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Florida State Preview and Prediction

The Hokies have another big opening game on national television. Last year it was West Virginia. The year before it was Tennessee in week 2. The Hokies winning against West Virginia made a big statement. They need to start winning these games more often than not in order to grow the program to new levels. If the Hokies lose, everyone will say “same old Hokies.”

The Hokies focus in this game needs to be on stopping the run and forcing Deondre Francois to beat them with his arm. This was the game plan against Clemson last season but Clemson was still able to run all over the Hokies with big plays. The Hokies need to do a better job this time around. Play assignment football and wrap up their tackles. That’s a lot to ask from a very young defense – particularly from first time starters at linebacker. They can’t have Cam Akers and company run for big plays against them. Florida State has the running backs to create big plays out of mistakes from a young defense.

I expect good things from the offense. The Florida State defense has a lot of talent but I trust Fuente to have some different looks to throw at them. This has the potential to be the best offensive line the Hokies have put out in years. The Hokies have pass catching weapons that they didn’t have a year ago. Virginia Tech needs to be able to move the ball on the ground. That will require a big games from Deshawn McClease, Steven Peoples and Josh Jackson. A solid ground game will open things up through the air and make life easier on Josh Jackson. Florida State is also starting two young and smallish linebackers. Expect Fuente and Cornelsen to try to confuse them with RPOs and misdirection.

Teams that have been able to beat the Hokies in recent years have been able to do so by beating them through the air. The Hokies will need to limit big plays with their young secondary. If the Hokies are giving up big plays, the will have a tough time winning this matchup. The Hokies need to make Florida State drive the field to score. Big plays would be a big problem – like they were against Clemson last year. The Hokies need to prepare their young linebackers for the tempo that Florida State will play at.

The lack of depth on the defensive line is a big concern. The talent is there but there is not a lot of depth. Willie Taggart likes to play with tempo on offense which will takes it toll on a thin defensive line throughout the game. It will be critical for the Hokies to get off the field so they are not gassed by the fourth quarter. If they are on the field too long, that’s when you can expect big plays from FSU’s talented running backs.

This game will be closer than many experts think. Even though Florida State has a great home atmosphere, especially at night, they do have their issues too. I don’t expect the FSU offensive line to be able to handle the Hokies defensive line the way many are expecting which will limit the damage from their running backs. Their offense will have to rely on the passing game which means Deondre Francois will have to put up points with his arm. He will, but probably not as many as a some are expecting. It’ll be a tight, low scoring affair but I still think FSU just has too much talent and firepower at this point and they win it by one score. A big play on special teams could be the difference.

Prediction: Florida State 31, Virginia Tech 24

ACC Predictions

These predictions are also featured on allsportsdiscussion.com here, here and here.

Coastal Predictions

Georgia Tech 8-4 (6-2)
Duke 9-3 (6-2)
Virginia Tech 8-4 (5-3)
Miami 6-6 (4-4)
Pittsburgh 6-6 (4-4)
North Carolina 6-6 (3-5)
Virginia 2-10 (1-7)

Everyone is saying that the division will come down to the Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech game on November 12th. I tend to agree but I could see Virginia Tech winning that game with 12 days to prepare but lose three games in the rest of ACC play to still hand the division to Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech definitely has the easier ACC slate only having to face Boston College and NC State from the Atlantic division. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, has to face Clemson and Florida State (yikes!).

I see Duke keeping the momentum going under David Cutcliffe. I think we will continue to see Duke be a thorn in the side of other Coastal teams for years to come. I call them the Stanford of the east. Miami will have another Miami-like season, not bad but not great. Probably not enough to save Al Golden’s job. North Carolina will continue to put up points like usual but I’m not sure I trust that defense to show up. I’m not really sure what to expect from Pitt under new coach Pat Narduzzi. I could see them being really good but more than likely they’ll have an up and down season.

And finally Virginia. I actually feel bad for Virginia. Seems like most have already jumped ship on Mike London’s future there and then they get handed a murderer’s row non-conference schedule (@UCLA, Notre Dame & Boise State). Not good.

Atlantic Predictions

Florida State 11-1 (7-1)
Louisville 10-2 (7-1)
Clemson 10-2 (7-1)
Boston College 7-5 (4-4)
North Carolina State 5-7 (2-6)
Syracuse 3-9 (1-7)
Wake Forest 2-10 (0-8)

Florida State still is one of the most talented teams in the country. They have plenty of talent to choose from and will reload in 2015. They will not, however, go undefeated in 2015. The Atlantic division will be a three team race between Florida State, Clemson and Louisville. Clemson has the best quarterback in the league to go along with an improving defense under Brent Venables.

Louisville’s defense will be good enough to keep them in every game. As long as they can find competent quarterback play, they will be a force to be reckoned with. Boston College will continue to be a tough out for anyone they play but that schedule is brutal. Even with raised expectations, I expect NC State to take a step back. I’m not buying the hype there. Syracuse and Wake Forest are a step below the rest of the division.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, the ACC has more than two good teams! I think the ACC will get some respect this year. Between Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Duke, the ACC has six potential top-25 teams. This is the year to expect the unexpected. Both divisions will have razor thin races going into November. You can look as far as the six games between the teams listed above to decide both divisions. I could even see some crazy tiebreakers go into effect in those division races. It’s been awhile since the league had ranked teams battling it out in each division. Should be an exciting season.