November 29, 2010
Hokies to take on a familiar nemesis in ACC title game

Here we go again.

Orange & Maroon vs. Garnett & Gold.

Marching Virginians vs. Marching Chiefs.

Virginia Tech vs. Florida State.

As if on cue, every five years, the Hokies and Seminoles find themselves in a major football game with high stakes.

If you’re a Tech fan, you know how this has gone in recent years – exciting, tight games, with disappointing endings for Hokie fans.

In 2000, it was the BCS National Championship Game. The Seminoles rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Tech in New Orleans.

In 2005, it was the ACC Championship Game. FSU exploded for 24 points in the third quarter and withstood a furious Tech rally in the fourth to upset the fifth-ranked Hokies 27-22 in Jacksonville.

In 2010, they’ll meet again in the ACC Championship Game with a trip to the Orange Bowl on the line.

Is this the Hokies’ year to beat FSU in a postseason game?

Counting a loss in the 2001 Gator Bowl game (in which the Hokies also led in the fourth quarter), the Hokies are 0-3 vs. Florida State in postseason games. Thus facing the Seminoles in a December/January game creates a queasy stomach for Tech faithful around the country. In fact, other than Tech’s 40-21 win over the Seminoles in 2007, the Hokies have had no success over FSU over the past three decades.

Of course, in many of those late 80’s and early 90’s meetings, Virginia Tech was a massive underdog to FSU teams that were usually ranked in the top five and hammered just about everyone they played.

There was no jinx or mental hurdle. FSU just had better players. And three of the ‘neutral site’ games were in Florida – twice in Jacksonville and once in Orlando. Hardly neutral.

But this week’s game is in Charlotte, the Hokies are favored, they’ve won 10 straight games, and they should have the crowd.

What should we expect? Probably a game decided in the final couple of minutes … again.

“I don’t care what [the Seminoles] look like or what their record is, you’d better get ready to play because they've got guys that can play,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said last night. “Every time I've ever played Florida State, I've always thought they'd been a well-coached football team. That's the one thing that I’ve – over the years – learned about Florida State. We haven't had a lot of success against Florida State.”

Some thoughts about the Hokies heading into Saturday’s game:

• We’ve only got two games left to watch the magnificent Tyrod Taylor in action. While he can razzle-dazzle with his legs, what sets Taylor apart is his steadiness and his ultra-cerebral play.

“He's become a complete quarterback,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said during Sunday night’s ACC teleconference. “And those legs make him special. His ability when you flush him to create plays with those legs is dynamic. He's really emerged as a player. You have to be very disciplined, but at the same time, you've got to pressure. You can't sit there and hold back because he can throw it and kill you, too. So he creates a ton of problems.”

Taylor became Tech’s all-time passing leader in the win over UVa, inching up the list past Bryan Randall. Taylor has thrown for 6,532 yards in his career. He’s also the school’s all-time leader in total offense, wins by a starting quarterback, and both rushing yards and touchdowns by a quarterback. With two games left, he still has a chance to break several more records as well. But it’s off the field where Taylor has really shined – quality guy, immensely well-grounded person who was one of the key seniors who helped bring the Hokies back from their 0-2 start.

• Beamer said Sunday night that he hopes cornerback Rock Carmichael will be able to play in Saturday’s game against Florida State. Carmichael injured his ankle early in the Miami game and missed the Virginia game. Without him, freshman Kyle Fuller had a remarkable day against UVa. He led the Hokies with 10 tackles, including three tackles for a loss. When you talk about the future, you can’t help but be excited about Fuller – just another really, really good football player in Tech’s program.

• Last spring, one of the major concerns many had about the Hokies were their kickers: Tech had to replace All-ACC performers punter Brent Bowden and kicker Dustin Keys from its 2009 team. But that spring doubt turned into a fall strength for Beamer’s 2010 Hokies.

Punter Brian Saunders led the ACC in punting (44.4 ypp) and was a master in placing the ball inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. Kicker Chris Hazley has made 19 consecutive field goals (a season record), including all six from over 40 yards. At 95 percent (19 of 20), Hazley was the ACC’s most accurate place kicker.

When you throw in the kickoff talents of Justin Myer (29 touchbacks), the punt return capabilities of Jayron Hosley (13.5 ypr, second in ACC) and the kickoff return skills of David Wilson (led ACC with 26.8 average and 2 touchdowns), you can see why Tech’s special teams reputation is so solid. The Hokies only blocked two kicks this season – both in the Boise State game – but across the board, their special teams units are superb.

The last time the Hokies and FSU played in the ACC Championship Game, the event was fresh, the crowd was electric, and the attendance was sensational. That was the first game, one played in Jacksonville.

This week’s game in Charlotte should have a similar feel at the event’s new home. Should be a lot of fun, and a very physical, intense game.

Our radio broadcast on Saturday begins at 6 p.m. from Bank of America Stadium. You can hear it on XM and Sirius Satellite as well as all of our regular affiliates. At the stadium, you can tune us on your Live Sports Radio.

While much of the focus will be on Saturday night’s football game, Tech’s basketball team has a huge week as well. On Wednesday night, Tech faces Purdue at Cassell Coliseum as part of this year’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Boilermakers were in the top 10 before Saturday night’s 65-54 loss to Richmond in Chicago. Purdue star Robbie Hummel is out for the season, again, after tearing his ACL on the first day of practice in October. Hummel averaged 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds for Purdue last season.

On Sunday night, the Hokies open ACC play against Virginia inside Cassell Coliseum at 6 p.m. The Hokies have beaten UVa in five of the past six meetings. Tech has also beaten Virginia in the past four meetings inside Cassell.

We’ll talk with you on the radio next Sunday night at 5:30 for the ACC opener.

For updates on Virginia Tech Athletics, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@hokiesports).

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