Florida State is up in Blacksburg tonight for an ACC game against Virginia Tech. Lane Stadium on a Thursday night is daunting, this year's Virginia Tech team has not been.
While Jimbo Fisher and his team are quick to point out what Virginia Tech is capable of– and are right to respect them for it. The facts remain that the Hokies have rarely lived up to that hype this season. QB Logan Thomas has not had the Heisman campaign that many hoped for and the defense is not the swarming force that it is most years.
Florida State hasn't been its typical self on the road this year either though. While the 'Noles have beat teams down at home, they've scraped by on the road, where they are just 2-1 thus far. Lane Stadium is legendary at night, especially on Thursdays. The Hokes rarely lose a game there on Thursday nights, and the way this Seminole team has played on the road they could be primed for an upset.
But that's only if this Hokie team has it in them
Here are three things to watch for...
1.) Logan Thomas' Second Effort
Logan Thomas is bigger than EJ Manuel. All season defenders have bounced off the 'Noles big-bodied QB, his own team has commented how hard he is to bring down and commentators have raved over his size. Well Thomas is bigger. He has good mobility too (as he proved on his long run against the Hurricanes last Thursday) and he can make a team pay on his second effort both with his arm and legs.
It's going to be especially important for the secondary not to give up on the receivers when Thomas scrambles, he can easily throw over their heads if he's not brought down by the pursuit which means the coverage needs to stick. He's a lot like a bigger BJ Daniels and he'll hurt the defense if they don't stay disciplined.
2.) Where's Wilder?
It's going to be cold tonight, it'll start in the 40's and dip into the 30's by the end of the game. This is a good game to get a back going and ride him through the second half and given the frigid conditions and his brutal running style, I think James Wilder should see a good number of carries down the stretch of this one. I expect Lonnie Pryor will be heavily involved too, but Wilder's power and strength should wear down a Hokie unit that can be gashed a little.
Whether or not the cold affects other phases of the offense remains to be seen. Fact remains the Seminoles receiving corps is comprised of mostly Florida guys with little experience in the cold, it could be a non-factor or the cold could cause some drops and timing issues. Less can go wrong with the run game and down the stretch in hostile conditions having the run game there will be crucial. I think the night sets up well for Wilder.
3.) CanFlorida State Get Some Distance in the first Three Quarters?
If this thing is close in the 4th quarter, watch out. That's when the crowd comes alive, the underdog starts to believe, Jimbo Fisher gets conservative and the Noles have had trouble lately. It would best suit the Seminoles to head into the 4th quarter up by at least two scores, anything closer and the Hokies are within striking distance of an upset.
It sounds obvious, but frankly it's the biggest key to the game. While most of the team will tell you they're excited about playing in Lane Stadium at night, that's early. By the time the crowd is a factor late in the ball game and a win hangs in the balance the novelty will have long worn off. The key to enjoying the experience is taking the crowd out of the game early. Florida State is capable of that, but they haven't done it on the road yet this season.