Florida State (1-1, 0-0) arrives for a tilt under the lights at Scott Stadium Saturday night. On the strength of two impressive wins to open the season, UVA (2-0, 1-0) has generated a lot of hype in the fanbase for this game. Despite not being the Bowden era Seminoles, it's clear that Florida State still has a lot of cachet in ACC territory.
And, this is also a trophy game. Yes, it's the battle for the Jefferson-Eppes Trophy. Florida State currently holds this beauty.
The Jefferson-Eppes Trophy is back with FSU. pic.twitter.com/nGnVufSXHg— Tim Linafelt / FSU (@Tim_Linafelt) November 9, 2014
The ACC Network broadcast is scheduled to begin at 7:30.
For the first time since the 2018 Belk Bowl, the Hoos will be in all blue.
Despite being members of the same conference, this is the first meeting between the Hoos and Noles since 2014.
Florida State won that game 34-20 in Tallahassee. The 2014 game was the second in a row played on the Noles' home field as the two teams also played at FSU in 2011. UVA won that game 14-13 for their third ever win in the series.
FSU and UVA last met in 2014, and UVA last beat FSU at home in 2005. FSU leads the series 14-3.— Winsipedia (@Winsipedia) September 10, 2019
The teams compete for the Jefferson-Eppes Trophy, a silver pitcher on a wooden base. #DoSomething #GoHoos #FSUvsUVAhttps://t.co/jWe7BB0px8 pic.twitter.com/jsLw0LEJDb
Keys To Victory
A win over a suspect Florida State teams sets the stage for UVA to head to South Bend with a 4-0 record for a late September matchup with Notre Dame. It's unlikely that Florida State is making the trip to Charlottesville for a coronation, however.
So what are the keys to beating the Noles under the lights Saturday night?
Own The Moment
The last home game of this magnitude was the home game against Pitt in 2018. The Hoos were ranked and playing under the lights on national television on a Friday night.
And while the weather to start the game did not help, the Hoos did not handle the pregame hype and expectations well that night.
Five first quarter penalties, including three on the opening drive, set the tone early.
Then a third quarter horse collar penalty (personal foul, 15 yards, automatic first down) against Elliott Brown on a third down sack changed the course of the game. Mandy Alonso was injured soon thereafter and UVA could no longer stop Pitt's rushing attack.
The hype for Saturday night is similar to last season's Pitt game if it has not surpassed it already. Anyone that has watched the Seminoles over the years knows that Florida State will play to the edge of, and beyond, the rules with aggressive, physical play.
The Hoos' assignment is two-fold. First, set aside the hype in order to focus on the task at hand. Have fun and enjoy the moment but do not commit mental errors that lead to bad penalties, missed assignments, etc. Second, don't play into Florida State's hands with dead ball fouls, retaliation for cheap shots, and so forth. Keep your head and be the more mature team.
Contain Cam Akers
During the young season, the Hoos have not been tested by a big, bruising running back. That changes Saturday night.
At 5-11 and 212 pounds, Akers runs with good balance, more than aedequte speed, and exceptional power. His biggest limitation is the rest of Florida State's offense.
At 309 rushing yards in two games, Akers currently ranks fourth in FBS in rushing yards. He's also averaging 6.1 yards per rushing attempt.
UVA won't stop him completely but they cannot allow him to wreck the entire game either. It will be a good test of UVA depth in the front seven and especially on the defensive line. The secondary better be prepared to lay some lumber as well.
Cam Akers had a familiar pop in his game on Saturday in which he put up 194 yards rushing. pic.twitter.com/OVJJvpaawa— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 11, 2019
OL Leads The Way
Through two games, Florida State's defense is bad. Really, really bad. Of 130 teams in FBS, the Noles rank 125th in total defense having surrendered 1,040 total yards.
They're giving up 324.0 yards per game in the air (119th in FBS) and 196.0 yards per game on the ground (108th in FBS). On the scoreboard, they're allowing 40.0 points per game (121st in FBS). And in defensive efficiency ratings, the Noles are 85th in FBS per ESPN.com.
They've only intercepted one pass on the year, but they do have seven sacks on the season. Getting after the passer is probably what Florida State does best on defense. With the type of talent and athlete they recruit, that's no surprise. The surprise is how poorly they are at preventing teams from moving the ball and scoring.
It's a massive opportunity for the UVA offense. But the offense will only go as far as the offensive line allows. If they can protect Perkins and keep the pass rush out of his face, things should click in the passing game.
On the ground, there's still some trepidation with this UVA offense. Things were better against William & Mary than against Pitt. But that was to be expected.
The most certain avenue to a win on Saturday night is behind UVA's Rhinos clearing the path to big gains and points.
Florida State has its back up against the wall. Despite beating UL Monroe in overtime, they still can't feel good about the game. They certainly don't feel good about the season opening debacle versus Boise State in which the Noles blew a considerable second half lead in a loss.
Now comes the bad press and questions about Willie Taggart's ability to lead the program. A coach on the hot seat in his second year on the job is not usual.
They will arrive in Charlottesville expecting to win the game. They're looking to make a statement. And as the common saying goes, a caged animal is dangerous.
The Hoos should expect Florida State's best shot, especially early.
But this is 2019 and FSU can't win on reputation and legacy. They're talented but undisciplined. They're athletic but poorly coached. There are still lots of players with recruiting accolades and stars beside their name. But they are not a good team.
The leadership on this UVA team will mitigate the risk of looking ahead, being too hyped for the game, and playing into FSU's hands with stupid penalties. Akers will get his but the defense will ultimately hold. And the offense will exploit the Seminoles' defense enough to get the job done.
34 to 23, Hoos win!