tackles and 2.5 sacks on the season. The other linebackers Zane Zandier, Noah Taylor and Matt Gahm have made plays for UVA the whole season as well.
According to coach Norvell, Jordan Travis and running backs Jashaun Corbin and Lawrence Toafili will be ready to play. The Seminoles will need all the help they can get against an improving Virginia defense. The Cavaliers defense has improved in terms of how many points they have given up in the last few games, but they still give up 450+ yards per game. They have done this by tightening up in the red zone and getting a couple more turnovers.
Virginia is decent against the run, but have been very suspect against the pass, which bodes well for Jordan Travis. If Travis can connect with Ontaria Wilson or Warren Thompson down field it will give him some more running lanes.
Florida State defense versus Virginia offense
Virginia’s offense is very similar to Florida State’s this year in that they use the run-pass option out of the shotgun with multiple backs or tight ends. When quarterback Brandon Armstrong is on the field the running and passing aspects of their offense run through the QB. Armstrong leads the team in passing with 1,571 yards and rushing with 399. (Jordan Travis leads the Seminoles in both categories as well). I think of Armstrong as a bigger, left-handed version of Travis.
Wayne Taulapapa is the featured back, but he only has 366 yards rushing this year. The main target for Armstrong is receiver/running back Billy Kemp, who has 52 catches for 517 yards. Other targets for the Cavaliers are receiver Terrell Jana and tight end Tony Poljan.
Virginia moves the ball with the read option, quarterback runs and short passes. Robert Cooper and the rest of the FSU defense played well against the run in the last game against the Wolfpack so hopefully they can replicate that success in this game. The talented FSU corners Asante Samuel, Jarvis Brownlee and Jarrian Jones need to be put in position to make plays. One way to do this is when they force the Cavaliers into third and long for FSU to play tighter coverage to force Armstrong into more difficult throws down field. If the FSU secondary does not do this, Billy Kemp will have a big game out of the slot.
The special teams in this game seems to be about even. Virginia has the more consistent kicker (Brian Delaney 7/9 on field goals) but FSU has the better punter. The Florida State return men, Ja’Khi Douglas and Travis Jay, need to do a better job following the blockers and of course catching the ball.
After a strange weekend that may have galvanized the team and a bye week to get some major contributors healthy, I expect the Seminoles to come out and play well. FSU might be able to pull out a victory if they can win the field position battle, the turnover battle and stay away from the pre-snap penalties. With Virginia’s inconsistent defense and the inability to stretch the field, I think FSU will be able to keep it close well into the fourth quarter. However, I don’t think Florida State has enough experience and depth to get that final push to earn a victory.