Road to Tampa Bay: Game 4 - USF

Throughout the month of July, NoleDigest will take an early look ahead to this season's schedule and break down each game discussing what the Seminoles need to do in order to reach their first ACC Championship game since its inception in 2005.

In their final game before Florida State returns to conference play, the Seminoles will host the USF Bulls from the Big East as two BCS conferences collide in an in-state showdown.

On September 26 when USF comes to Doak Campbell Stadium, it will mark the first time in history that the two schools meet on the gridiron. The Bulls will be led in by senior quarterback Matt Grothe, who has carried his team for the better part of three years now. During his time at the helms, Grothe has proven capable of winning big games and has led his team to a ranking as high as #2 in the national polls.

Grothe returns to USF for his senior season after leading the Bulls last season in both rushing and passing. Last season, the Lakeland native threw for 2,911 yards and ran for another 591 accounting for 22 total touchdowns. He loses three key linemen up front in center Jake Griffin, guard Matt Huners and tackle Marc Dile which could hurt his production if adequate replacements aren't found.

The Bulls do return Grothe's favorite target in Jesse Hester who caught 54 passes for 579 yards last season. Grothe also brings back three other receivers who all caught at least 25 passes last season in Carlton Mitchell, A.J. Love and Dontavia Bogan.

Much like in the game against BYU, the FSU defensive line will have to step up and bring pressure on an inexperienced line early in order to disrupt the Bulls offense, which led the Big East last season racking up over 400 yards per game. By this point in the season, it will be more apparent as to which players will step up for the Tribe up front. USF runs a spread style offense with a mobile quarterback which has given FSU fits in recent years making the need for pressure from the line even more imperative.

Defensively, the Bulls will be bringing pressure to Christian Ponder all game with defensive end George Selvie. Selvie battled an bum ankle most of last season but still managed 5.5 sacks and had the option to leave early for the NFL if he so desired. Sophomore Andrew Datko will be in charge of keeping Selvie in check all game, which should make for a very entertaining battle.

The Bulls secondary is nothing to lose sleep over as they do not crate many turnovers, but led by senior cornerback Jerome Murphy, is a decent group. They will most likely not give up big plays, but Christian Ponder and his weapons at receiver should be able to break the unit down and keep the chains moving.

What Florida State must do to win: Match the intensity that USF will surely show up with. When it comes to overall talent and coaching, Florida State wins almost every match up. It is the intangibles that are cause for concern. In recent years, USF has always shown up for big games. Just look at 2007 when USF hosted #5 West Virginia on a Thursday night in Tampa and knocked off the Mountaineers by the score of 21-13. Earlier that season, the Bulls traveled to Auburn for a primetime match up with the Tigers and stunned 87,000 fans with a 26-23 upset. Even if FSU is better as a team, USF has proven that they are more than capable of being better on one Saturday.

NoleDigest way too early prediction: Getting up for this game should not be a problem for FSU as the talk leading up to it the week before will hit on a personal level with most. This game will have the atmosphere of a bowl game and the home crowd will be one of the better ones in recent years. USF will be coming off games against Wofford, Western Kentucky and Charleston Souther with FSU being the first test of the season. All that adds up to a Florida State win as they will be more prepared and physically shock USF early leading to a win. This game won't be a shoot out, but there will be enough points to keep the audiences happy.

FSU 34 USF 20

*FSU 4-0 (1-0 ACC)

Stay tuned to NoleDigest all month as we continue our "Road to Tampa Bay" series with our next installment looking at Eagles of Boston College.

*Based on NoleDigest's way too early predictions.

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