ACC Championship Game Preview: VT v. FSU
Virginia Tech has finished its regular season on a very high note. Their win over UVA last week was their 10th straight, and their seventh consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins. They have become a model of consistency in not only the ACC, but the entire nation.
When the ACC expanded, its ideal ACC Championship matchup has been no secret—Florida State vs. Miami. The championship game has been held in the state of Florida so the school’s fans could easily travel to the game. Virginia Tech has rained on the ACC’s parade by consistently earning trips to the championship game, and the ACC has finally rewarded the Hokies’ consistency—this year’s game is in Charlotte.
Virginia Tech clinched their birth into the ACC championship game a full week before FSU slid by NC State to represent the Atlantic division. Due to charlotte’s close proximity and the extra week to gobble up tickets, expect this “neutral” site to be dominated by Hokies.
Since Virginia Tech has been a part of the ACC, FSU has failed to impress. The Seminoles have had the Hokies’ number in the head to head matchup, but inconsistency by the elite athletes FSU fields has always haunted their regular season success. This will be Virginia Tech’s toughest game since Boise State.
Virginia Tech has done an excellent job at protecting the football and forcing turnovers this season. Tyrod Taylor has thrown just four interceptions while throwing a career high 20 touchdowns. Cornerback Jayron Hosley leads the nation in interceptions with eight.
FSU quarterback Christian Ponder has enjoyed a successful season, but has been prone to throwing interceptions. He has eight on the season, throwing multiple interceptions against Oklahoma and Boston College—both are tough defenses.
Virginia Tech’s defense needs to stay aggressive against FSU’s offense. If they can contain FSU’s running game, the Hokies can capitalize on a one dimensional offense, something they have thrived on down the stretch.
Offensively, the Hokies will probably struggle like they did against Miami’s athletes. They need to stay patient and rely on their rotation of Darren Evans, Ryan Williams and David Wilson to wither away the defense to open up possible home run plays later in the game.
Taylor will have a long day in the pocket, as FSU is likely to bring the heat –just as Miami did—on the ACC’s player of the year. Taylor spent more time dodging defenders than looking downfield against Miami—he was held to a season low 94 passing yards. Taylor did an excellent job protecting the ball while under tremendous heat, which enabled the Hokies to survive and take advantage late in the game.
Saturday night’s game is sure to be a very close one. If Virginia Tech can keep it close in the beginning and record key stops and turnovers, they will begin to pull away towards the end of the game. FSU will have to bring the heat early and often, and capitalize when the Hokies are most vulnerable, at the beginning of the game. They need to go up early and keep the pressure up because Virginia Tech has proven throughout the course of the season that they can come back from early deficits.