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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 9:18 AM

We've had a love-hate relationship with Florida State here in the NOTEBOOK. Well, it's more of a hate relationship with the media and pollsters that have overrated this team on virtually a yearly basis over the last decade. Heading into tonight's road TV game at Boston College on ESPN...we have to admit there's a lot to like about how Florida State is playing right now.

That wasn't true earlier this season, when pollsters and pundits were INEXPLICABLY calling this a top five caliber team. That wasn't remotely true from any direction...which became clear when they lost a home game to Oklahoma where they were outplayed by more than the final score indicated...then lost on the road to Clemson the next week...then lost AGAIN to Wake Forest!

That three-game stretch knocked the Seminoles off everyone's radar. They look to have gathered themselves well...and it's probably time to put them back on your radar at least as a team that can close the season well and cover some spreads.

Let's pick up some key indicator stats starting with the Wake Forest game. That was a scoreboard loss, but a stat win outside of the turnover category...

WAKE FOREST 35, FLORIDA STATE 30
Total Yardage: Florida State 425, Wake Forest 391
Yards-Per-Play: Florida State 5.8, Wake Forest 5.3
Turnovers: Florida State 4, Wake Forest 0

Wake Forest is kind of a tweener team this year. They're capable of really clicking in certain weeks...but then they'll hurt you bad as soon as you trust them (as many found out when laying points at Duke). Florida State was still figuring out its health situation at quarterback in this game...which led to those four giveaways. FSU won stats pretty clean on the road against a decent squad outside of the turnovers.

FLORIDA STATE 41, DUKE 16
Total Yardage: Florida State 481, Duke 289
Yards-Per-Play: Florida State 8.2, Duke 4.1
Turnovers: Florida State 2, Duke 2

The Seminoles then absolutely crushed Duke on the road. They gained almost 500 yards while allowing less than 300. And, the yards-per-play advantage was dramatic. Turnovers were still a concern. You can live with a couple when you're dominating everything else to that degree. The important lesson here was that FSU still has a big athletic edge over most ACC teams. As long as the playmakers make some plays, it's very hard for the lesser programs to compete.

FLORIDA STATE 41, MARYLAND 16
Total Yardage: Florida State 482, Maryland 331
Yards-Per-Play: Florida State 6.9, Maryland 4.4
Turnovers: Florida State 0, Maryland 1

FSU beat Maryland by the exact same score as they did Duke, even though the stat edges weren't quite the same. It was still a squash. And, Seminoles fans had to love seeing a clean slate in the turnover category. Now, beating Duke and Maryland doesn't mean you're a superpower. But, these wins were a reminder of why people were high on Florida State entering the season. Even if they're not a top five team, or even a contender any more in the ACC (they'd lose a tie-breaker to Clemson or Wake Forest in the Atlantic Division because of head-to-head losses), this is still a team that can play high quality football and cover Vegas spreads. 

FLORIDA STATE 34, NC STATE 0
Total Yardage: Florida State 444, NC State 166
Yards-Per-Play: Florida State 6.3, NC State 2.7
Turnovers: Florida State 1, NC State 3

Same story the last time out, but with more impressive defensive numbers. You're really getting the job done if you're holding a college team below 3.0 yards per play. This is now three straight blowout wins since the losing streak...without any let up or flat spots. Remember that Miami of Florida had a nice stretch going before laying an egg against Virginia last week in this TV spot. Florida State's avoided the eggs to this point.

Which brings us to tonight. Florida State is playing ANOTHER bad ACC team that they should dominate at the point of attack, in the stat book, and on the scoreboard. If you threw BC, Duke, Maryland, and NC State in a paper bag...none of the four could get out unless the basketball teams came to help. "On paper," this is another 34-0 or 41-16 type game...which would mean an easy cover for FSU at minus two touchdowns.

But...

  • West Virginia should have killed Syracuse as a road favorite in a TV game last week, and they got absolutely embarrassed.
  • Clemson had clear statistical edges as a road TV favorite at Georgia Tech last week, and they were never in the game.
  • Stanford graded out in all math to crush USC as a road TV favorite last week, and they were lucky to win straight up.

This is the time of year where strange things happen to road favorites on TV! Home dogs get inspired. Home crowds treat it like Monday Night Wrestling in terms of playing for the cameras. And, road favorites start making mistakes left and right...particularly those who have been turnover prone in the past.

Hmm....

This is clearly a volatile schedule spot for Florida State. A big win at BC could launch them to a very strong finish against Miami, Virginia, and then state-rival Florida from the SEC. They would need a lot of help to play in the ACC Championship game...so we're looking at a 9-3 finish as a best expectation. That's certainly not an impossible expectation given the inconsistent form of Miami and Virginia, and the trouble transition Florida is going through under Will Muschamp. And, you know that a hard charging 9-3 Florida State team would get a berth in a marquee bowl.

On the other hand, if they pull a West Virginia here and get caught napping...then you're looking at grinders for a 5-4 team against Miami, Virginia, and Florida that could go either way. BC really is a linchpin game for what remains of the 2011 FSU season.

JIM HURLEY has a strong opinion on this game based on handicapping factors that CAN'T be discussed in the NOTEBOOK because we have to protect the pick for NETWORK clients. There's likely to be a BONUS play on the ticket tonight too with Akron-Miami of Ohio and Tulsa-Central Florida also on a surprisingly busy Thursday Night schedule. Selections will go up here at the website a few hours before kickoff for credit card purchase. The same will be true Friday for USC-Colorado and Central Michigan-Kent State.

Great rates are available for the rest of the college season with our TNT program, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to check on college basketball when you call. We're just days away from the start of hoops!

Back with you tomorrow in the NOTEBOOK for an early preview of LSU-Alabama...the much anticipated SEC SHOWDOWN OF THE YEAR between the two best teams in the country. We wanted to put that one up on a Friday to give you extra time to think through the possibilities. We'll continue our recent series of reports on BCS contenders Saturday with a rundown of Boise State...a team standing at the doorstep hoping that somebody loses BIG in the LSU-Alabama game.

The NFL schedule is loaded too this week with matchups like NY Jets-Buffalo, NY Giants-New England, Green Bay-San Diego, and Baltimore-Pittsburgh. That means it's a great time to try out the service if you've been dragging your heels. Maybe you won on your own in September, but lost in October. Maybe things were cruising along great until all of your pet favorites were caught in last week's college and pro carnage. Whatever your story...RIGHT NOW is always the best time to sign up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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