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Virginia Catching FSU at the Right Time

By Dave Holcomb
SouthernPigskin.com
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As these two programs prepare to meet for the first time in five years, it seems as though the timing couldn’t be better for the Cavaliers.

The funny thing about preseason schedule discussions is the most important variable that goes into how difficult a specific team’s schedule is a particularly year gets left out. It isn’t omitted on purpose but because it’s an unpredictable factor that can’t possibly be predicted in August.

What’s that factor? -- how well is each team on the schedule playing the week of the game? There are lots of cases every year of teams “catching” opponents at the right or wrong time.

Those appear to be the circumstances for No. 25 Virginia and possibly Florida State as well this weekend. As these two programs prepare to meet for the first time in five years, it seems as though the timing couldn’t be better for the Cavaliers.

Virginia heads into this Saturday’s matchup 2-0 with a victory already secured against last year’s Coastal division winner, Pitt. The Cavaliers are fresh off a lopsided victory against William & Mary and will host Florida State in what is the second of a three-game home stand in Charlottesville.

As for the Seminoles, they blew an 18-point lead at home against Boise State in Week 1 and barely survived versus Louisiana-Monroe this past Saturday. The only reason Florida State avoided double overtime was because the ULM kicker missed an extra point.

If Seminoles coach Willie Taggart wasn’t feeling the pressure after the loss to the Broncos, he has to be following a narrow escape versus a Sun Belt opponent. Quarterback James Blackmon is playing well, but the Florida State defense has allowed 81 points in two weeks against non-Power 5 programs.

The Seminoles are last in total defense in the ACC through two weeks, and it’s not even close, as they have allowed 520 yards per game. Wake Forest is the next worst defense in the conference, and the Demon Deacons have yielded 458.5 yards per contest.

And again, Florida State is ranked as the ACC’s worst total defense despite the fact they are just one of three ACC programs who haven’t played a Power 5 team.

Maybe the Seminoles get their defense together by the time they play Florida after Thanksgiving, but Virginia has to feel pretty confident about facing that reeling Florida State defense in Week 3. In order to beat the Cavaliers, Blackmon might have to lead the offense to 50 points in his first road start of the year.

As if catching Florida State during these massive struggles wasn’t enough, Virginia facing the Seminoles this weekend gives the Cavaliers other advantages as well. Virginia played in Week 2 on Friday night, so they have an extra day to prepare for the Taggart’s squad.

In addition to also being on a three-game home stand, the Cavaliers face Old Dominion next Saturday. That throws any hope Florida State might have that Virginia takes them lightly, overlooking them because of a more difficult opponent coming the following week, out the window.

Of all the years (remember, they meet just once every six seasons now) and all the weeks Virginia could have faced Florida State, it’s hard envisioning a better one than this.

The Cavaliers aren’t competing with the Seminoles for the ACC Coastal crown, but this would still be a big victory towards Virginia’s hopes of winning the division. A victory this weekend would already improve Virginia to 2-0 in the Coastal while other preseason division contenders, Miami, Virginia Tech and Pitt, already have one conference loss.

Georgia Tech might be better than originally projected, but the Yellow Jackets have a conference defeat too. The only team in the Coastal division also 1-0 (in ACC play) along with Virginia is North Carolina.

As luck would have it for the Cavaliers, the Tar Heels draw the Clemson Tigers in their rotating out-of-division game this year. Virginia beating its rotating out-of-division opponent (Florida State) this weekend almost guarantees the Cavaliers will pick up a game on North Carolina at the end of September when they host the defending national champions.

The talent has aligned in Virginia for the Cavaliers to make a dent in the ACC this season, and the 2019 schedule is cooperating too as long as Virginia continues to make Florida State’s life miserable this Saturday.