The Florida State offense has struggled on the road this season, and a lot of that can be attributed to the caliber of defenses they have faced. According to the S&P+ rankings Florida will be the third best defense the Seminoles have faced this season at No. 6.
Florida State scored a combined two offensive touchdowns against Boston College and Clemson, who are No. 3 and No. 4 in the S&P+ defensive rankings, but did move the football against Clemson. They gained 361 yards and gained 14 first downs, but penalties, third downs, and red zone issues hindered their scoring ability.
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher noted that Florida State was an inch away from maybe winning against Clemson.
"Clemson, outstanding, I know they were an outstanding team," Fisher said. "We were an inch away. That was just a slugfest. They're one of the top defenses in the country. We had opportunity to make a couple plays, we're in the red zone. We just made a poor decision. We missed two short yardages. Otherwise we moved the ball extremely well. We've got to play a complete game. I think that came from continuity up front and different fronts, and we had to play different people. We had to change at halftime in that game, if you remember, or in the third quarter. We had to change fronts in that game."
The Seminole offensive line has been scrambled all season. They've used nine different combinations, but seem to be finally getting some continuity with the same starting five in the last two games. Plug in quarterback Sean Maguire, who knows the offense well, and this is a completely different offense from the beginning of the season.
"And like I say, Clemson and Boston College were outstanding defenses," Fisher said. "And we went -- early in the season we weren't close to where we needed to be, and we had a lot of changes still to make on the offensive line, had a lot of guys hurt. And Everett was still learning the system. We had things going on. And they're a really good defensive football team as we see throughout the year."
Now the team heads to Gainesville for a showdown with rival Florida. The Gators have one of the best secondaries in the country, and cause so many issues for opposing quarterbacks.
"We were joking the other day, I think they've got DBs over there on the side they just keep pouring in," Fisher said. "I've never seen a team with so many defensive backs. Dadgum, they've got them everywhere. I look up and there's guys covering. Is that number six or 42 or twenty- -- no, that's -- wait a minute, now, is that 7? They've got them everywhere. Their corners can cover. They're athletic. They're long. They're big. The safeties are big. We recruited a lot of them, so I know them.
When you go down from Marcus Maye, Marcell Harris, to (Keanu) Neal, to (Nick) Washington and (Jalen) Tabor is a great corner. Quincy Wilson we recruited, Vernon Hargreaves and (Brian) Poole. Duke Dawson. They all can tackle. They can cover. And they can play multiple positions. They play nickel, they play dime, they play safety, they play corner. They can play everywhere."
The Seminoles haven't put up more than 24 points on the road this season, and are averaging just 15 points per game on the road this year. That number likely won't go up against a defense of this caliber, but with as good as the Florida State defense has been (No. 17 in the S&P+ defensive rankings) compared to Florida's offense (No. 55 in the S&P+ offensive rankings) they may not need to be much better than that.