2007 Football Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Florida State

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Saturday, November 10th, 2007, 3:30

TV: ABC/ESPN (click
here for a coverage map
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Click the “Blacksburg Weather” link to the right.
Game time forecast, as of 4:30 pm Wednesday: Mostly sunny, 44 degrees, 0% chance
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Click here for TechSideline.com’s VT/FSU roster card


Game Preview: #11 Virginia Tech (7-2, 4-1 ACC) vs. Florida State (6-3,
3-3)


by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com

What were you doing on October 11, 1975? Some of you might have been in Lane
Stadium that day. If you were, then you were present the last time the Virginia
Tech Hokies beat the Florida State Seminoles. And if you want to get technical,
the Hokies didn’t beat FSU that day … the Fighting Gobblers did. FSU has won
every meeting since then, but Tech has a chance to reverse that trend this
Saturday in Blacksburg.

FSU is coming off a big road victory over then #2 Boston College. Can the
Seminoles put together back-to-back great road performances? History says no, as
FSU hasn’t been a consistent team for the past five or six years. However,
history also says that Beamer can’t beat Bowden.

The Florida State Offense

Florida State’s offense is up and down. It seems like they either look good
or ugly. The running game hasn’t been good, and the offensive line is in the
middle of being revamped. As usual, the Seminoles live and die on their passing
game.

FSU
Offense
Category Stat ACC
Rank
National
Rank

Rushing

120.44 ypg
9 96

Passing

258.22 ypg
2 35

Total

378.67 ypg
3 72

Scoring

24.22 ppg
7 78

Pass Efficiency

127.43
6 56

Sacks Allowed

1.78 spg
5 55

All of the categories above, with the exception of passing offense, are average
to bad on the national scale.

Florida State has gone through a bit of a quarterback controversy this year.
Drew Weatherford was pulled after being ineffective in the first half of the
Alabama game, and Xavier Lee led the ‘Noles to victory in the second half. Lee
became the starter and played well in the win over NC State the next week.

However, the wheels began to fall off shortly after that. FSU lost to Wake
Forest and Miami, and Lee played poorly. Just like that, Drew Weatherford found
himself back in the starting lineup. There is no quarterback controversy for the
upcoming game, for a couple of reasons. First, Weatherford had back-to-back good
games against Duke and Boston College. Second, Lee is suspended for the Tech
game, so it doesn’t matter how Weatherford is playing. He’s the quarterback by
default.

Weatherford is a very talented quarterback who can pick you apart when given
time. For the season he has completed 61.5% of his passes for 1,335 yards, with
seven touchdowns and one interception. It’s the one interception that is an
impressive stat. Weatherford used to be an interception machine, but as his
career has progressed, he’s turning the ball over a lot less.

Weatherford is coming off an excellent game against Boston College, where he
threw for 354 yards and two touchdowns. The Hokies can’t afford to let him get
into a rhythm on Saturday. He doesn’t like to run, so putting pressure on him
from right up the middle would help Tech’s chances quite a bit.

Weatherford
has some very dangerous receivers to work with. The starters are De’Cody Fagg
(6-3, 215, Sr.) and Greg Carr (6-6, 215, Jr.). Fagg is probably the best overall
receiver on the team. He has 36 catches for 526 yards and three touchdowns on
the year. He’s physical, and Tech’s cornerbacks have to tackle well when he
catches a pass. Macho Harris can’t bring his (poor) first quarter tackling
effort from the Georgia Tech game against Fagg or any of the FSU receivers.

Carr is the jump ball king of the ACC. He has turned into more of a complete
receiver this year, with 32 catches for 605 yards. He leads the team with an
18.9 yards per catch average. Florida State will likely try to get him a jump
ball over Brandon Flowers at some point. He’ll make his plays, and it will be
important for the Hokies to forget them quickly.

Preston Parker (6-0, 190, So.) is a slot receiver who happens to be FSU’s
leading receiver. He is the most dangerous player on Florida State’s offense.
FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher uses Parker in every way possible. He has
46 catches for 609 yards and three touchdowns this year. Parker does much of his
work down the middle of the field, so Brett Warren will have to be ready when
he’s dropping back into his zone.

Parker also has 15 carries on the year, so the coaching staff loves to give
him the ball on reverses. He has also attempted two passes, completing one for
17 yards against Boston College. When Parker gets the ball in his hands, you
never know exactly what’s going to happen.

FSU’s fourth leading receiver, Richard Goodman, is out with an injury. He has
20 catches on the year. However, senior wideout Joslin Shaw is back from an
injury. Don’t expect him to play a major role against the Hokies, but you never
know.

Florida State’s offensive line is small, but they’ve gotten a lot tougher
under new offensive line coach Rick Trickett. The Seminoles are starting two
freshmen side-by-side on the offensive line. Center Ryan McMahon (6-3, 275,
r-Fr.) moved from defensive tackle to center in the spring. Next to him is left
guard Rodney Hudson (6-2, 285, Fr.).

Hudson and McMahon are holding up well for freshmen, but they have a
difficult challenge ahead of them on Saturday. The Hokies have three senior
defensive tackles in Carlton Powell, Kory Robertson and Barry Booker. Hudson and
McMahon will get to see a lot of Powell.

The normal starting left tackle, sophomore Daron Rose, is out for Saturday’s
game. Starting right tackle David Overmyer (6-5, 275, Sr.) will slide over to
the left side to replace Rose. He was injured earlier in the year, but he’s a
very experienced player. Shannon Boatman (6-7, 312, Sr.) will replace Overmyer
at right tackle. Boatman is FSU’s biggest lineman.

The injury to Rose hurts FSU’s depth up front, because Boatman is a versatile
player who can play guard and tackle, the left side and right side. FSU’s best
lineman is right guard Jacky Claude (6-4, 283, Sr.). He has started 34 games in
his career.

The FSU line is improved this year under Trickett. They are much tougher.
However, they still have some physical limitations. This just isn’t a physically
strong group. They don’t get a tremendous amount of push up front against the
better competition they play. Antone Smith (5-9, 187, Jr.) is the FSU running
back. He has 645 yards on the year, and is averaging four yards per carry behind
this line.

Smith is the only Florida State player to have totaled over 100 yards rushing
for the entire season. The second leading rusher on the team is Xavier Lee, who
has 97 yards, but he is suspended for this game. This is the best front seven
that Florida State has faced all year (Miami’s is terribly banged up). The ‘Noles
shouldn’t have much success on the ground against the Hokies.

The Florida State Defense

Florida State puts out a very talented, very athletic defense, as usual. They
are tough to block, and they run to the ball very well.

FSU
Defense
Category Stat ACC
Rank
National
Rank

Rushing

90.44 ypg
2 8

Passing

235.56 ypg
10 72

Total

326 ypg
5 24

Scoring

18 ppg
4 17

Pass Eff. Defense

114.82
6 31

Sacks

2.11 spg
9 56

Tackles for Loss

8.22 pg
2 9

Florida State doesn’t have an elite, Grade A player like they normally do on
defense. There are a few guys that have that potential, but they aren’t there
quite yet. However, they have a lot of very good defensive players across the
board, and some excellent ones.

Florida State’s defensive line just got a lot healthier before their recent
win over Boston College. Defensive tackles Budd Thacker (6-2, 268, So.) and
Andre Fluellen (6-4, 280, Sr.) returned from injury, and Noles are much better
up front with those two players in the rotation.

Thacker is the likely starter at nose guard. He is a former Virginia Tech
commitment, and his father played for the Hokies, but when the Seminoles came in
late with a scholarship offer, he decided to stay in his home state of Florida.
Thacker missed four games with an injury this year, but despite that he has
still managed to post 4.5 tackles for loss in five games. Fluellen has been very
ineffective because of injuries, but when he’s healthy he is one of the ACC’s
best defensive linemen.

Paul Griffin (6-2, 286, Jr.) and Letroy Guion (6-4, 295, Jr.) are Florida
State’s biggest defensive tackles. The Seminoles rely on speed up front, rather
than size. Griffin and Guion have both had good seasons, combining for 9.5
tackles for loss. Kendrick Stewart (6-2, 270, So.) will also be used at tackle
by FSU.

Everette Brown (6-4, 255, So.) and Neefy Moffett (6-1, 254, Jr.) are FSU’s
best defensive ends. They actually play the same position, left defensive end.
They will be Ed Wang’s biggest challenge since his return from injury. Brown has
nine tackles for loss and five sacks. The Hokies were heavily involved in his
recruitment. Moffett has nine tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

At right defensive end, Florida State doesn’t have a playmaker like they have
on the left side. Justin Mincey (6-5, 265, So.) starts, but he’ll share time
with Alex Boston (6-3, 268, Sr.), who has started at all four spots along the
defensive line in his career. They have combined for 5.5 tackles for loss and
1.5 sacks on the season.

Florida State puts athletic and talented linebackers on the field, as usual.
Geno Hayes (6-2, 218, Jr.) is the starter on the weak side and is the biggest
playmaker on FSU’s defense. He is second on the team with 60 tackles, and he his
third in the ACC in tackles for loss with 14. He is the only linebacker in the
top five in the conference in tackles for loss.

Hayes is perhaps the best athlete on a defense filled with great athletes. He
had a big game against Boston College last week, doing an excellent job against
Andre Callender on routes out of the backfield. He came up with the game-sealing
interception return for a touchdown at the end.

Former VT recruiting target Derek Nicholson (6-2, 226, Jr.) starts at middle
linebacker, and he leads the team with 64 tackles on the season. He has
recovered well from a torn ACL suffered last season.

Two former Tech recruiting targets will play at the strong side linebacker
spot. Dekoda Watson (6-2, 230, So.) is the starter, and Marcus Ball (6-0, 215)
is the backup. Watson has 32 tackles on the season, with four tackles for loss
and two sacks. Ball suffered a severely sprained ankle against Wake Forest and
still isn’t quite 100%, although he played against Boston College.

Virginia Tech’s receivers must come to play against Florida State. The Noles
play primarily man-to-man defense, and the Hokies will have a chance to make
some plays. However, they must play smart and consistent, because the Seminoles
have some very good defenders in the secondary.

Tony Carter (5-9, 175, Jr.) is Florida State’s best cover corner. His size
might not impress you, but he’s a very physical player. He has three
interceptions and eight passes defended on the season.

The other starter at corner is Patrick Robinson (5-11, 184, So.). Robinson is
on a major tear. He has intercepted a pass in five consecutive games. He has
also broken up nine passes on the season.

The top backups at cornerback are J.R. Bryant (6-1, 180, Sr.) and Michael Ray
Garvin (5-8, 180, Jr.). Both have been starters in the past. The Seminoles have
talent and a lot of experienced depth at cornerback. It may be the deepest
position on their defense.

Florida State also has talent and experience at the safety positions. Roger
Williams (6-0, 200, Sr.) is the starter at free safety. He started every game
last season and every game so far this season for the Seminoles. He is joined by
rover Myron Rolle (6-2, 215, So.). Rolle was a blue-chip recruit coming out of
high school who has started since the day he set foot on campus. Rolle is
perhaps the most physically imposing player on the FSU defense.

Special Teams

The Seminoles are solid across the board on special teams. Gary Cismesia
(5-11, 210, Sr.) is 19-of-25 on the season, with a long of 45. He has very good
accuracy and solid range on his kicks. The ACC has a number of very good
kickers, and Cismesia is one of them.

Graham Gano (6-1, 195, Jr.) handles the punting chores. He is averaging 42.5
yards per punt this year, and the Seminoles are 27th in the nation in net
punting. The Noles will also use Brent Moody (6-2, 178, Jr.) as their pooch
punter.

Here is a look at FSU’s overall special teams stats.

FSU
Special Teams Stats
Category Stat National
Rank

Kickoff Returns
19.81 94

Punt Returns
10.74 38

Kickoff Coverage
20.41 41

Net Punt
37.35 27

Punt Coverage
6 22

Overall they are solid, but not spectacular. However, consider the fact that FSU
always dominates the Hokies on special teams. Over the last six games against
Virginia Tech, FSU has blocked four punts and returned two others for
touchdowns. Throw these special teams stats out the window. The Hokies are going
to have to play well on special teams to win this game.

It doesn’t help things that Eddie Royal, the ACC’s top punt returner, is very
likely to miss this game. Expect to see Macho Harris returning punts this week.

Conclusion

There are certain things I like about this game, and certain things I don’t
like about it. I like Carlton Powell’s chances of winning the battle against
FSU’s freshmen offensive linemen. I like Tech’s chances of shutting down the
running game. I love the fact that the Hokies finally have the Seminoles at
home. Finally.

Also, the Hokies are #2 nationally in third down defense, while the FSU
offense checks in at #98 on third downs. Florida State is #118 in penalties per
game, and #115 in penalty yards per game. This is perhaps the most undisciplined
team the Hokies will face this year.

On the other hand, I’m scared to death of Preston Parker going down the
middle from his slot position. He’ll try to expose the Hokies over the deep
middle, and I have a feeling that he’s going to have some success. I’m scared of
Brandon Flowers having perfect coverage on Greg Carr and doing everything right,
but Carr using his height to make a great play on the ball.

I’m not scared of punting the ball to Florida State … I’m terrified of it.
Tech’s punt coverage team has been very good this year, but visions of blocked
punts and punt returns for touchdowns keep dancing through my head.

I’m not all that scared of the fact that Frank Beamer has never beaten Bobby
Bowden. Football games generally come down to matchups and execution, not what
happened in the 2001 Gator Bowl. Still, it’s tough to pick the Hokies when they
haven’t beaten the Seminoles since 1975.

I’ve been going back and forth on this one all week. On Monday, I was sure
Florida State would win. Yesterday, I thought the Hokies had a great chance.
Today I’m back to being skeptical of Tech’s chances. I’ve actually typed out a
closing paragraph and prediction twice, but I’ve gone back and deleted it. Since
this preview has to go out today, I guess I need to hurry up and decide. When in
doubt, go with the Hokies.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 20, Florida State 17

Will Stewart’s Take:

“Hi, my name is George. I’m unemployed and I live with my
parents.”

Recognize that line? It was uttered by George Constanza on Seinfeld,
in the episode called “The
Opposite
.” Realizing his life was a complete failure, George decided to
do everything completely opposite of his instincts to see what would happen.

What happened? George got a beautiful girl (with the opening line above) and
his dream job with the New York Yankees.

Virginia Tech has played FSU three times in my HokieCentral.com/TechSideline.com
tenure, and my attempts at predicting the outcome have been comically wrong.

Season My Pick Result
1999 VT 31, FSU 24 FSU 46, VT 29
2001* VT 24, FSU 20 FSU 30, VT 17
2005** VT 20, FSU 10 FSU 27, VT 22
* 2001 Gator Bowl
** 2005 ACC Championship Game

Which leads to this: Realizing that my efforts to pick Virginia Tech games
versus Florida State are a complete failure, I’m going to do the opposite. I’m
going to pick the Seminoles to win.

It appears that Florida State is having a so-so season, with a 6-3 overall
record, 3-3 in the ACC, but don’t be fooled by that record, or any of FSU’s
mediocre statistics. The Seminoles are a skilled, athletic juggernaut that
always plays its best game against the Hokies. I don’t foresee FSU having much
difficulty putting 27-30 points on the board against the Hokies, via the big
offensive play and one or two special teams plays that either score directly or
set up easy touchdowns.

The Virginia Tech offensive line has improved, and Sean Glennon looks like a
much better quarterback, but I think that Beau Warren at center is a recipe for
disaster against the FSU defense. FSU’s defensive tackles will destroy the
middle of the Hokie offensive line, the same way they did in the 2005 ACC
Championship Game, and the rush up the middle will cause Glennon to come
unraveled and throw his first interception since the LSU game.

Putting in Tyrod Taylor won’t help. He’ll take some tough hits when he runs
the football and will probably put it on the ground one or two times.

FSU linebacker Geno Hayes frightens me as a playmaker. He had one
interception for a TD against Boston College and should have had two. He’s going
to do against VT what he did against BC: hang out in the middle of the field,
get lost in all the hubbub of FSU’s strong rush up the middle, and pick off a
pass or two, maybe even for a touchdown.

Branden Ore’s fumble statistics should make you fear the possibility of an
FSU defensive touchdown. Ore has six drops on the year, and if he puts the ball
on the ground out on the perimeter, FSU’s speedy defense could pick it up and
take it to the house.

I just don’t see Virginia Tech’s offense having much success moving the ball,
and three turnovers or more is a strong possibility.

Defensively, the Hokies will be strong statistically against the Seminoles,
but FSU will overcome their typical lack of discipline to strike for two or
three big plays against the Hokies. Look for Greg Carr on the perimeter and
De’Cody Fagg across the middle to spring for big gainers.

Special teams? The Hokies haven’t made a “special” special teams
play against FSU for as long as I can remember, but the Noles, as Chris
detailed, block punts and take punts and kicks back with regularity against the
Hokies. FSU could spot themselves a touchdown or even two in this area.

Don’t look for Lane Stadium to be much of an advantage, either. Tech fans are
loud, but the Hokies have lost at least one home game every year since the 2001
season, seven years running. The idea that Lane Stadium is an intimidating venue
is a myth.

I expect this game will end up like all other FSU-VT games I’ve tried to pick
since starting this web site. In this particular contest, I think FSU will blow
out to a big lead, and the Hokies will add a late cosmetic score or two, just
like 2005.

Will’s Prediction: Florida State 33, Virginia Tech 17

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