Tomahawk Notes 11.18.10

Yesterday the new S&P+ & FEI ratings came out.  Those are the two components of the excellent F/+ Rating system.   Where does FSU stand?  We'll know Friday, but we can break down the individual components.

Offense

Florida State's offense rates 18th in S&P+.  FEI calls FSU's offense the 11th best in the country.  Those are very impressive and will probably average out to about 14th in the nation.

Some of you might find this surprising.  But the key here is to look at the competition level and adjust for it.  To date, Florida State's offense has played the toughest set of defenses in the country.  #1.  Numero Uno.  

Florida State's offense has played six of the top defenses in the country.  And for the most part, it has performed quite well against them relative to what others have done.  Some teams have scored more points against those opponents, but the overwhelming majority of those have come off short fields due to turnovers, or in fact defensive scores themselves.  FSU's field position this year has not been good as its young defense in a new scheme is quite average and thinking rather than reacting.

Defense

Speaking of that defense, S&P+ rates it 41st while S&P+ rates it 36th.  That's quite close and will probably average out to 39th.  That is within the range that we predicted in the pre-season:

Our official Tomahawk Nation prediction for the defense is that it will be in the 26th-42nd range, and specifically the 37th best defense in the country, as measured by FootballOutsiders' F/+ Defensive Efficiency Measure. That would be a tremendous jump, from 88th to 37th, but we think that jump can be made.

Is Florida State's defense good?  No.  But it is above average and has made an enormous jump from 88th to 39th.  How good are the offenses FSU's defense has faced?  Try 57th.  That's a huge difference from the #1 set of defenses FSU's offense has faced.  

Injury News

This is my informal injury report.  It has not been officially released by FSU.  I do choose to include players who were there at the start of Fall.  I do that to show the entire extent of the missing talent that FSU began fall expecting to play.  Starters are in bold.  Key contributors in italics

OUT
RB: Jermaine Thomas (knee)- until bowl game
WR: Jarmon Fortson (kicked off team), A.J. Alexander (left team)
OL: David Spurlock (concussion), Blake Snider (lower leg-season), Bryan Stork (mono 'til bowl game)  [FSU is on its 4th-string guard.]
DE: Jamar Jackson (left team)
DT: Moses McCray (ACL done for year)
LB: Nigel Carr (kicked off team), JaJuan Harley (left team)

Questionable/ Probable
QB: Christian Ponder (elbow)
WR: Willie Haulstead (Concussion)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Ryan McMahon is approaching a milestone Saturday that speaks volumes about the resilient, fifth-year senior center.

McMahon will make his 50th consecutive career start - he's never missed a game - and tie cornerback Tony Carter's career record for most games start by a Florida State player when he makes the first snap at Maryland's Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium.

With 49 career starts, he's already blown past the previous high for starts by an FSU offensive lineman. Lewis Tyre (1992-95), who was credited with 45, was a four-year starter at guard for the `Noles.

The streak is a source of pride with McMahon and a badge of honor and distinction in the eyes of FSU coach Jimbo Fisher.

"He's a tough guy," Fisher said, following Wednesday's practice in preparation for the ACC divisional elimination game with the Terrapins. "There have been a lot of times when he probably should have never played. He's been banged up, bruised up. He's one of the toughest guys I've been around in my career - seriously. He's like Christian (Ponder). Sometimes you don't even know (he's hurt). McMahon never complains. He's an extremely tough guy."

One of those times came this past spring, when McMahon continued to delivered snaps to Ponder, despite an elbow that needed surgery. He has also dealt with a number of other maladies - none of which he cares to discuss.

"He does (take care of himself), but he's got a very high tolerance for pain," Fisher said. "From being around him for four years, it has a lot to do with his tolerance of pain, his commitment to playing and how much he loves football. He's one tough son-of-a-gun; especially playing inside like that. He's had ankles, knees, elbow (injuries). You've got to remember he played on that elbow that needed Tommy John surgery for two weeks (in the spring) and never told anybody - and blocked."

McMahon downplays the feat.

"I had an injury in spring practice, but I got that taken care of," offering little to no insight in the seriousness of the elbow injury.

In his eyes, the pain is merely an inconvenience, compared to the value he brings to the team by being prepared to go every Saturday. And he's got a nasty gash across the bridge of his nose to prove it; courtesy a pre-game blow to the helmet by linebacker and teammate Nigel Bradham more than a month ago.

"Everybody's banged up here and there," said McMahon, who makes it a point to get in the cold tub twice a week and squeeze in as much rest as possible. "There's a lot of pride. Honestly, I'm not thinking about that at all this week. I just take pride in my toughness and going out there and doing it. ... I'm not going to think about it until the season's over."

The majority of McMahon's most significant injuries have come during the offseason; good fortune which has enabled him to keep his streak alive. Still, he claims he has never come close to missing a game, which will mean even more to him when his career is completed and he's run his record to - hopefully - 53 games.

Smith felt his breakout game against Clemson was coming

In a matter of 60 minutes, sophomore wide receiver Rodney Smith more than doubled his career high for receiving yards against Clemson, when he reeled in four receptions for 121 yards in FSU's 16-13 victory last week.

"I felt it coming," said Smith, whose previous high was 49 yards on six catches against Boston College. "I was starting to get real comfortable with every thing that was going on with the offense. It just let me know that I can make plays for the teams."

Smith got his big night going with a 53-yard grab of an EJ Manuel pass on the opening play of the game, which stands as the longest pass play of the season by the `Noles. Later, he came through wit a clutch 42-yard over two Clemson defenders, which led to a late-game score.

"That's a part of growing confidence," Smith said of his breakout game. "Just making plays helps build confidence and in practice I always to do; I always try to make a play to show the coaches that I can be that person that they can throw the ball to. We've got a lot of good receivers that can get those deep balls. I just want to keep my name in the mix."

Performing at a consistently high level is the next step to master for Smith, who said carrying forward the success against the Tigers is a matter of "just continuing to work hard every day to show everybody that I'm no one-hit wonder."

Cornerback Rhodes making a name for himself

Redshirt freshman Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes has grown leaps and bounds since the start of the season and now has a place among the country's best cover men at such a young age. With 11 pass break-ups and three interceptions, Rhodes' 14 passes defended (1.40 pg), makes him the highest-ranked freshman pass defender in the nation.

Saturday at Maryland, Smith will face off against one of the most dynamic receivers in the country. Junior Torrey Smith has caught 44 passes for 752 yards (17.1 ypc) and eight touchdowns.

"That's their No. 1," Rhodes said of Smith. "I'm looking forward to them throwing him the ball. He's a great receiver."

The soft-spoken Rhodes, who stands 6-1 and weighs 210 pounds, carries a big stick on the field. A ferocious hitter, he has registered 32 tackles, including a staggering 30 of the solo variety. Best of all, he's dedicated himself to becoming an outstanding corner after somewhat reluctantly making the move from wide receiver.

A student of the game, he tries to make up for his lack of experience by studying film and working to perfect his fundament mechanics every day on the practice field. That doesn't mean he hasn't endured a couple learning experiences along the way. He had two of those in the fourth quarter against Clemson, which prompted him to apologize to Fisher afterward.

He felt awful about his decision to bring a game-changing interception out of the end zone, which led to him being tackled on the 16-yard line. He also dropped a certain pick-six interception, which could have helped the `Noles ice the game prior to the waning seconds.

"When I brought it out of the end zone, I feel like I hurt the team," Rhodes said. "I had faith in my offense that they would go down and score, but I should have kneeled it and put it on the 20. The dropped interception - I was too excited. You can't get too excited. I told coach I could have put a nail in the game right there."

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