Labor Day features a Monday night college football contest between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Florida State Seminoles. Oddsmakers have pegged Florida State as seven-point favorites in this all-ACC affair, while the Over/Under is 55.5 as of Sunday afternoon, though potentially stormy weather at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahasse, FL could lead to that number falling on game day.
Virginia Tech had a fearsome defense in 2017, ranking fourth in points per game allowed, but the NFL came calling for brothers Tremaine and Terrell Edmunds, leaders at linebacker and safety, respectively. Six starters departed in total, leaving gaping holes to fill at linebacker and in the secondary.
Josh Jackson is still wet behind the ears but had a productive year at quarterback as a freshman last season. However, he’ll be without his most reliable target and school leader in receptions, Cam Phillips. Jackson doesn’t have a reliable tailback to turn to either, as the Hokies averaged a paltry 3.9 yards per carry in 2017, the second-worst mark in the ACC, per athlonsports.com.
Florida State exits a mediocre 7-6 season, but there’s hope for improvement in 2018. Willie Taggart takes over for Jimbo Fisher, who bolted to Texas A&M. Taggart will more than likely increase the ground game production, as the last three teams he coached ranked in the top 12 nationally in rushing yards per season, according to athlonsports.com. He has a solid sophomore back in Cam Akers, who rushed for over 1,000 yards as a freshman, eclipsing the school record.
Deondre Francois, who missed most of 2017 with a knee injury, is back to provide some stability under center. If the junior can play to the ability he demonstrated as a freshman, he could pick apart Virginia Tech’s shaky secondary.
On the other end of the ball, Demarcus Christmas and Marvin Wilson form a strong one-two punch on the defensive line. The NFL did a number on the units behind them, but that tandem should cause major headaches for Virginia Tech as they try to move the ball on the road.
Trends from last year may not be entirely reliable with so much overhaul, but it’s worth noting that the Seminoles have covered in five of their last six tilts, including a comfortable win over Southern Mississippi in the Independence Bowl. And they were one point away from pushing on a 16-point spread against Clemson, the undisputed leader of the ACC, back in November.
Florida State clearly figured things out as time went by last season, so while the departure of Jimbo Fisher is discouraging, there’s cause for optimism as the Taggart era begins. Lay the points with the Seminoles against a flawed Virginia Tech squad.
Prediction: Florida State wins, 27-17
The play: Florida State -7