Florida State (3-1) at Virginia (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 2nd, 12:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scott Stadium (61,500) -- Charlottesville, Virginia. Television: ACC Network. Home Record: FSU 3-0, Virginia 2-0. Away Record: FSU 0-1, Virginia 0-1. Neutral Record: FSU 0-0, Virginia 0-0. Conference Record: FSU 1-0, Virginia 0-0. Series Record: Florida State leads, 13-2.
GAME NOTES: The Virginia Cavaliers open their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule this Saturday when they welcome the Florida State Seminoles to Scott Stadium.
Florida State improved to 3-1 with last Saturday's 31-0 shutout win over Wake Forest. The Seminoles routed BYU a week earlier and have now outscored their last two opponents, 65-10. However, both wins came at home, as they'll now have to hit the road for three of their next four games.
Virginia is off to a 2-0 start at home following Saturday's 48-7 win over VMI. That game kicked off a stretch in which the Cavaliers play five of the next six games at home. Their other victory came against Richmond in the opener, as the only true test to date was a narrow three-point loss at No. 16 USC in the second week of the season.
FSU holds a 13-2 edge in the head-to-head series with UVA, although these teams have not met since 2006. That was also the only other time in this series that the Seminoles were not ranked at the time.
Seminoles senior quarterback Christian Ponder has been more of a game manager than a game changer thus far, although last week he impacted the game more so than any other offensive player. Ponder notched his first 200-yard game of the season by completing 24-of-37 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Both touchdown passes went to Willie Haulstead, while Ponder also added a rushing touchdown. Taiwan Easterling finished with six catches for a team and career- high 112 yards in the victory. Still, FSU prefers to attack opponents with an effective ground attack. The backfield committee of Ty Jones (7.9 ypc), Chris Thompson (8.1 ypc) and Jermaine Thomas (5.6 ypc) is averaging a combined 164.1 yards per game. Each player has scored twice on the ground, and so has the athletic Ponder.
The Seminoles have been flashing their vintage team speed on defense as they currently rank 12th in the nation in run defense (87.25 ypg). They are allowing just 15.75 points and 290.75 total yards per game, both of which rank in the top-26 nationally. Last week's victory marked the team's first shutout in conference play since 2003. The Seminoles held Wake Forest to 185 yards of total offense, the second straight week an opponent has failed to eclipse 200 total yards against FSU. The Seminoles notched another six sacks against the Demon Deacons, and they lead the nation in that category (4.75 per game). Really, the only hiccup on the defensive side of the ball so far was a 47-17 loss at eighth-ranked Oklahoma on September 11th.
In 2009, Virginia's offense posted just eight passing touchdowns all season. Through just three games this year, the Cavaliers have already registered seven passing scores. Starting quarterback Marc Verica has thrown five of those touchdown passes, and he is completing 60.6 percent of his attempts for an average of 232.3 passing yards per contest. Overall, UVA is putting up 32.0 points and 431 yards of total offense per game. Still, it has been a balanced attack, with first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor dialing up 107 running plays and 105 passing plays so far. Last week against VMI, most of the success came through the air, as Verica completed 16-of-23 passes for 224 yards and three TDs before taking a seat in the second half. Dontrelle Inman caught two of those TDs and finished with 72 yards on five catches, while Kris Burd caught eight passes for a team-high 119 yards and a score.
Virginia leads the ACC and ranks seventh nationally in scoring defense (12.33 ppg). The obvious caveat to that stat is neither Richmond's nor VMI's offense is particularly high-powered. Last week, VMI mustered only eight first downs and 179 yards of total offense. However, 127 of those yards came in the first quarter, as the Cavaliers got off to a bit of a slow start defensively before clamping down. With a program like Florida State coming to town, they can ill-afford such a start this weekend. Chase Minnifield has been making plays in the Cavs' defensive backfield, as he is tied for third nationally with three interceptions on the year. He has also registered 16 tackles, including a team-high 13 solo stops. Cam Johnson leads the team with 17 tackles (5.5 TFL) and 3.5 sacks, and he has also recovered a fumble.
Virginia has won nine of its last 12 ACC openers. The bad news for first-year coach Mike London is that Al Groh was the only one of 10 first-year coaches to win his initial ACC game at UVA. One thing's for sure; the Cavs will face a much stiffer test than what they went up against last week.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida State 27, Virginia 16
09/29 10:35:05 ET