2009 has been a roller coaster, toppsy turvy ride so far for Florida State. After a tough loss to Miami, a close call to Jacksonville State, a dominating win against BYU, and an embarrassing loss to USF last week that has people questioning the direction of the program again, FSU enters Saturday's game against Boston College in a game that has turned into a must win for the ‘Noles.
The national media and fans have been up in arms about last week's game against USF because of the perceived lack of direction from the coaching staff and the lack of focus from the players. While talented, FSU enters its 5th game of the season still trying to find its identity on both sides of the ball.
The offense played well against Miami and BYU, but against USF they made mistake after mistake as they fumbled 5 times (losing 4). USF's defensive line gave FSU all they could handle, squashing the running game and sacking Christian Ponder 5 times. The defense played better but they are still giving up the homerun plays that are resulting in touchdowns.
This week presents a match-up for FSU where they will face a bigger team in terms of size, but it is a team they have a speed advantage over. Coach Spaziani said this week that FSU "is very talented. They are big, fast and athletic. We have out hands full."
FSU and Boston College's series has been an interesting one since the Eagles joined the ACC. Neither team has won at home. Each game has provided a big play by the defense that has sparked its team to a win.
Here are the 3 keys going into the game that will dictate the winner Saturday:
1) Boston College's running game vs. FSU's front seven: Boston College has played 2 new quarterbacks in Justin Tuggle and Dave Shinskie. Shinskie led BC over Wake Forest last week so look for him to get the start. The Eagles are rated 99th in passing offense, thus this team likes to rely on its big offensive line and running game to set the pace for the offense. With 4 returning linemen BC returns almost an entire unit that flat dominated FSU last year. Sophomores Josh Haden and Montel Harris share the workload in the backfield. Last year Harris had a career day against FSU as he rushed for 129 yards.
FSU's front 7 gets a boost this week as this will be the first game they'll have every player available. Justin Mincey returned to practice this week and he is expected to play. Moses McCray and Jacobbi McDaniel are also going to be in the rotation after battling injuries the past few weeks. The key for the Seminoles will be the play of the linebackers. Last week they were consistently out of place, and they over pursued and missed a lot of tackles. Last year they weren't able to contain, and if they cant do it this year they will see a repeat performance of the Eagles marching up and down the field all night.
2) The play of FSU's running backs: Talented, deep but inconsistent can be the adjectives used to describe this unit so for in 2009. Part of that can be tied to the play of the offensive line, but this game provides an opportunity much like the game against BYU offered for the Seminoles. FSU's offensive line should be able to open up holes and give FSU's backs lanes to get up field.
Last week Ty Jones looked hesitant and didn't show the explosion and toughness we saw in the BYU game. Lonnie Pryor had a few tough carries that resulted in positive gains. This week, though, Jermaine Thomas is finally healthy and back in the starting line-up. While he doesn't have the power of the other 3 backs, Jermaine brings back that cut back mentality and speed that fits the scheme FSU runs. Look for him to bounce back this week. I'd still like to see what Tavares Pressley can do. The guy is explosive. Also, I feel Pryor needs to be given more of a role in the offense. Either way, FSU must get it together on the ground as they enter the ACC schedule.
3) The Environment: While the Seminoles have found success in Chestnut Hill this game is special for the Eagles because they are honoring Mark Herzlich and his battle with cancer. Mark was the heart of the team last year, and his fight with cancer has made national headlines since the start of the year. The crowd is expected to be electric, and this is a game FSU must come out dialed in on the task at hand. They cannot turn the ball over, give up big plays, and let BC control the game early on.
Other factors that will play a role:
• JaJuan Harley's first start: The freshman rover gets his first start Saturday. FSU is looking for someone to step up and make plays. Is Harley that guy?
• BC's passing: They have to be able to pass. They cannot be one-dimensional against FSU.
• Greg Reid: He has been close to breaking off a return, and the Eagles have been susceptible in this area so far this year.
I really feel this game matches the BYU game in terms of big vs. fast. Boston College has been a force in the ACC over the past few years but they are not the team that has taken part in the last 2 ACC title games. There are questions at quarterback, and the defensive line hasn't been able to create much pressure up front. The Eagles bounced back from 54 yards of total offense against Clemson when they beat Wake last week.
FSU needs to play discipline football. When they are firing on all cylinders they can be dominating. This is a game the ‘Noles should win, but with the up and down performance of the team this year you cannot say with confidence what we'll see Saturday. All I know is FSU is 6-1 on the road the past 2 years, and I expect them to play good football Saturday in a hard fought win. FSU cannot go 0-2 in ACC play.
FSU 30 Boston College 21
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