Florida State goes after its sixth victory of the season Saturday's home-finale against slumping Maryland, which would enable the Seminoles to extend their nation-leading bowl appearance streak to 28 games.
Not only is it Senior Day at Doak Campbell Stadium, but FSU will recognize veteran defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, his wife Diane and family. Andrews is retiring after a 26-year run and this is his final home game. The Seminoles are coming off a 41-28 win at Wake Forest in freshman quarterback EJ Manuel's first start, evening their record at 5-5.
Maryland, in the midst of a five-game losing streak, has dropped five consecutive games since stunning Clemson on Oct. 3. The Terrapins got 129 rushing yards from sophomore quarterback Jamarr Robinson, subbing for Chris Turner, in Saturday's loss to Virginia Tech as they failed to score an offensive touchdown.
As we've done all season NoleDigest looks at the 3 biggest factors going into the game and talks how they'll impact the game.
FSU's Rushing Offense vs. Maryland's Defense
Led by All-ACC candidate Jermaine Thomas's 149 yards rushing against Wake Forest, the Seminoles rushed for 217 yards against the Deacons – their third highest single game rushing total of the season. It marked the third time this season the Seminoles have rushed for 200 or more yards in a single game and they have won each game. The Seminoles have won six consecutive games in the last two seasons when they have rushed for 200 yards or more in a single game.
The name of the game for the Seminole offense is to find balance between the rush and pass. Florida State's offense has been incredibly balanced in their last two victories. The Seminoles rushed for 27 7yards and passed for 278 yards in their victory over NC State and rushed for 217 yards and passed for 220 yards in their victory over Wake Forest. In its last two victories Florida State has a near perfect 1:1 ratio of rushing yards to passing yards with 495 yards rushing and 497 passing yards. The Seminoles are undefeated when they match that ratio this year.
While E.J. Manuel looked calm and was able to move the offense, the ‘Noles were successful last week because of Thomas. He's been on a tear these past 3 games, and now he has a realistic chance to rush for 1,000 yards. As a unit the rush offense for FSU has found it's groove and that must continue this weekend if FSU wants to become bowl eligible.
There is no reason to believe FSU cannot approach the 200 mark again this week as Maryland is simply struggling. They are allowing 149 yards a game on the ground, and they've been playing worse as the weeks pass.
In a game that is expected to have substantial amounts of rain look for FSU to really pound the ball this weekend and maintain clock control and game tempo.
Manuel's Continued Maturation
Not many expected E.J. to come out and play the way he did last week at Wake. He was efficient and showed excellent command of the offense. While Jimbo Fisher scaled the playbook back some, Manuel showed last weekend that he is very capable to lead this offense.
FSU's passing offense has been efficient all season and E.J. was no different. Manuel completed 15 of 20 passes for 220 yards and one touchdown in his first career start against Wake Forest. Of his 15 completed passes, 10 went for either a first down or a touchdown. Manuel completed at least one pass to seven different receivers with five different receivers catching at least one pass for a first down.
If the rain is as expected don't look for FSU to go to the air too much. When they do, though, look for them to have success as Maryland is 104th in the nation in pass efficiency on defense. Against an offense like FSU's that's been humming this is a game that isn't a good match-up for a struggling defense like Maryland.
Contending with Distractions
There is a lot going on this weekend for the Seminoles. It's Senior Day, and it is the last home game of Mickey Andrews' illustrious career. Also, FSU is sporting new Nike uniforms, and as we've seen that often doesn't bode well for an FSU win. Finally, FSU needs this game to keep their bowl streak alive so there is some added pressure there.
FSU is a solid favorite (2 touchdowns) so this game depends on if they can focus on this weeks task and not look ahead to next week.
This team is young and they have been inconsistent at times. If FSU doesn't come out ready to play this game could turn into a loss for FSU.
Look for the Seminoles to come out sluggish in the first half as it's going to be raining, it's a noon game, and there is a lot of added stuff going on this weekend.
As the game goes on NoleDigest expects FSU's offensive line and rushing attack to set the pace, and look for Jermaine Thomas to have another strong game. Manuel will have to create some in the passing game to keep Maryland honest, but FSU will ride it's rushing attack to a win.
Florida State 33 Maryland 16
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