Florida State is back in Top 25 after more than a month on the outside looking in.
Coach Jimbo Fisher's young club has reeled off five straight wins to climb back to No. 23 following Saturday's 23-19 victory over Miami. The Seminoles had dropped completely out of sight in the rankings after Wake Forest handed them a third straight defeat Oct. 8.
It was a hard fall for a team that was ranked fifth nationally only three weeks earlier and came into the season picked as a possible contender for a national title.
''We're growing through the season,'' Fisher said after the Miami game. ''We've got problems. We aren't perfect, but we are figuring out how to win.''
The Seminoles (7-3, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) now prepare to face another hot club, Virginia, in its home finale Saturday.
''They've still got hopes of winning their division,'' Fisher said Monday about the resurgent Cavaliers. ''We need to get over the Miami game and move on.''
The Cavaliers (7-3, 4-2 ACC) have won five of their last six and will be after their fourth straight win Saturday. They're still in the hunt for the ACC's Coastal Division title if they can knock off the Seminoles and Virginia Tech on successive weekends and are already bowl eligible for the first time since 2007.
''They've won a lot of close games,'' Fisher said. ''The magic thing is confidence. [Cavaliers coach Mike London has] got them playing with confidence.''
FSU, however, has no such opportunity. Clemson locked up the Atlantic Division's berth in the conference title game with its win Saturday over Wake Forest.
''We've only got three more games left, including the bowl game,'' Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel said. ''We've got to win out and finish strong.''
But Manuel, who grew up in Virginia Beach, said he wasn't interested in playing spoiler against his home-state university.
''It doesn't matter if it's UVA or any other team,'' Manuel said. ''These guys are playing great football right now, and we want to play great football, too.''
Manuel said he was a fan of college football in general and no school in particular as a boy.
''There were a lot of programs that I liked,'' said Manuel, who was Fisher's signature signee after his arrival at Florida State in 2007 as offensive coordinator. ''You get a great education from [Virginia]. At the time, their program wasn't as great as it is now, so that's why I looked elsewhere.''
Florida State has a 14-2 edge in its series with Virginia, including last year's 34-14 win in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers were the first school to defeat Florida State in ACC competition, when they won 33-28 in 1995 to end the Seminoles' 29-game winning streak in league play.
The Seminoles wrap up the regular season at Florida on Nov. 26 and await a bowl invitation for a 30th straight season, the longest current streak in college football.
But for the moment, only Virginia is on their mind.
Surging 'Noles on a roll, back in Top 25
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