FSU finishes home slate with Virginia

Virginia has never won on the road at Florida State, but it's the Cavalers who have something to play for in the ACC. The Seminoles stand in their way of the conference title game in Charlotte.

Florida State wraps up the home portion of its schedule Saturday against Virginia in what many of its fans are likely to remember as the season that got away.

The 23rd-ranked Seminoles started the year as a heavy favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference but fell out of contention for all practical purposes in the first five weeks of the season.

Virginia, on the other hand, wasn't picked to go anywhere and still has hopes of winning the ACC Coastal Division.

Coaches for both schools claim they're not thinking about anything else but Saturday's game.

Florida State's Jimbo Fisher says his team has long forgotten about an early-season three-game losing streak.

''We put it to rest a long time ago,'' Fisher said.

Florida State's chances for an ACC title were pretty well snuffed out by early October following back-to-back losses to Atlantic Division rivals Clemson and Wake Forest.

''Sometimes, when we think about goals and results, you don't get the process right,'' Fisher said. ''We learned that lesson.''

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, still have a shot at the ACC title.

Virginia (7-3, 4-2 ACC) needs to win Saturday and then defeat Virginia Tech to reach the ACC title game for the first time.

The ninth-ranked Hokies beat North Carolina 24-21 to put themselves in the driver's seat for a fourth Coastal Division title in five years and a spot in next month's ACC Championship Game against the Atlantic Division champions, Clemson.

''We just have to think what's clear and present right now,'' Virginia coach Mike London said earlier in the week. ''That's FSU.''

Both the Seminoles and Cavaliers come into the game with modest win streaks.

The Seminoles (7-3, 5-2) own a five-game winning streak, while Virginia has won three straight. Florida State needs to defeat Virginia and then Florida next weekend in Gainesville and win their bowl game to duplicate last year's 10 wins in Fisher's first season as head coach.

Virginia will have to contend with one of the nation's stingiest defenses if it hopes to upset the 'Noles, who come into their homecoming game nearly a three-touchdown favorite among bettors.

The Cavs' Perry Jones is 144 yards shy of reaching 1,000 in his junior campaign, while freshman teammate Kevin Parks has tacked on another 616 yards rushing. But they'll have to do it against the fourth-best defense nationally against the run.

In addition to blocking for the running backs, Virginia's offensive line has done an equally fine job protecting QB Michael Rocco. The Cavaliers have surrendered only eight sacks all season and none in their last 86 pass attempts. But they'll be going against one of the country's best pass rushes Saturday.

FSU is 10th nationally with 31 sacks, led by defensive ends Cornellius Carradine, Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner, who have combined to get to the quarterback 14.5 times.

Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel, who comes from Virginia Beach, is the centerpiece of the Seminole offense. He has completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 2,152 yards and 15 touchdowns. The 6-5, 235-pound junior needs 281 yards running and passing in Saturday's game to move into ninth place all time in total offense at Florida State.

''He threatens you with his arms and with his legs,'' London said. ''There's no doubt about his physical skills.''

Florida State has a 14-2 advantage in the series following last year's 34-14 win in Charlottesville and has never lost at home to the Cavaliers in eight previous games.


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