Entering the BYU game last weekend FSU fans were wondering what was wrong with the Seminoles' offensive line and running backs. A unit that was expected to dominate and be the team's strength this year didn't play particularly well against Miami as they were inconsistent, and against Jacksonville State they looked flat terrible.
Against the Cougars the ‘Noles got healthy quickly as they dominated a unit that had come into the game as one of the best defenses in the nation. FSU's line dominates the point off attack, and they hardly got pushed backwards. The running game was stellar as FSU rushed for 313 yards.
While USF's total defense is rated as one of the nation's best they have had issues up front stopping the run. Against W. Kentucky the Bulls gave up 200 yards on the ground, and against Wofford they gave up 177. While USF interchanges up to 11 players along the front line they have not been able to find the cohesiveness or capability to stop a decent rushing attack.
Entering the game Saturday FSU seems to have found their mojo with the running game, and the offensive line comes in with a ton of confidence. Ty Jones looked spectacular against BYU averaging over 8 yards per carry, and freshman Lonnie Pryor showed he can be a force in the red-zone and is short yardage situations. What has made this unit even better is that Tavares Pressley is getting healthy, and Jermaine Thomas is as capable as any back in the ACC when it comes to carrying the ball.
Everything points to FSU having a sizeable advantage here. FSU should be able to control the clock and the flow of the game through their rushing attack.
Advantage: Florida State
Christian Ponder has been lights out this year, and against BYU he played what some consider his best game as a Seminole QB. Ponder has been efficient and consistent, and he has limited his turnovers compared to last year.
The wide-outs for FSU have gotten steadily better each game and they are starting to show they have a ton of playmaking ability among the group. Jarmon Fortson, Richard Goodman and the others have each had their moments this year.
What has opened up the passing attack for the Noles? The play of tight end Caz Piurowski. Caz has turned into Ponder's safety valve, and he has made big plays time and again so far for the offense this year. He is averaging 14.9 yards per catch and he has 2 touchdowns on the year. His play has allowed the wide-outs for FSU to find space and make plays. This was something we really saw against BYU last weekend.
There is no denying that USF has a good secondary, and it is a unit I really like. Nate Allen is one of the better safeties this year, and he is a game changer for the Bulls as we saw last week in his 75 yard return for a touchdown last week. Jerome Murphy is the other starter at safety for USF. The Bulls start a true freshman in Kayvon Webster and a redshirt freshman in George Baker at corner. The first 3 games against lesser competition have allowed the two young guys a chance to earn some reps, gain confidence, and learn their roles in the defense.
This is a match-up that is pretty even because of USF's safeties, but the play of Ponder this fall has many confident is the Seminole offense. The young corners will be facing their first true tests against FSU's receivers, so look for them to struggle sometime, and make plays in others.
Advantage: Florida State
Simply put USF's offensive line is young, but they are playing well so far this year. Sampson Genus is a force at center, and Zach Hermann and Jake Sims anchor a strong right side for the Bulls.
This really comes down to the play of FSU. As we learned Thursday FSU will be without Justin Mincey still, and Moses McCray is out with the elbow injury. Demonte McAllister may play but he is a true freshman coming off of a sprained MCL.
Budd Thacker looked decent against BYU so look for him to get more time this week. Injuries have killed the Seminoles in the middle. They cannot get healthy and they are playing like a unit that has struggled all year.
When you look at FSU's defensive ends it comes down to this unit is sorely missing Everett Brown. There has been little pressure off the edge. Markus White has been up and down, and it is quickly becoming a joke that Craig Yarborough continues to get meaningful minutes when Kevin McNeil is outplaying him by a wide margin.
Dekoda Watson played terribly against BYU, and Kendall Smith continues to struggle in pass coverage and shedding his blocks at the point of attack. USF can run the ball and they have 3 capable backs of their own that can eat up yards in a hurry. The Seminoles need Watson to step up from last week, and they better hope they get pressure on the QB without having to use the "Prowler" scheme too much.
Advantage: South Florida
I talked about this a little bit on the message boards Wednesday, but this is a hot topic amongst both fan bases. The loss of Matt Grothe cannot be brushed aside. While Daniels showed flashes against Charleston Southern he is coming to Tallahassee for his first career start in an environment that can be hostile on first time starters.
Grothe was the rock for the offense, but now B.J. brings what USF people feel is a better arm and better running ability. The big difference between the two is that Matt has been there before, and he had an excellent grasp of the offense. Daniels is a redshirt freshman; therefore USF fans cannot be delusional and think he has a full grasp on what the coaches want to do on that side of the ball.
The ‘Noles have traditionally struggled against athletic quarterbacks because it takes the speed advantage they have and gets them out of position. But, FSU has also shown they will beat up first time starters at home.
While B.J. looked good last week, there is a difference between Charleston So. and FSU. While the defense has been less then stellar, they will be Daniels' first test. The biggest factor that will play into this aspect is the pressure B.J. will face. Between an amped up FSU team coming off a nationally recognized blowout, a big home game with a budding in-state rival, and a defense playing with a chip on their shoulders look for Daniels to make as many mistakes as he does plays. Those mistakes are what will ultimately spell doom for the Bull offense.
Advantage: Florida State