Scouting Florida State Defense, Special Teams

Florida State's defense is kinda hard to fully understand. They are giving up 116 yards on the ground, which isn't bad, and 232 through the air, which is. They have held eight opponents to less than 20 points and won all of those games. They allowed three opponents to score 28 or more and lost all of those.

The thing that jumps out at you is that FSU is among the besting the nation with 41 QB sacks, but teams with a great pass rush usually don't give up much yardage through the air. In this case, it's sort of a feast or famine situation. If you can protect your QB you can have a ton of success. It's important to note that in the last two games FSU has totaled just three sacks after averaging 4.2 a game for the first nine contests of the season.

The defensive line is reasonably solid against the run, but very good at rushing the passer. Defensive end Brandon Jenkins (10) and Markus White (7.5) are outstanding pass rushers and provide a huge challenge for a Gator offensive line that allowed three or more sacks in each of the five games before Appalachian State. The inside guys Jacobbi McDaniel and Everett Dawkins are solid players and each has five tackles for loss. The ‘Noles also enjoy pretty good depth up front.

The linebacker group is led by a big time talent in WLB Nigel Bradham who has 80 tackles including four sacks. Middle linebacker Kendall Smith has 78 tackles and is reliable though unspectacular. Strong side linebacker Mister Alexander (45 tackles) is ok. This is not an elite unit, though Bradham is an elite player.

The secondary does not wow me and teams that have given their QB time have enjoyed excellent success. Corner Greg Reid is a good tackler with three interceptions and is clearly their best DB, but he's a risk taker. So is the other corner Xavier Rhodes who also has three interceptions. Free safety Nick Moody is a good player and the hero of the win over Maryland with a game clinching pick-six in the final minute of the game. Still you can't ignore the fact that they have allowed 947 passing yards in the last three games.

Overall, this is a decent defense, but not close to the better ones the Gators have seen. Still it's good enough to force the Gators to execute at least as well as they did against Georgia to have a realistic chance at success.

FSU Special Teams ---- FSU is as dangerous as anyone in the country here. Greg Reid is only averaging nine yards per punt return, but he does have a TD. He also averages almost 24 yards on kickoff returns, but as bad as Florida's kickoffs have been lately I don't expect to see the Gators kick to him. FSU covers kicks and punts well and has not allowed any return of 50-plus yards.

Punter Shawn Powell (44.3) is very good and FG kicker Dustin Hopkins has a great leg but is erratic (16-22). He missed a 40-yard kick to beat North Carolina, but bounced back to nail a 55-yarder to beat Clemson.

To me this game comes down to a few key elements. The Gators must have their best game on the offensive line. Florida must run the ball effectively for this offense to work and Gator passers must be protected. Defensively the Gators have to get off the field once in a while, especially early.

Neither team has been a good first quarter team this season so early success could be a huge factor. This is particularly true if Florida gets off to a good start because it would also pile more pressure on an FSU team desperate to end a six-game losing streak to the Gators.

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