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No. 8 Seminoles expecting Hokies' best performance

No. 8 Seminoles expecting Hokies' best performance

When No. 8 Florida State and Virginia Tech meet Thursday night only the Seminoles will be playing for high stakes.

The Hokies (4-5, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) are in the midst of their worst season in 20 years and fighting just to become bowl eligible.

It's exactly the kind of setup Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel has warned his teammates about this week - a struggling team putting its best effort forward on a big stage.

``I think I saw that a little bit in the N.C. State game,'' Manuel said of Florida State's lone loss, 17-16 at N.C. State on Oct. 6. ``Not to say that we took them lightly, but they played lights out, they had a good game. ... If they get a chance to knock us off, it will kind of make their season.''

The Hokies have three games remaining, and need to win two to qualify for a bowl game for the 20th consecutive season. They still have games against Boston College and Virginia, but beating the Seminoles would be a big boost.

And despite how frustrating the season has been, Hokies cornerback Kyle Fuller knows they have the talent to win.

``I know what we can do,'' Fuller said. ``I'm not feeling sorry for us. We can't settle. We've let a lot of games get away from us this season. We can't settle with that. We have to improve and gain back those games that we lost. This would be a great one to do it.''

The Hokies and Seminoles (8-1, 5-1) have split four meetings since Virginia Tech joined the ACC in 2004, each winning once when the matchups came in the ACC championship game. The Hokies have never seen a Seminoles team as accomplished as they will this time.

It starts with Manuel, who hails from Virginia Beach. He's completing 70 percent of his passes this season and has thrown for 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He also makes plays with his feet as Clemson learned when he threw for 380 yards and ran for 102 more in a 49-37 victory on Sept. 22.

With the very efficient Manuel at the controls, the Seminoles rank third nationally with an average of nearly 45 points per game. Making the challenge more daunting, they allow just 227 yards per game, best in the country, and rank in the top four in rushing defense, passing defense and scoring defense (12 ppg).

A stout defense is the last thing the Hokies need to see.

In last week's 30-12 loss to Miami, they moved the ball well, but their only touchdown came on a 73-yard run by quarterback Logan Thomas. Several trips into the red zone came up empty, and a solid defensive performance was stymied by special teams mistakes that set up two short touchdown drives for Miami.

Coach Frank Beamer thought his team put it all together in a 41-20 victory against Duke on Oct. 13, but they followed that with a 38-17 loss at Clemson, and then last week's frustration against the Hurricanes.

He still believes it's only a matter of time before they get it all working again.

``When you get playing well, you get some momentum, you make a play, you make another play, now here comes a turnover,'' the coach in his 26th season said. ``When you're on the other side of that, everything's kind of a struggle. I personally believe if you keep playing hard, all of a sudden, it's going to turn around. I do believe we're a good football team. We just haven't always played well.''

Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher expects them to see that turnaround on Thursday night, especially on the big stage.

``They're 4-5 and they're going to want a winning record and go to a bowl game, so this will be a significant game,'' Fisher said. ``I think everyone looks at us this way. People look at us and target that and that's something we have to face and prepare for. We can't control how they play, all we can do is control how we play and how we prepare mentally to go in there and be ready to play a game on the road.''

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Follow Hank on twitter at:http://twitter.com/hankkurzjr

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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do

There are only two series left in the first round that have yet to be decided. The Caps just so happen to be playing in one of those series.

After falling into a 0-2 hole to start, Washington has rattled off three straight wins and now sits just one away from putting away the Columbus Blue Jackets and advancing to the second round.

Should the Capitals advance, they will play the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third consecutive season.

<<NHL POWER RANKINGS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS>>

The Penguins ended their series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday in Game 6. Jake Guentzel scored four goals in the effort proving once and for all that yes, goaltending is important in the playoffs. Head coach Mike Sullivan has still yet to lose a playoff series as the head coach of Pittsburgh as he led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons.

In the Atlantic, the Tampa Bay Lightning await the winner of the Boston Bruins - Toronto Maple Leafs series after dispatching the New Jersey Devils in five games. After a strong regular season, the Maple Leafs looked poised to take the next step, but Auston Matthews has only two points in five games and Toronto faces elimination at the hands of the Bruins Monday in Game 5.

<<NHL POWER RANKINGS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS>>

All four series in the West, meanwhile, have already been decided. Both the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks managed four-game sweeps in the first round and will face one another in the second  The miraculous season of the Golden Knights continues and it would be hard to argue at this point that they are not legitimate Stanly Cup contenders considering all they have accomplished in both the regular season and the playoffs.

Wins by the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets now sets up a second-round battle between the top two teams in the league from the regular season.

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The betting houses are bearish on the 2018 Redskins

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

The betting houses are bearish on the 2018 Redskins

With the NFL schedule dropped last week, many fans and media types went through and predicted wins and losses for the teams they follow, just for fun. But others predict the records of teams and it’s not for laughs, it’s for very high stakes.

The betting houses in Las Vegas and offshore have established their lines for over/under in wins. They then take this a step further and go through the playoffs to establish the odds of winning the Super Bowl. 

Over the weekend, BetOnline published one of each and let’s just say that they do not like what the Redskins have done this offseason. Or, more accurately, they think that the public perception is that the Redskins will not be a very good team this year. 

Their over/under for wins is 5.5. They won seven games last year so the under would represent a decline of at least two wins. This line seems to be low. The Redskins won seven games last year with the worst injury situation in the league, per the numbers crunchers at Football Outsiders. They also faced one of the toughest schedules in the league in terms of opponent winning percentages. 

Yes, they did lose Kirk Cousins to free agency but they replaced him with Alex Smith, who, like Cousins, is not elite or even in the top 10 but in the category of solid, reliable quarterbacks. The QB exchange was close to a wash. But despite the fact that the chances are they will suffer fewer injuries and face a schedule that isn’t as much of a meat grinder, this over/under has the Redskins producing double-digit losses. They have managed to stay out of 10-plus loss territory for three straight years. 

There are more reasons to think that they will win at least as many games as they did last year than there are to think that they will win fewer. If I’m betting, which I’m not, I’d be tempted to hit the over on that pretty hard. 

I would keep my money in my pocket when it comes to betting on the Redskins’ chances of winning the Super Bowl. I don’t think they’re close, but I think they’re much closer than the Browns but BetOnline has Cleveland and Washington with the same odds of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. The Redskins, Browns, and Bucs are at +6600 to win it all. The Redskins odds are worse than all but six other teams. 

Again, I don’t think that the Redskins are going to win the Super Bowl. Winning a playoff game would be quite an accomplishment for them. But same could be said of the Colts, Giants, Chargers, and 49ers, but they all have considerably better odds than the Redskins. 

In fact, there may be some irrational exuberance with the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo. They have the seventh-best odds at +1600. Sure, Jimmy G was very good in five meaningless games at the end of last season. Let’s see how he does with some pressure on and after defensive coaches have had a chance to study how to take away his strengths. It just goes to show you how little real analysis goes into this. 

I get a little annoyed when teams play the disrespect card, especially when they have to look too hard to find it. But if the Redskins look at this, they certainly can embrace the underdog role if they want to. What they do with it, we will find out starting September 9. 

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.