Ever since losing to N.C. State earlier this month, E.J. Manuel has had the Seminoles on fire heading into the bye week.
WHO: No. 7 Florida State (8-1, 5-1) at Virginia Tech (4-4, 2-2).
WHAT: FSU’s final obstacle to winning the ACC Atlantic Division title.
WHEN: Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Blacksburg, Va.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Although seventh-ranked Florida State is most likely out of the national title picture, the Seminoles head into their bye week with most of their preseason goals at hand if they can avoid being upset a second time.
Florida State (8-1, 5-1 ACC) most likely lost its chance at getting to the BCS Championship game when it inexplicably blew a 16-point halftime lead at North Carolina State earlier this month. But the Seminoles have rebounded impressively with three straight ACC wins, outscoring their opponents, 132-34, in those games.
And thanks to North Carolina’s win last weekend against North Carolina State, the Seminoles have been handed a second chance at winning the ACC Championship and a BCS trip to the Orange Bowl, albeit most likely on New Year’s Day.
“Now that we’re back on that pedestal, we have to take advantage of it,” junior safety Lamarcus Joyner said. “We need this to get our minds right and come back together and play for what’s out there for us.”
Weighted down by the under-performing ACC and a weak nonconference schedule, it’s hard to find a path for Florida State to the national title game.
After all, there are a half dozen unbeaten teams remaining and some with one-loss teams that benefit from a superior strength of schedule that factors into the BCS ratings formula.
Coach Jimbo Fisher gave his players Monday off with Saturday’s open date, giving him 12 days to get ready for a visit to Virginia Tech, where the Seminoles lost, 40-21, in their last visit to Blacksburg, Va., in 2007.
“That’s one of the toughest environments there is,” Fisher said. “I’m anxious to see how this team will grow and handle that situation.”
The Seminoles are just 2-1 away from home this year, averaging 26.7 points in enemy terrain compared to 54 at home.
The only time they’ve left Florida’s boundaries, they lost, 17-16 earlier this month at North Carolina State. And FSU’s next two games are not only on the road, but well north at Virginia Tech and Maryland where the weather can also become a factor.
“We just need to play one at a time,” Fisher said.
Senior receiver Rodney Smith says Saturday’s open date comes just in time for a lot of banged up Seminoles to heal up some before their Nov. 8 visit to Virginia Tech (4-4, 2-2).
“We will go through some rehab to get our bodies back together,” said Smith, who has caught 26 passes for 435 yards and three touchdowns. “This week is going to help us.”
The Seminoles lead the ACC in virtually all offensive and defensive categories and are second nationally in total defense and fourth in total offense.
“There’s a reason Florida State was predicted to win the national championship,” Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell said after the Blue Devils were swamped, 48-7, last Saturday.
And now it’s those trips to Virginia Tech and Maryland before the season finale at home against eighth-ranked Florida in what could be a matchup of once-beaten teams.
But first, as Fisher repeats and repeats, first things first and that’s Virginia Tech at the moment.
“They’re gonna be waiting for us,” he said.