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FSU vs. Virginia: Keys to victory, predictions

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Florida State (2-6, 1-6 ACC) hosts Virginia (4-4, 3-4) on Saturday night at 8 p.m. in a game that will be televised by the ACC Network. The Seminoles are a 9.5-point underdog to the Cavaliers. FSU is trying to snap three-game losing streak while Virginia will be trying to extend a three-game winning streak. The Seminoles hold a 15-4 record against the Cavaliers all-time.

Storylines

Jordan Travis is listed as the starting quarterback on the depth chart FSU released earlier this week but neither head coach Mike Norvell nor offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham made it clear as to who would start for the Seminoles on Saturday night. True freshman Tate Rodemaker took the majority of the reps in practice last week in preparation for the Clemson game, which was postponed, and has been splitting reps with Travis with the first-team offense this week. Running back La’Damian Webb is expected to be back at full speed after being limited against NC State. Running back Lawrance Toafili is also expect back after missing the NC State game. Dontae Lucas and Thomas Shrader are listed as co-starters at left guard.

Defensive coordinator Adam Fuller indicated in his weekly press conference that he expected safety Hamsah Nasirildeen’s workload to increase beyond the 25 snaps he played two weeks ago against NC State in his first appearance of the season. Just how much according to Fuller depends on how Nasirildeen is feeling. This will be the first game that FSU will be without defensive tackle Cory Durden, who opted out of the rest of the 2020 season last week

Keys to an FSU win

Control the Ball/Limit FSU’s Defensive Snaps

Florida State needs to control the ball for several reasons. First, if the Seminoles are controlling the ball it means they are having success running the ball. It is what FSU does best offensively with Travis in the game and it is what it must do early with Rodemaker in the game to allow him some confidence and not put the game on his shoulders throwing the ball behind a very young offensive line. FSU’s linemen will be facing a veteran Virginia defense, which will use multiple fronts with different blitzes packages and coverages behind it that could create confusion up front for the inexperienced Seminoles. FSU’s defense has struggled this season when it had a full roster and now, due to injuries and opt-outs, that can not afford to find themselves on the field playing an inordinate amount of snaps.

Win 3rd-Down Defensive

FSU’s offense must play complementary football but the defense also needs to help themselves by getting off the field on third down. Virginia ranks 10th in the ACC, where they have converted on 36.7 percent of third-down opportunities this season. They have converted 42 percent of third downs in the last three wins. FSU is allowing opponents to convert on 48.8 percent of those chances and that will have to be drastically reduced if they are to beat Virginia. The Seminoles need to keep the Cavaliers below their season average. In three of their four losses this season the Cavaliers converted 37 percent or less of their 3rd-down opportunities.

Predictions

Patrick Burnham – Virginia 33 FSU 25

Bob Ferrante – Virginia 31, FSU 24