Breaking Down the Opponent: Florida State

Terps and Seminoles stack up evenly in statistics.

As the Terps try to capture their first Atlantic Division title in the past decade, they must first face conference powerhouse Florida State, who has dominated the series in the past.

The Seminoles are not the same old Bobby Bowden ‘Noles. Although they rock the same uniforms and still have an array of skill players on the field, this now a team under the helm of Jimbo Fisher, a coach recognized for his offensive savvy.

Before accepting offensive coordinator duties at Florida State in 2006, Fisher coached college standouts like JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn en route to a National Championship. His quarterback situation for Saturday, however, is nowhere nearly as certain.

After getting the spot start last week in the last second victory over Clemson, E.J. Manuel is a possible candidate to get the nod against Maryland. There is a report from the Orlando Sentinel that asserts incumbent starter Christian Ponder plans on returning.

With Manuel inserted in the offense, the Noles lean on him to make plays with his legs, mainly based on the success he had last week. Coming off an elbow injury, Ponder may try to avoid running the ball, therefore operating a pass-heavy attack.

There is no doubt however that tailback Jermaine Thomas will miss the game due to a knee injury. Thomas was the Seminoles’ leading rusher last season, and has racked up 522 yards rushing in 2010, 40 behind their leading rusher Chris Thompson.

Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown said Florida State simply has too much depth, so while, “the first guy may be down, well the second, third and fourth guys are pretty damn good too. They’re all good; they’re all talented; they all can run.”

The ACC’s third-best scoring offense is propelled by an outstanding offensive line, which has gotten praise from Maryland coaching staff for being unquestionably the most athletic.

Brown explained their zone scheme-blocking, the same method made famous by Mike Shanahan with the Denver Broncos. To combat it, the Terps defensive line will have to get east and west in a hurry.

“They know who to block, and you got to get off the ball, attack the line of scrimmage and fit your gaps otherwise it is going to be a long day in the run game,” Brown cautioned.

Ideally, Maryland will once against use their opportunistic defense to help them keep pace with the Seminoles. The Terps are 6-2 when the win the turnover battle, and rank 30th in scoring defense at 20.7 points per game. Right behind them: the Noles at 19.1.

This is not the only statistical similarity between the two teams:

Rushing offense: FSU (186.6) vs. MD (134.5)

Passing offense: FSU (213.6) vs. MD (192.4)

Scoring offense: FSU (31.9) vs. MD (31.4)

Rushing defense: FSU (110.9) vs. MD (131.2)

Passing defense: FSU (227.9) vs. MD (213.7)

Total defense: FSU (338.8) vs. MD (344.9)

Coming off his fourth ACC Rookie of the Week award, Danny O’Brien will lead the Terps offense against one of the stoutest defenses in the nation. The 39 total sacks by the Seminole’s defensive line are the best around, four more than second place South Carolina and Boise State.

Defensive end Brandon Jenkins has 10 sacks to his name this season, fourth-best in the country. His counterpart, Markus White, has 6.5. Both rank in the top five in the ACC.

Both Jenkins and White are expected to pose serious to challenges to the Terps’ fill-ins at tackle; neither R.J. Dill nor Paul Pinegar began this season at the position they will be in Saturday.

Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen credits their combination of size and speed, in addition to their prolific spin moves for their ability to get to opposing quarterbacks.

In the secondary, Florida State no longer operates under the same Mickey Andrews man-to-man, press coverage. Instead, they have lessened the pressure, inserted more zone coverage.

The Seminoles use a cover three zone, but use tight one-on-one coverage on one wideout, with off-coverage on the other. While it is not the same scheme Andrews used, it is still good for fifth-best in the conference.

“They’re very good against the run and loading up the box up to stop then run, and then they’re really good at sacking the quarterback, which helps in the passing game,” Franklin said.

The game-plan for Maryland will be to keep this attacking defensive as long as possible. Execution, ball control and time of possession – three keys in which O’Brien said would be essential to the team’s success.

“We’re going to have to be that much shaper knowing that they are going to get to the ball a little quicker,” O’Brien said. He added that utilizing the run to set up the pass would be a key.

The Seminoles have won three straight versus the Terrapins, and 18 of the 20 contests in all. Two seasons ago, in a similar situation, the Noles ended their division rivals’ chances of playing the ACC Championship, the ultimate goal both teams are fighting for this matchup.

News and Notes:

Out for the game: Desmond Kearse, Justin Gilbert, Lansford Watson, Marcus Whitfield, Ben Pooler, C.J. Brown, Pete DeSouza

Kickoff: 8 p.m.


Twitter: @samspiegs

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