Florida State Seminoles (3-1, 2-1 ATS) at Virginia Cavaliers (2-1, 2-0 ATS), Week 5 College Football, Saturday, October 2nd 12:00PM Eastern Scott Stadium Charlottesville, V.A.
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: FSU -7.5/UVA +7.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
The Florida State Seminoles initiated their march towards an ACC Championship last week with a 31-0 shutout over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The Seminoles defense was the story of the afternoon as they held the Wake Forest offense to just 185 yards of total offense. The Seminoles already have one of the most respected offenses in the ACC so if their defense continues to play well then they are going to be tough to beat. Florida State now takes the trip to Charlottesville this weekend for the first conference road test when the battle with the Virginia Cavaliers.
Virginia has played surprisingly well in their first few games of the season. Despite two wins over inferior opponents, the Cavaliers fell just short of a huge upset on the road at Southern California in week 2. The Cavaliers now get their first conference battle of the year and it should be a dandy when they host Florida State. Virginia is poised with a solid rushing attack and a pretty solid defense as well. Those are just the tools that are needed to keep the Florida State offense on the sideline and perhaps pull off an upset. The Cavaliers rushing offense is led by tailbacks Keith Payne and Perry Jones. Payne leads the team with 217 rushing yards while Jones follows closely with 207 yards on the ground. Both athletes have racked up an impressive 5 plus yards per carry this season and they typically set the pace of the offense.
Outside of the running game, the Virginia offense relies on QB Marc Verica. Verica has completed 60% passing for 697 yards, 5 scores, and 1 pick this season. While Verica’s numbers are not astonishing, he has been effective when his number is called. WR Kris Burd leads the receiving core with 18 catches for 260 yards and 3 touchdowns. Burd along with senior wide out Dontrelle Inman are forces in the passing game that will contribute in moving the chains. Inman has racked up 214 yards with 2 touchdowns as well so look for those two guys to be factors when Virginia turns to the passing game especially if they have to play from behind.
However Virginia’s most important players this weekend will likely be those involved on the defensive side of the ball. Florida State is averaging a healthy 35 points per game. Despite the Seminoles popular passing persona, they can also beat teams on the ground as well making them extremely threatening. Thus far this season, Virginia has been tremendous holding teams to just 12.3 points per game to score them the 7th best scoring defense in the nation. Sure some will say the Cavaliers have not played any really good offenses, but they still kept Southern Cal to just 329 yards and 17 points on the game. Both totals are the Trojans lowest to date this season.
However, Florida State sports a pretty solid defense themselves. Outside of the blasting they suffered against Oklahoma where they allowed 47 points, the Seminoles have kept all other opponents to 10 points or less. The secondary still has some question marks, but up front they have been very solid holding teams to just 87 yards per game on the ground. The run defense will be very important against the Virginia offense that loves the run the football. Also, Florida State leads the nation averaging 4.75 sacks per game as they talented defensive front can just flat out get in the backfield consistently. Therefore if Virginia does not make some plays throwing the football, it could be a long day trying to run through Florida State defensive line.
On offense the Seminoles are led by veteran quarterback Chris Ponder. Ponder has completed 61% passing on the year for 672 yards, 7 scores, and 3 picks. Ponder has the arm to make the Cavaliers secondary pay if they do not get pressure on him as he can rip defenses apart when he has time to throw the ball. Wide outs Bert Reed and Taiwan Easterling have combined for 447 yards and 3 scores this season not to mention WR Willie Haulstead who has 9 catches for an additional 156 yards. So it is easy to see the Seminoles have talent in the passing game and that is the area of the game they love to attack. However, tailback Ty Jones may be one of the more under rated running backs in the conference and can make plays as well. So far Jones has posted 283 yards with 7.9 yards per carry average. I know I said Virginia has a strong defense, but the question will be if that defense is strong enough to stifle the Florida State offense?
Jay’s pick to cover the point spread: Florida State looked awfully impressive last week against Wake Forest, but do not let that fool you. Wake Forest is most likely the worst team in the ACC and Florida State got off to a very slow start against the Demon Deacons leading just 10-0 at the half. I believe them being on the road this week may be ever more difficult than most realize especially if the Seminoles do not come out firing on all cylinders. This line opened right at Florida State being favored by a touchdown but you will be able to get Virginia with even more points by game time. Take Virginia at +7.5 or higher. Good luck.