AROUND THE NATION

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AROUND THE NATION

GAME OF THE DAY | Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2 ACC) at No. 11 Miami (7-1, 3-1), 7 p.m., ESPN

Thomas, Hokies look for turnaround

Joshua Stanford believes Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas is taking too much heat.

Thomas has turned the ball over four times in each of the Hokies’ past two games, a home loss against Duke and a road setback at Boston College. The senior threw four interceptions against the Blue Devils and two more, along with two fumbles, last week. Stanford, a redshirt freshman wide receiver, said Thomas is not all to blame.

“A great deal of the interceptions fall on us as receivers,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s us not making the catch and then the ball gets intercepted,” he said. “Sometimes it’s us not making a play on the ball or batting it down. Sometimes it’s us running the wrong routes.”

The Hokies hope to get those things corrected when they play at Miami with a chance to get back into the Coastal Division title chase.

Thomas and the Hokies’ offense have been hampered all season by having an unreliable running game and a young receiving corps, and the scrutiny of his play has, at times, bordered on the ridiculous.

The scrutiny is nothing new for Thomas. The Hokies’ offense struggled all last season, too, and led coach Frank Beamer to clean house on his coaching staff, bringing in four new offensive coaches.

The offense, and Thomas’ performances, have been better than people think, new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said, and all it takes is a few mistakes to turn a good performance into a losing one.

“The fact of the matter is if you eliminated two or three plays, all you guys would be talking about is how great he played,” Loeffler told reporters, defending Thomas after practice on Wednesday night.

Thomas hopes to get the Hokies back to winning.

“The frustrating part about of the past two games is they’ve ended in losses, really, for me,” he said. “Yeah, of course you want to correct the interceptions, the fumbles, whatever. Turnovers in general. We’ve just got to keep playing.”

IN THE SPOTLIGHT … CENTRAL FLORIDA

Houston (7-1, 4-0 American Athletic Conference) at No. 21 Central Florida (6-1, 3-0), 7 p.m., ESPN2

Knights, George O’Leary seek best start in school history

What’s at stake: The lone unbeaten teams left in the AAC, Saturday’s winner will take over sole possession of first place in the race for the race for the league’s automatic berth in the BCS. The 19th-ranked Knights have their highest ranking in school history and can match the best start in program history with a win. The Cougars are trying to win their third consecutive since a one-point loss to BYU.

Key matchup: Houston offense vs. Central Florida defense. The Cougars lead the AAC, averaging 41.1 points per game and are also the only FBS team that has scored in every quarter this season. The Knights rank third in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 19.3 points, and will look to put pressure on Houston freshman QB John O’Korn.

Players to watch: For Houston, O’Korn isn’t playing much like a freshman, completing 65.2 percent of his passes for 2,121 yards and 22 touchdowns, with four interceptions. The 22 touchdown passes leads all FBS freshmen. DBs Adrian McDonald and Trevon Stewart will also be key with three interceptions apiece, accounting for six of the Cougars’ FBS-best 29 takeaways. For Central Florida, RB Storm Johnson has a rushing touchdown in six of seven games to give him nine for the season. He also has three receiving TDs, ranking him ninth in the FBS in scoring. LB Terrance Plummer has been everywhere for the Knights, leading the team with 60 tackles. He’s also tied for team lead with two INTs, and has two sacks.

Did you know: The Knights are looking to become the first team in school history to post at least 20 points in their first eight games. … Three of the Knights’ four meetings with the Cougars have been decided by seven points or less, however Central Florida and Houston have not met since 2010. … Houston has posted at least 22 points in all eight contests. … The Cougars have turned the ball over only nine times to rank first in the nation in turnover margin.

WORDS ABOUT AND WITH … FSU’S MARIO EDWARDS

Defensive end is up to the challenge

He has put weight issues behind him and become a key player with a fumble return for TD against Clemson and a sack against Miami.

Q: How does he answer critics of his weight and tell us the story of the Under Armour All-American Game when he weighed 312, 35 pounds more than his ideal playing weight?

FSU DE Chris Casher: Somebody tried to make a little fat joke and he was like, ‘This is all muscle.’ And he went to the side and did two back flips.

Q: What led to you losing the 35 pounds to your present 277?

A: Edwards: I was still able to run good, I was still able to do back flips and all that. It was just to the point where I had to make a decision for myself. Could I produce at this weight? … If my weight is up, I can’t be that person everyone expects me to be and that I know I can be. So I’ll never let a plate of food … determine my success or my future.

Q: Can you still do the back flips?

A: Edwards: I just do them sometimes when people think I’ve lost it a little bit.

PICK SIX

No. 2 Florida State (8-0, 6-0 ACC) at Wake Forest (4-5, 2-4), Noon, WSB 2.2: The Seminoles will continue their ACC romp and can clinch the Atlantic Division title and third berth in the ACC title game in four seasons. The Demon Deacons’ only win over a top-10 team came against No. 4 Tennessee in 1946.

BYU (6-2) at No. 24 Wisconsin (6-2), 3:30 p.m., ESPN: A game with big postseason implications as both teams try to win out against some tough competition to give themselves a shot at a BCS bowl. Neither is likely to happen, but the winner can dream. Both have big games in the future: BYU at Notre Dame and Wisconsin vs. Ohio State. The Badgers are favored by eight.

Kansas (2-6, 0-5 Big 12) vs. No. 14 Oklahoma State (7-1, 4-1), 4 p.m., Fox Sports 1: The Cowboys get a break as they await their next three games (Texas, No. 5 Baylor and No. 12 Oklahoma). They are favored by 31 and are 16-1 in their past 17 home games. A four-game sweep could put them in the mix for a good BCS game.

No. 22 Arizona State (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) at Utah (4-4, 1-4) 4 p.m., Pac-12 Network: The Sun Devils hold a one-game Pac-12 South lead. And if you want to see a defense, check out Arizona State, which had forced opponents to go three-and-out 55 times this season, an FBS best.

No. 23 Notre Dame (7-2) at Pittsburgh (4-4), 8 p.m., ABC: Here’s a chance to gauge Notre Dame as an ACC member. The Fighting Irish need to win out to reach 10 victories and sneak back into a BCS bowl. Pitt is a 4 1/2-point underdog, coming off the loss at Georgia Tech.

No. 19 UCLA (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) at Arizona (6-2, 3-2), 10 p.m., ESPN: The winner of this game stays alive in the Pac-12 South at 4-2 and both still have games remaining against division-leader Arizona State with a shot at the Rose Bowl. UCLA has not won in Tucson since 2003. Catch UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, who had 13 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles this season. And get a glimpse of Arizona’s Samajie Grant, a freshman receiver with 23 catches.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT … CHARLES SIMS

Texas (6-2, 5-0 Big 12) at West Virginia (4-5, 2-4), 7 p.m., Fox

Who he is: Double-threat senior running back who leads West Virginia in rushing with 754 yards and is second in receptions with 36.

Why he’s amped for Saturday: A Houston native, he gets to play against the Texas Longhorns.

What he said: “Growing up as a kid, that’s all you heard about was Texas, so I always wanted to play them guys.”

How he got to WVU: Sims graduated from Houston in May with a health degree and was available to transfer and play immediately. The easy choice was West Virginia — coach Dana Holgorsen was Houston’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2008 and 2009.

This season’s goal: He has the chance to become West Virginia’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Noel Devine in 2009. His career best was 851 yards last season.

What Holgorsen said: “His attitude is so good. … Just playing with as much effort as he possibly can. Yes, that is rubbing off on a lot of the guys on our entire team. You see defensive guys pointing it out. He is a special player, a special kid. I’m glad he’s here. It’s worked out for everybody involved.

Compiled by Ray Cox

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