Seminole's impressive again

There's plenty to nit-pick. Florida State is still struggling to protect Christian Ponder with left tackle Andrew Datko out with a shoulder injury. The Seminoles are fumbling the ball far too much.

And FSU scored just seven points in the second half of the 'Noles' 34-14 victory Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville.

But despite the negatives, there's plenty to like on both sides of the ball.

FSU's defense extended its shutout streak to eight quarters before Virginia found the scoreboard on Saturday, and by that point, FSU had built a commanding 27-0 lead.

Jermaine Thomas had a pair of touchdown runs — part of FSU's 261 rushing yards on Saturday — as the Seminoles won their third straight game for the first time since 2008. And the Seminoles scored on five of six first-half possessions to improve to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

And remember that awful start that FSU had a year ago? The Seminoles opened 2-4 and didn't win their fourth game until Oct. 31 in the eighth game of the season.

Now FSU is also 2-0 in the ACC for the first time since 2005, the last time the Seminoles played for (and won) the conference championship.

"We're learning to get some consistency," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "A road win in the conference is huge. We're maturing as a football team."

And the stage is now set: FSU will face Miami (3-1) in a showdown next Saturday at 8 p.m. at Land Shark Stadium.

It may not be a No. 1 vs. No. 2 or feel like a Game of the Century, but FSU's resurgence this season has given the matchup plenty of juice in a game that goes a long way toward deciding who wins their respective divisions and could be a preview of the ACC Championship game.

"This is one of the great rivalries in college football," Fisher said. "This is the reason your kids come to Florida State, to play in that game. Miami has a great program. Playing them down there will be a tall task, but hopefully we'll grow and accept the task."

FSU can once again thank a stingy defense for a dominant win. The Seminoles allowed just 25 rushing yards, stifling the Cavaliers' physical ground game early.

How dominating? Virginia was forced to punt on its first six possessions.

While Marc Verica took his shots downfield as Virginia trailed, FSU still brought the pressure and finished with five sacks (giving the Seminoles 24 in just five games after recording 26 all last season). And Greg Reid twice stepped in front of Verica passes for interceptions.

On Sept. 11, FSU was humbled by Oklahoma and many fans were rightfully disappointed. But since then FSU has convincingly routed BYU, Wake Forest and Virginia by a combined score of 99-24.

How good is FSU? Or more importantly to the fans, are the Seminoles good enough to beat Miami?

The Seminoles will certainly be an underdog and playing in a difficult road setting against the Hurricanes.

But FSU's defense is playing with confidence, stopping the run like the Seminoles of old. And while the pass rush is back, the real challenge will be on FSU's cornerbacks. Can they minimize the damage done by Miami's speedy wide receivers?

On offense, FSU has run for 200 yards for three straight games. The last time that happened was 2000. And Christian Ponder, who completed 17 of 29 passes for 172 yards against Virginia, has now gone three games without throwing an interception.

Both FSU and Miami are playing well. And this has the makings of another classic matchup in the rivalry.

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