FSU vs USF: Game Preview

Nate Greer of NoleDigest.com and Larry Weisbaum of USFNation.com talk about the hot topics heading into Saturday's game.

1) What does the injury to Matt Grothe mean to USF and their offense?

LW: Experience. The Big East total yardage record holder is USF quarterback Matt Grothe (10,875 yards), who has 41 starts in Tampa in three plus years , and his ability to scramble and make plays put USF in the spotlight. Losing him is huge for the Bulls, especially going into an environment like Doak Campbell. However, the coaches have plenty of confidence in the talented but inexperienced quarterback BJ Daniels who gets his first start.

NG: As I talked about a little bit in the match-up preview Grothe is a significant loss for USF. The guy was their gritty leader who has led them to all of their significant wins in the program's history. While he turned the ball over here and other than not having the strongest arm, Matt simply made plays. He knew the playbook in and out. He has been in big game environments. While B.J. Daniels may evolve into a better fit for that program, Bulls fans cannot forget or brush off the gametime experience they will be missing at the quarterback spot. We can all assume he will make plays, but we don't have the slightest clue if he will be able to in his first college start.

2) How will USF's defense match-up with FSU's offense?

LW: That's hard to say because USF has not faced an offense like this over their first three games, but so far the Bulls defense has been stellar, only allowing a total of 20 points, ranking them No. 2 in scoring defense (6.67 PPG). Against the pass they rank 3rd and only allowed just 84 ypg, but haven't been as stout against the run with 143.3 YPG. USF hasn't exactly played three powerhouses, and going on the road against a Jimbo Fisher offense with QB Christian Ponder & Ty Jones will be the toughest match so far, and possibly of the entire season. Much will depend on which FSU offense shows up, the one that sputtered against J-State two weeks ago, or the one that broke out big time last weekend at BYU. The Bulls must continue their stellar defense and make the FSU offense one dimensional. It's imperative that USF also wins the turnover battle.

NG: I talked about it in the match-up preview, and I agree with Larry. USF hasn't faced an offense like FSU's this year, and they haven't faced the athletes they'll face Saturday. I really am honing in on USF's run defense. They have an excellent secondary, but I feel FSU can control the game on the ground. USF can't stop the run. FSU's offensive line is clicking, and they will give USF fits. Christian Ponder has shown that he can hurt a team in the passing game, so it may not be the best idea to stack the box and force Ponder to throw.

3) Talk about BJ Daniels....is he ready.

LW: B.J. Daniels' is as ready as any redshirt could be in his situation. While he's an athletic quarterback similar to Grothe he's skill set is off the charts, and is strong, quick and has a big arm. Last week, after Matt went down in his first extended live action B.J. went 10-of-13 for 149 yards and a TD and ran for another 105 yards and two scores on just eight carries. We will find out on Saturday if he can put it all together for the Bulls offense. He lacks experience but has all the tools to be an outstanding quarterback. Daniels has to be jacked up to get his very first start in his hometown.

NG: All FSU fans have heard about is the blossoming Daniels this week. He looked good in relief of Grothe, and now people want to see what he can do starting. The truth is Daniels' time was expedited with Matt's injury. I don't feel as though he was READY, but he looks as though he has enough of a grasp of the offense to be effective. He should find some success passing, but I think he will have some problems against FSU's run-stopping capabilities. For B.J. to have success he is going to have to play with-in himself and not be too emotional and try to do too much.

4) What problems will FSU's defense have with USF?

LW: The Bulls enter the game with the nation's No. 6 scoring offense, averaging 44.67 PPG, and are loaded with Florida talent and speed across the board, with Carlton Mitchell & Dontavia Bogan leading the receivers, and a stable of running backs to pound the running game. If they can establish the run, then that will open up the passing game where FSU has had trouble, ranking 117th in pass defense (321 ypg).

NG: I was a huge fan of Mike Ford coming out of high school, and I think he is a bruising back that can find success against FSU's defense. I know he saw his first action last week after being suspended, but his size could pose problems for a defense like FSU's that has looked sloppy at times tackling. I don't think trying to run off the edges is going to work because FSU is as fast as anyone. But the Seminoles are vulnerable up the gut. Also, USF has big, athletic wide receivers. Miami dominated with their size. FSU's secondary needs to step up and come ready to play because USF will be coming right at them.

5) Why is this game important to both teams?

LW: This game is all about perception and validity and USF will likely treat this game like it's their Super Bowl. The Bulls want to show the Sunshine State and the college football world that they indeed are an elite program and should be treated as such. It's about respect and the Bulls want it. A win would likely give USF recruiting a huge boost. We have started to see USF beat some of the big boys on recruits. A win in Tallahassee will go a long, long way.

NG: Larry covered USF, and I cannot add much to what he said. This is USF's chance to show they belong in a state that has always been "The Big 3". For FSU this game is about continuation to what they did last week. The Miami game was more of a hint to what we'll see from this team, not the JSU game. FSU must not come into this game expecting to win. They have to continue to execute, make plays, and play aggressive. This is the next step for them to build off of the BYU win.

6) What 3 things will play a factor in this game? LW: The play of B.J. Daniels will be huge. If he can remain poised, get past the atmosphere of the Doak, not make too many mistakes, and win first downs to make the offense more manageable...

The Bulls must establish a running game, and if they can do that, than that will take pressure off of Daniels and open up the passing game. The Bulls defense must contain QB Christian Ponder, the passing game, and limit big plays in the air or on the ground.

The Bulls have to limit mistakes and penalties and win the turnover battle.

NG: Florida State has to put USF's offense in 3rd and long and put the pressure on an unproven commodity in Daniels. Next, they have to run well. We saw last week that if they run with purpose it opens up the offense. Lastly, the defensive backs, minus Greg Reid and Dionte Allen, need to show up, make plays, and play assignment football. Stop trying to do so much.

7) How do you see this game turning out?

LW: It should be a high scoring affair, as both offenses have some firepower. The key for South Florida is to win first down, keep the Seminole defense off balance and don't put Daniels in difficult down and distance situations. FSU has struggled with consistency over the past seasons and the Bulls could be catching them at a great time after their big win in Provo last week. USF will treat this like a major bowl game and play with incredible passion and intensity. FSU needs to match it or the Bulls could surprise here. I see a close game.

NG: USF will make some plays because frankly FSU's defense hasn't been able to stop anyone's passing attack. I think the game is going to be close going into the second half. It is there FSU will start to separate themselves as the offensive line continues to wear out USF's defense. I think we'll see Ty Jones and company start to see chances to pick up yards in bunches. That will put USF on its heals, and that is when I think a big play or two will put FSU ahead for good. FSU will ride the running game to a 35-17 win.

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