Saturday the Seminoles head out to Provo, UT for their first away game of this young season when they take on the 7th ranked Cougars of BYU. This is a big game for both teams as Florida State is looking to rebound off of the loss to Miami and the poor performance against Jacksonville State last weekend, while BYU is looking to use this game as a spring board to a possible run to the BCS National Championship game.
NoleDigest takes a look at the game and discusses who has the advantages where, and we give our prediction on how we see the game turning out Saturday night.
Florida State Synopsis
Simply put this is a game where FSU is wondering what their identity is as a team. Against Miami the offense was spot on as they played well but the defense couldn't get a stop to saves their lives. Against Jacksonville St. both units looked flat, leaving the coaches and the fans to wonder if the Seminoles were in for a tough season in 2009.
The game last week was a hangover game on a short week for the ‘Noles. Is it as bad as it looks? No, not at all. There were glimpses of hope as Christian Ponder and Richard Goodman played well on offense, and Kevin McNeil showed that he can be a playmaking defensive end for the defense.
This is a game that FSU needs to play well in, and it is a game that the Noles need to win as they cannot afford to start the season 1-2. If FSU gets blasted and the defense looks as bad as they have for most of this season, we'll be left wondering if FSU's season is quickly spiraling out of control. As far as the ACC is concerned this game has no impact as we all know, but this is a confidence game and it is a game the Seminoles need to start putting it together in. This game is as close to a must-win as you can get.
BYU enters this game ranked 7th nationally and is starting to garner hype as a potential challenger for the BCS title game. The win over Oklahoma was huge for the Cougars, and last week they didn't let up as they blasted Tulane 54-3.
BYU is led by Heisman candidate Max Hall. Hall has been hot so far early this year as he has 638 yards passing and 4 touchdowns already. Max and BYU play in a timing offense, and if you watch you'll see that Hall likes to get the ball off quickly. Hall is at his best with the intermediate stuff as he is arguably one of the most accurate passers in the nation this year.
For BYU they need to win this game if they want to remain in the title hunt. Media types have pegged the Cougars as a BCS buster, and a win over FSU will help their climb up the polls.
NoleDigest feels this game comes down to a few match-ups. We give our views and where we see each team have an advantage.
BYU's passing game vs. FSU pass defense:
This is THE match-up to watch in this game. BYU runs the ball well, but they are a passing team first and foremost. BYU doesn't have the big-time burners that FSU normally sees, but the wide-outs for BYU are fundamentally sound and run great routes. BYU likes the short passing game because it allows them to spread the ball around and it makes them feel as though it makes the defense second guess themselves.
FSU's pass defense has been atrocious so far in 2009, and it is what has many FSU fans feeling FSU will lose this game. FSU can't stop the pass and their rank of 111 nationally proves that. Jacory Harris had nearly 400 yards passing in his 3rd career start, and Jacksonville State's Ryan Perrilloux was able to put up 213 yards on FSU's inexperienced secondary.
Look for Hall and BYU to test FSU's secondary early. FSU needs to play aggressive and get into the BYU receiver's faces so they can throw off the timing of the offense. Hall has shown he'll turn the ball over as he has thrown 3 picks so far this year. FSU has gotten better play from Nick Moody and Dionte Allen, but they need Patrick Robinson to create in this game. FSU will need to force a couple turnovers in the passing game if they want to be successful.
FSU's rushing attack vs. BYU's front 7:
The Seminole rushing attack hasn't been what we've expected so far this year, but this game gives them a chance to show the preseason hype is warranted. The biggest issue with FSU's offensive line has been that they've been missing blocks here and there, but they've been missing the blocks that could have sprung the 3-4 yard gains into 20+ yarders.
NoleDigest feels that the Seminoles have a size advantage up front and we feel that BYU doesn't have enough up front to create tackles for a loss or stuff the gaps. This is the perfect chance for FSU's running backs to shine.
BYU's offensive line vs. FSU's defensive line:
BYU is ginormous up front and it is going to cause problems for an FSU front four that is not deep, big, or healthy. BYU averages nearly 330 pounds on the offensive line; FSU has had several problems in recent years with big lines (see Boston College). FSU will have a speed advantage up front and they will need to use that to create pressure on Hall. The improvement of Kevin McNeil was good to see because FSU will need to get pressure on Max in this game.
If BYU's big line wears down FSU's front 4 look for them to separate themselves in the 4th quarter.
How the game will unfold
When I did the radio show earlier this week I predicted a BYU 45-38 win because I felt that FSU's defense wouldn't be able to stop the passing game of BYU.
As I researched for this article I feel that the game is a close match-up that FSU has every chance of winning. The Seminoles have a sizeable advantage in speed, but they lose some of that by playing undisciplined football. BYU's offense is good enough to flip that advantage for FSU and make it a positive for themselves.
If FSU can get pressure on Max Hall look for him to turn the ball over pretty frequently (Oklahoma made him very uncomfortable and forces a few INTs by pressuring Hall). FSU's defensive players need to keep the plays in front of them, make the tackle, and play fundamental football.
What has made me really reconsidering my initial prediction is the fact that I feel FSU can pound the ball down BYU's throat. If FSU eats the clock, scores TDs on the ground and controls the pace of the game they will win by 10 in my opinion.
It all boils down to FSU getting pressure. I feel the athletes up front for FSU can beat the bigger linemen of BYU off the snap, and I think we will see Hall panic.
There are several what-ifs here, and we could talk about them up until game time. I feel FSU's defense will make enough plays to help FSU win the game, and I feel it'll be the legs of Ty Jones, Jermaine Thomas and the other running backs that carry FSU to a much needed win in Provo.
Final Prediction: Florida State 31 BYU 23
Game Preview: FSU vs. BYU
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