It all comes down to this. One game to decide the champion of the ACC. Virginia Tech has been the best team in the conference all season and is the first team to go undefeated in regular season conference play since Florida State did it in 1999.
That's the same year Florida State defeated the Michael Vick-led Hokies in the National Championship, which remains the only national title appearance for Virginia Tech.
The Hokies were hoping to get a shot at a national title this year, but after losing their first two games, those hopes were shattered. However, senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor made sure the season wasn't lost. Taylor, the ACC Player of the Year, is one of the most efficient passers in the country and led a Virginia Tech team that has three running backs with NFL potential in rushing for a good portion of the season.
Without Taylor, the Hokies season easily could have been left for dead after only two games.
Taylor is the primary reason the Hokies will beat Florida State. He's got experience on his side, having won two ACC titles already, and he's got playmakers surrounding him on offense.
The running game hasn't been as dominant as many people thought it would be this year, but it's still incredibly difficult to stop. Darren Evans leads the team in rushing, largely due to an injury that sidelined star running back Ryan Williams for a handful of games.
Both backs are healthy, and they can both carry the team to victory if called upon.
David Wilson is the third back in the offense, and he's basically the Hokies version of Reggie Bush. He returns kicks, lines up in the slot and takes handoffs out of the backfield. Wilson's speed and athleticism are his greatest assets, and when he gets going, it's hard to catch him.
Defensively, the Hokies have been spotty. That said, they lead the nation in turnover differential, with a plus-16 margin. That's largely thanks to sophomore cornerback Jayron Hosley, who leads the nation with eight interceptions. Add to the mix Rashad Carmichael, Davon Morgan and stud freshman Kyle Fuller, and the Hokies have a formidable secondary.
The secondary is going to be the key to the game. Christian Ponder is a mobile, athletic quarterback who throws the ball well. He's got 20 touchdown passes and eight picks on the year, but if Ponder is pressured, he becomes very erratic. It's up to the Hokies defensive line to make sure he feels the heat every time he drops back to pass, and if they're able to rattle the senior in his first ACC Championship Game, the Hokies will have a huge advantage.
The Seminoles have two running backs in the backfield that they rely on. Sophomore Chris Thompson leads the team in rushing with 687 yards, and he's averaging 6.9 yards per carry. Junior back Ty Jones, whose status remains unclear for the Seminoles on Saturday, has close to 500 yards on the ground, and he's also averaging close to seven yards per carry.
If the Seminoles can get their running game going, it will make Ponder's life much easier. This is not a Virginia Tech defense of the past. The Hokies this year have been average, but have buckled down when it's mattered the most. That said, there are holes to be found in the defense throughout the game.
The Hokies defense started slow this year. In games against North Carolina and Miami, both offenses drove downfield like they were playing their practice squad on their opening drive. But the Hokies regrouped in both games and held the offenses in check.
Virginia Tech has also been a team that gets going in the second half. They have multiple comeback victories this season, and it's largely thanks to their second-half play.
They start slow but finish strong, and that has been the difference.
Expect this game to be very close entering the fourth quarter.
It would be very surprising to see either team blown out, but you never know. Both teams will be motivated, but the Hokies have experience on their side. However, the Hokies do have a few things going against them. Frank Beamer is only 1-8 against Florida State in his time at Virginia Tech, and the Hokies are 0-3 when playing in Charlotte, N.C.
Don't look too far into that, but it's something to think about. Look for the Hokies to pull away by a touchdown in the fourth quarter and win their fourth ACC title in seven years.
Virginia Tech 38, Florida State 31