No. 2 Florida State (8-0, 4-0 ACC) vs. Virginia (4-5, 2-3 ACC)
When/Where: Saturday, 6:30 p.m., Doak Campbell Stadium (82,300)
TV/Radio: ESPN/Seminole IMG Radio Network (103.1 FM in Tallahassee)
Coach: Mike London (22-36 in five seasons at Virginia, 46-41 overall)
Last game: Virginia surrendered 409 yards of offense, including 268 on the ground, in a 35-10 defeat at Georgia Tech. The Cavaliers mustered only 284 total yards (and just 22 rushing) in dropping their third straight ACC game.
Last game vs. Florida State: FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins had a chance to lift FSU to a late victory, but the junior’s 42-yard field goal attempt missed as time expired and UVA held on for a 14-13 victory in Tallahassee on Nov. 19, 2011. Running back Kevin Parks – now a senior who will play on Saturday – scored the game-winning touchdown with 1:13 left in the fourth quarter.
Virginia vs. Florida State all-time: FSU is 14-3 against Virginia, 8-1 at home. The two never met before the Seminoles joined the ACC in 1992.
1992: No. 6 Florida State 13, No. 23 VIRGINIA 3
1993: No. 1 FLORIDA STATE 40, No. 15 Virginia 14
1994: No. 4 FLORIDA STATE 41, Virginia 17
1995: No. 24 VIRGINIA 33, No. 2 Florida State 28
1996: No. 3 FLORIDA STATE 31, No. 14 Virginia 24
1997: No. 3 Florida State 47, VIRGINIA 21
1998: No. 6 FLORIDA STATE 45, No. 12 Virginia 14
1999: No. 1 Florida State 35, VIRGINIA 10
2000: No. 6 FLORIDA STATE 37, Virginia 3
2001: No. 21 Florida State 43, VIRGINIA 7
2002: No. 5 FLORIDA STATE 40, Virginia 19
2003: No. 7 Florida State 19, VIRGINIA 14
2004: No. 7 FLORIDA STATATE 36, No. 6 Virginia 3
2005: VIRGINIA 26, No. 4 Florida State 21
2006: FLORIDA STATE 33, Virginia 0
2010: Florida State 34, VIRGINIA 14
2011: Virginia 14, No. 23 FLORIDA STATE 13
2014: Virginia at No. 2 Florida State, Nov. 8, 6:30 p.m.
- Florida State is back in action following a nine-day break. The Seminoles have had plenty of time to exhale since last Thursday’s heart-stopper at Louisville and will no doubt be looking for a faster start.
- FSU has made a habit of overcoming close calls this season. The Seminoles have come back to win after trailing in the fourth quarter in three of their eight games, and they were behind in the third at NC State. Even the season opener against Oklahoma State was a one-score game deep into the fourth quarter.
- While FSU is happy with the resolve it has shown in prevailing from those tight contests, the Seminoles are no doubt hoping to play with a little more breathing room as the season enters its final month. There are still rivalry games with Miami and Florida on the horizon.
- Florida State remained at No. 2 in the latest college football playoff rankings and seem like a good bet to stay at least in the Top 4 as long as it remains undefeated. The latest projections had the Seminoles facing No. 3 Auburn in the semifinal, a rematch from last year’s BCS National Championship Game.
- Virginia, meanwhile, has dropped three straight games after surprising with a strong start. The Cavaliers gave then-No. 7 UCLA and BYU, ranked 21st at the time, all they could handle in close defeats. And in between, they pulled of a surprising upset win over Louisville. But ithe Cavs are winless since a 4-2 start and, even worse, each of those defeats have come to ACC Coastal Division opponents Duke, North Carolina and Georgia Tech.
One offensive and defensive player from each team who could swing the game
Virginia: Senior receiver Darius Jennings has been UVA’s most consistent target in the passing game and has served as one of few bright spots during the three-game skid. He’s caught three passes in each of the last three contests and posted at least 76 yards in all three. That, of course, means that Jennings is striking for deep completions – he had a 33-yard catch against Duke, a 42-yarder against UNC and another 42-yard catch against Georgia Tech.
Just nine games into his collegiate career, freshman safety Quin Blanding has already lived up to his lofty billing. A former five-star recruit from Virginia Beach, Blanding has started all nine games for the Cavaliers and is already the ACC’s leading tackler with 89. The 6-4, 215-pound DB is also has two interceptions.
Florida State: It’s been three weeks since Mario Pender has played for FSU, but coach Jimbo Fisher said Thursday that Pender is ready to return from his high-ankle sprain. The Seminoles have struggled to run at times this season, but have shown encouraging progress in recent weeks. Pender’s return should bolster a backfield going up against a UVA defense that ranks in the top 20 against the run.
FSU defensive lineman Eddie Goldman closes in on Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson. Photo by Larry Novey.
Virginia’s Kevin Parks is the ACC’s active leader in career rushing yardage with 3,100. But he had just five carries for 13 yards against Georgia Tech and, subsequently, UVA was handed its worst defeat of the season. With that in mind, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman should play a key role on Saturday. Goldman’s ability to slow down Louisville’s Michael Dyer in the second half last week (alongside teammate Derrick Mitchell) helped pave the way for FSU’s comeback.
Total offense: FSU: 459.0 YPG (31st nationally); UVA: 397.6 (69th)
Scoring offense: FSU: 38.4 PPG (14th); UVA: 26.7 PPG (80th)
Passing offense: FSU: 327.3 YPG (9th); UVA: 243.9 YPG (57th)
Rushing offense: FSU: 131.8 YPG (99th); UVA: 153.7 (72nd)
Total defense: FSU: 388.6 YPG (61st); UVA: 344.7 (28th)
Scoring defense: FSU: 22.8 PPG (41st); UVA: 24.2 PPG (51st)
Passing defense: FSU: 240.6 YPG (79th); UVA: 225.7 YPG (62nd)
Rushing defense: FSU: 148.0 YPG (51st); UL: 119.0 YPG (19th)
- “I think you learn from those things because you put yourself in those positions, but also I think you’ve got to learn not to put yourself in those positions, too. I think there’s give and take both ways.” — FSU coach Jimbo Fisher on the Seminoles’ close calls this season.
- “We’re talking about the No. 2 team in the country, the national champs until otherwise proven differently, and a Heisman Trophy candidate. This is what competition does for you. It either allows you or makes you rise to the challenge. This group of guys, particularly the seniors, are looking forward to rising to the challenge presented to them.” – Virginia coach Mike London on the challenge of facing Florida State.
- “First off, I can tell you this: Last year’s games weren’t easy. It was a different team. It was a different feel. And a lot of the reasons why people say that we’re not as good as last year is they compare us to last year’s team and say this year’s team isn’t as good. But that’s unfair. That was probably one of the best college football teams, numbers-wise, that you’ll ever see. What this team does well is we fight. We always play with tremendous heart.” – FSU left tackle Cameron Erving on the differences between 2013 and 2014.
- “To me it just signifies how many good young men we have in our organization, in our team, in our family here, that they get the big picture, that it’s not about them and how they can affect other lives. … That’s what you want them to get out of your program, and I’m extremely proud and happy to be a part of them. I’m proud of them.” – Fisher on the efforts of tight end Kevin Haplea and kicker Roberto Aguayo to raise funds for the Kidz1stFund through FSU’s chapter of Uplifting Athletes.
- Florida State’s chapter of Uplifting Athletes is holding a touchdown pledge drive for the game. Fans can pledge a donation for each touchdown the Seminoles score and all proceeds will be given to the Kidz1stFund to help in the fight against Fanconi anemia. FSU coach Jimbo Fisher’s son Ethan and UVA coach Mike London’s daughter Ticynn have both been diagnosed with the rare blood disease. Please click here to make a pledge.
- FSU is hosting Virginia for homecoming. The Seminoles are 53-12-1 all-time in homecoming games and have won their last two by a combined scored of 107-10. The Seminoles last lost on homecoming against UVA in 2011.
- The Cavaliers employ a two-quarterback system with sophomore Greyson Lambert (six starts, 1,055 yards, 5TDs, 8 INTs) and fellow sophomore Matt Johns (three starts, 1,044 yards, eight TDs, five INTs). Lambert will likely start against FSU.
- UVA has allowed only one opposing offense, Georgia Tech last week, to reach 400 yards of offense. FSU has topped the 400-yard mark in six of its eight games and has eclipsed 500 yards twice.
- This game features a pair of Lou Groza Award semifinalists at kicker: FSU’s Roberto Aguayo and Virginia’s Ian Frye. Frye’s 17 field goals are the most in the ACC and he has made 17 of his 20 attempts this season. Aguayo is 14-for-15.
- FSU will be without linebacker Ukeme Eligwe, who was dismissed Thursday for a violation of team rules. Eligwe played in just one game this season and made two tackles. He spent most of this year recovering from a foot injury.
- Florida State’s comeback from 21 points down at Louisville is believed to be the biggest comeback for an FSU victory in school history. The Seminoles came back from 28 points down to tie Florida, 31-31, in 1994.
- A win over UVA would give FSU 25 straight victories, which would be the fourth-longest winning streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision since 1994. Miami (2000-02) and USC (2003-05) both won 34 straight games while Nebraska had a 26-game streak from 1994-96.
- Two former FSU receiving greats, Ron Sellers and Barry Smith, will be in attendance for Saturday’s edition of Sod Talk. The event begins at 4:30 p.m., outside the FSU sod cemetery. Sellers will also serve as an honorary team captain.
You may have heard that the University of Virginia was founded by one of our more noteworthy former presidents. He even has a house nearby. Here’s a soothing video tour of that house.
After two straight close calls, most Florida State fans are probably ready for a more relaxing Saturday evening. Virginia is a better team than its 4-5 record indicates, but it’s also easy to wonder just how motivated the Cavaliers will be following a three-game losing streak that has all but eliminated them from ACC Championship Game contention.
While the game itself isn’t likely to be too dramatic, a sharp, crisp 60 minutes from FSU would still be a welcome sight. Especially with next week’s visit to Miami looming on the horizon. Don’t look now, but the Hurricanes have won three straight and are averaging 44 points per game during that stretch.