Here’s The Scoop on everything you need to know about tonight’s tripleheader.
Florida State at Virginia Tech (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
On paper this should be a certain win for Florida State. Jimbo Fisher’s team is the clear statistical leader in the ACC, ranking first or second within the league in 11 of the 17 official categories tracked by the NCAA. The Seminoles pace the ACC in total offense and total defense, scoring offense and scoring defense as well as passing efficiency and passing efficiency defense.
The problem, however, is that certain wins have so often turned out not to be the case over the past decade for Florida State. According to Matt Hinton at SundayMorningQB.com, Florida State is 0-8 in ACC play while playing on the road as a ranked team against an unranked underdog since 2005. That number includes the Seminoles’ only setback in 2012, a 17-16 setback at N.C. State on Oct. 6. (FSU is a two touchdown favorite tonight.) Since that loss, Fisher’s squad has rebounded to win three straight; at 8-1 overall and 5-1 in conference play the Seminoles stand in first place of the ACC’s Atlantic Division.
That brings us to tonight as Florida State travels to Blacksburg to face a Virginia Tech team in the midst of a very un-Frank Beamer-like season. At 4-5 overall and 2-3 in league play, the five-time ACC Coastal champions are one game above the basement in the division. They come into tonight off a 30-12 loss to Miami last Thursday night, a game in which the Hokies were the team that endured a blocked punt, an 81-yard kickoff return, a missed field goal and a missed extra point.
Tonight marks Florida State’s first visit to Lane Stadium since 2007, a place where Virginia Tech has won its last seven games. Frank Beamer’s team is 19-6 on Thursday nights and 25-3 in November since joining the ACC. Those sterling marks will be put to test against Florida State, the only squad that ranks among FBS’s top eight in total offense and total defense.
Louisiana – Monroe at Arkansas State (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
The Sun Belt title could be decided tonight when two of the league’s top offenses square off in Jonesboro, Ark. ULM leads the league at nearly 38 points per game, while Arkansas State checks in at No. 3 with 34 points per game. Gus Malzahn’s team enters tonight with a four-game winning streak in which they’ve posted nearly 40 points per game.
Red Wolves quarterback Ryan Aplin has heated up over the last month, connecting on 78-of-108 (72.2 percent) of passes for 1,023 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Arkansas State’s stretch of good football hasn’t just been limited to Aplin; the Red Wolves have rushed 157 times for 714 yards (4.5 ypc) for 13 touchdowns over their past four games while limiting opponents to 580 yards on 151 attempts (3.8 ypc) and three scores. Arkansas State has also secured a 10-to-3 turnover margin over that span.
Todd Berry’s team had its five-game winning streak snapped on Saturday, but still claims the Sun Belt’s top scoring offense and turnover margin. Offensive coordinator Steve Farmer calls a balanced offense as ULM averages 40 passes per game to go with 36 rushes per game. That balance was thrown off in the 40-24 loss to Louisiana – Lafayette as the Warhawks only managed 74 rushing yards on 20 attempts. The Warhawks will need to run the ball better tonight without starting quarterback Kolton Browning, who suffered an injury early against ULL, in the lineup. Browning was working on a Sun Belt Player of the Year campaign, leading the league in total offense and accounting for 27 touchdowns. Senior Cody Wells steps in for Browning, bringing in a resume that includes 226 attempts for 1,499 yards and an 11-to-14 touchdown-to-interception ratio over his career.
Both teams share a 4-1 conference record coming into tonight, sitting atop the league along with Middle Tennessee (also 4-1 in Sun Belt play). ULM already owns a victory over the Blue Raiders, while Arkansas State hosts MTSU in the season finale on Dec. 1. A win tonight will go a long way toward a first conference championship for Berry’s program, while Malzahn’s squad hopes to defend its 2011 league title.
Noth Alabama at West Alabama (7:30 p.m. ET, GSC-TV)
Bobby Wallace returns to Livingston, Ala., to face his old team and former offensive coordinator Will Hall, who is now at the helm of West Alabama. North Alabama (5-4) enters tonight ranked tenth in D2Football.com’s Super Region 2 rankings, while West Alabama (7-3) checks in at No. 7. Hall’s offense puts opposing defenses under a tremendous amount of pressure when things are clicking. The Tigers score nearly 44 points per game in their seven wins but just 16 points per game in their losses.
Tonight marks Wallace’s first trip back to West Alabama, where he led the program for five years. He is in his second stint at North Alabama, returning to the school where he coached from 1988-97 and won three NCAA Division II national titles. After winning four straight games in which they allowed a total of 28 points, the Lions have dropped three straight games and surrendered 100 points in the process.