Scouting report

January 04, 2000|By Don Markus

Outlook

What Virginia Tech has to do to win: The Hokies must not be intimidated by the circumstances surrounding their first national championship game. They also must get their fans, who'll make up a sizable portion of the crowd at the Superdome, into the game right from the start. But they must not get soemotional that they run out of gas by the fourth quarter.

What Florida State has to do to win: The Seminoles must get off to a better start than they did in last year's championship game against Tennessee. With a tendency to get too aggressive on defense, they must not commit silly penalties that will allow Virginia Tech to stay in the game -- or break it open. And most importantly, they must get the ball in the hands of Peter Warrick.

Biggest strengths

Virginia Tech: The play of its special teams. Punter Jimmy Kibble has not had a great season statistically in terms of yards per kick, but only nine of his punts have been returned for a total of 36 yards. The Hokies are also fundamentally sound when it comes to tackling, as evidenced by the fact that Clemson connected on 27 passes for only 195 yards in a 31-11 win for Virginia Tech.

Florida State: Its experience in big games and the fact that the game is being played on turf in a domed stadium. Without any weather factors affecting the game, the Seminoles can use their collective speed to even greater advantage than on a grass field. But the pressure to win is clearly on Florida State, not Virginia Tech.

Biggest weaknesses

Virginia Tech: Aside from its collective inexperience in big games, it might be a lack of speed compared with the Seminoles. While the Hokies can go stride for stride with Florida State at most skill positions, there are a couple of glaring potential mismatches. One might be if the Seminoles go deep against free safety Nick Sorenson.

Florida State: While it's difficult to find any in such a dominant team, the one which cost the Seminoles dearly in last year's game against Tennessee and at times this year is in the defensive backfield. Florida State gave up three long touchdown passes this year, including two of 80 yards.

Impact players

Virginia Tech: Quarterback Michael Vick and defensive end Corey Moore. If the Seminoles have success stopping one or the other -- or both -- the Hokies have little chance. But don't overlook running back Shyrone Stith, who carried for 1,119 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.

Florida State: Most will point to Warrick. But it will be quarterback Chris Weinke's job to get the ball to his most dangerous receiver, and the job of the Seminoles' offensive line to allow Weinke the time to get it there. That Weinke hasn't played in a game of this magnitude might offset the edge in experience the 27-year-old, fourth-year junior might have.

Prediction

The Seminoles have too many horses, especially among the thoroughbred receivers Bobby Bowden can send long and deep all night. As was the case in all of their close wins, the Seminoles usually can wear down even the best teams by the start of the fourth quarter. Florida State, 27-20.

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