Virginia Tech's skill players are better, its defense sound.
Florida State's quarterback is sneaky quick, its defense overrated.
Those are among the observations of two veteran ACC coaches who agreed, not for attribution, to analyze Saturday's conference championship game between the Hokies and Seminoles.
"Florida State wins with offense, not defense," said Coach A. "Their defense has some gaudy stats, but their defense is not like the old Florida State defense. They're still not back to that.
"They've got a couple guys who pass rush, but people have run the ball on them successfully. … Once you pass protect, (you can) beat them with a lot of double moves against their secondary. They've changed their whole defensive outlook. They used to be all man-to-man."
Under first-year head coach Jimbo Fisher and defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, the zone-based Seminoles lead the nation with 43 sacks (end Brandon Jenkins has 12) and rank 11th in scoring defense. But Oklahoma riddled them for 394 passing yards and 47 points, North Carolina State 189 yards rushing and 28 points, North Carolina 439 yards passing and 37 points.
Florida State (9-3, 6-2 ACC) lost all those games.
Virginia Tech ranks 13th nationally in scoring defense and hasn't allowed more than 21 points in any of its last seven games. But the Hokies have been vulnerable to the run, yielding 4.6 yards per rush, their worst since 1987, Frank Beamer's first season as coach.
"It'll be interesting to see whose offense is able to exploit whose defense," Coach B said. "Tech plays a system that is very sound. Their corners play back, so you're not going to throw deep on them. So it will be interesting to see if Florida State will try to attack them with some underneath, intermediate routes."
The status of Hokies cornerback Rashad Carmichael ( sprained ankle) is "a big deal," Coach B added.
If Carmichael is unavailable, the Seminoles are likely to target his replacement, true freshman Kyle Fuller.
Both coaches applauded the quarterbacks, Tech's Tyrod Taylor and Florida State's Christian Ponder, seniors and three-year starters.
"No one's Tyrod Taylor or even Russell Wilson," Coach A said. "But Ponder's as good as anyone (else) at moving in the pocket, and certainly they have designated runs for him. He understands the offense, he doesn't make many mistakes and distributes the ball to their guys who can make big plays."
Ponder and Taylor have each run for four touchdowns and passed for 20.
"It's amazing," Coach B said. "You watch teams try to defend Tyrod. What you see is sometimes they rush three with a spy back there. Tyrod will see the guy spying and be back there all day. I think he does a great job, when he feels the rush, particularly when teams play man-to-man and he sees that linebacker (turn his) back, he's gone, and before you know he's 15, 20 yards downfield and everybody's screaming.
"You sit back there and spy, shoot, they've got good receivers, they get open. How is Florida State going to try to contain Tyrod? … Ponder can pull the ball down and run, he's got a strong arm. I wouldn't be surprised if the rushing yards by the quarterbacks become very important."
Both coaches believe Taylor has more weapons, particularly with tailbacks Darren Evans, Ryan Williams and David Wilson. But Coach B warned Taylor about throwing to them.
"You can throw the ball out to the flat (against Florida State)," he said, "but before you know it, they're on you. They have linebackers that can run. Their speed, how they close on you, is excellent. They limit the yards after catch or yards after initial hit. They fly around to the ball."
Seminoles linebackers Nigel Bradham and Kendall Smith are 11th and 14th, respectively in the ACC in tackles. But Coach A believes Bud Foster's Tech defense, led by end Steven Friday, tackle John Graves, linebacker Bruce Taylor and cornerback Jayron Hosley, will be the difference.
"I think Virginia Tech will win," he said. "Because of the way Virginia Tech plays defense through the years, they'll find a way. Florida State scores on big plays. That's their offense. I don't know if you can drive the ball against Virginia Tech. If Virginia Tech can eliminate their big-play offense, they should be OK."
Coach B only hinted at a winner.
"To me," he said, "it will be a quarterback-decided game."
And Taylor has been the ACC's best quarterback.
"I'm glad he's gone," Coach B said. "To tell you the truth, I'm glad he's gone."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime, and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP.