Florida State currently sits at 7-3 and by gametime the 'Noles will know if a win can clinch the first division title in five years or if a victory will simply keep FSU in the race. A win will give FSU its best ACC record since division play began in 2005. Maryland is also 7-3 and in the hunt for the division. How good are these Terrapins? Let's find out.
Time: 8 PM
Line: FSU -4
TV: ABC (Regional)
Injury Report: (Starters in Bold, key reserves in Italics)
Florida State's Defense v. Maryland's Offense
Friedgen has been around and has had a ton of success as an offensive football coach. Ralph got his college football start as a player for the University of Maryland and was recruited to the university by none other than Gameday's Lee Corso. Friedgen then got his first taste of the college coaching scene as a GA at UMd in the early '70's. The big man then bumped around several smaller schools until becoming the offensive coordinator at Maryland in the eary/mid-'80's. The Fridge then followed Ross to Georgia Tech where they were able to claim a national title in the '90 season. When Ross went to the pros, so did Ralph. The Chargers ended up making it to the Super Bowl in 1995 with Friedgen as their offensive coordinator. RF went back to Tech in '97 as offensive coordinator. You will probably recall those offenses as very balanced groups. Friedgen took over the Maryland Terps in time for the 2001 season. Since coming to College Park as the head man, Friedgen revitalized a team that had been pretty bad for quite a while. The Terps won the ACC in 2001 and has had several 10 win seasons while at the school. Now, thanks to a lack of QB recruiting in particular, he's on the hot seat.
Obviously, Friedgen is an offensive minded football coach. We all remember his days at Georgia Tech when he was able to call some magnificent football games. His offenses were very balanced and Ralph liked to use core plays out of a lot of formations to assure execution and confuse the defense. In addition to the confusion that all these formations had on a defense, RF was able to create favorable matchups and matched his strengths against his opponent's weaknesses on each play.
West Coast offenses have emphasis on balanced football from traditional pro-sets (2 WR-1TE-2RB usually). In general, passing in the 1st half for quick scores sets up the run in the 2nd to protect an early lead, but the run game is still important. Overall it's a very detail-oriented approach to the game that emphasizes technique, execution, planning, and strategy over raw talent. Instead of "take what the defense gives you," the overriding philosophy is closer to "make the defense give you what you want by outsmarting and outplaying them." Its a difficult and verbose offense to teach unless its very distilled down and simplified, which is why it doesnt always succeed in college.
According to Bill Walsh, the quick passing of the WCO was only a supplement to the running game and 5-7 step drop passing game. It didn't "replace" the running game nor was it the base of the offense. It was there to take advantage of bad defensive adjustments and work as a "constraint" to spread the field horizontally, like how spread teams do a variety of things (like bubble screens) to make you respect their spread out WRs.
There is no mystery to a Friedgen offense. Its the same plays everyone else uses, including ourselves, but its extremely multiple in the formation sense. That is how he confuses a defense.
Maryland uses a ton of people on its offense. Multiple in formation and multiple in personnel.
Any good offense starts with its QB. Here the Terps have # 5 Danny O'Brien 6-3 215 Fr.-RS. He is on fire. In his last four games he has 10 TDs and 1 INT, but BC, Miami, and Clemson (all much better defenses than FSU's) held him very much in check. O'Brien has a good but not great arm and he makes good decisions for a first-year starter. #11 Jamarr Robinson 6-0 195 Jr.-1V is a changeup and he cannot throw well at all. He is a runner.
Maryland has two very good wideouts in Z #82 Torrey Smith 6-1 205 Jr.-2V and X #7 Adrian Cannon 6-2 204 Sr.-3V. Smith has 47 catches for 780 and 8 TDs. Cannon has 27 for 238. Smith will play NFL ball and has burned FSU before. Maryland also uses a variety of other wideouts as you can see below. There is very little discernible pattern to their use:
12 Kevin Dorsey 6-2 205 So.-1V
85 Tony Logan 5-10 180 Jr.-2V (awesome return guy)
17 Quintin McCree 6-1 190 Jr.-2V
83 Emani Lee-Odai 6-2 200 Sr.-3V
3 LaQuan Williams 6-1 200 Sr.-2V
4 Ronnie Tyler 5-9 185 Jr. 2V
13 Kerry Boykins 6-0 200 So.-1V
Smith is capable of hurting FSU's secondary, but FSU seems to be quite content to play conservatively and making the opponent go on long, mistake-free drives. That will fall more on the young quarterback than it will on the receivers. I expect a lot of zone from FSU this week, per usual, most likely a lot of cover two. Why cover two?
Because Maryland isn't likely to have a tight end or other player be able to threaten the middle of the field, and because though beat up along the defensive line, FSU should be able to handle Maryland's run game without using 8 and 9-man fronts. Speaking of those tight ends...
Maryland has had trouble with the tight end position this year. #89 Matt Furstenburg 6-4 245 So.-1V is the main receiving threat. Maryland also has two blocking tight ends in #88 Will Yeatman 6-6 268 Sr.-TR and #34 Devonte Campbell 6-2 255 So.-1V. I'm sure Friedgen will get one of them wide open via motion or formation shifting.
One thing that Friedgen cannot really help all that much with motion is Maryland's offensive line:
Unfortunately for Maryland, it lost its #1 and #3 offensive tackles earlier in the year. And the group was not all that impressive to begin with. Though FSU's defensive line has clearly hit a wall with 4 sophomores and three freshmen, this group might not dominate the 'Noles' young defensive line like NC State, UNC, and Clemson did. That's not to say that FSU will dominate either.
Here is Patrick Stevens' of D1scourse with his take on the offensive line:
Dill began the year at right tackle, but swung over to the left side when Justin Gilbert was lost for the season with a torn ACL at West Virginia. Pete DeSouza was elevated to starting right tackle, but he was involved in a motor scooter accident and both broke his legs. Pinegar moved from center to right tackle and Fulper took his place at center.
This line has given up four sacks in four games together, but some of that is a function of Maryland making quick throws. The Terps have done what they could to cover up how thin this group is, and for the most it has worked. In three losses, Maryland has allowed 13 sacks. In seven wins, it is yielded just four. Some of that is a function of opponent, obviously. But it's not a terrible unit.
Same goes for the running game. Maryland couldn't do much against West Virginia, Clemson and Boston College, got 96 yards on Miami and have been generally average against most middle-of-the-road teams.
Maryland is probably coming off its best offensive line game of the season. Yes, it was against Virginia, but it was a welcome sign for the Terps. Overall, the line is better suited for a quick passing game with a handful of downfield strikes, and Maryland will try that philosophy until forced into something else.
Many thanks to Patrick for that and please do visit his excellent Maryland site.
Maryland has decent backs in #23 Da'Rel Scott 5-11 205 Sr.-3V, # 8 Davin Meggett 5-9 215 Jr.-2V, and #10 D.J. Adams 5-10 220 Fr.-RS. But they aren't dominant backs by any means. FB 36 Taylor Watson 6-2 240 Jr.-2V can carry and block decently.
Maryland's offense is 59th in the country. That's better than BC or Wake, but worse than Clemson. Maryland is not a team that can physically beat up Florida State. But it can beat FSU if it confuses FSU's defense and breaks some big plays thanks to confusion or busted coverages. That is why a conservative game plan here is the best strategy. FSU doesn't need to force anything on defense. I am concerned about communication in the secondary in a hostile environment against a very complex offense featuring a lot of motion.
I'll predict Maryland runs 67 plays for 350 yards (5.25 per play).
Inside, let's look at Maryland's special teams and defense.
On the defensive side of the field, Don Brown leads the Terps 4-3 attack. Brown has experience as a head coach, leading Plymouth State, Northeastern, and UMass. Brown is most well known for his successes at UMass before getting on-board with the Terrapins.
Brown's version of the 4-3 is similar to Clemson's in many respects. It uses multiple fronts to confuse blocking schemes and plays quite a bit of Robber/Cover 2 Man. Brown loves to blitz, and he will come often. It'll be zone blitzes with cover three and many CB and LB blitzes with man coverage. They are high risk on third down.
Maryland's defense is rated #34. It is not as good as UNC's, NC State's, or Clemson's, but is better than Virginia's and Wake's.
It all starts up front for any defense:
This is a decent defensive front. Maryland really does a nice job varying it, however, as it can go from 4-3 to 3-4 looks and use Anderson as a 5-tech. FSU should be able to run some against this front somewhat and there are no great pass-rushers on this group. I am interested to see how 4th-string right guard Henry Orelus handles the talented tandem inside for Maryland.
If Maryland's defensive line is solid but unspectacular, it's backers are really good. Two of these guys will play pro ball, if not all three:
Wujciak always has a million tackles. Maryland loves to blitz this group and I am somewhat worried of how FSU's blitz pickup will be this week. FSU is on its 5th right guard of the year: Spurlock (2 concussions, done), Snider (broken ankle), Stork (Mono), Sanderson (ineffective, but was a 4th-stringer so perhaps expected), and now Orelus. How will Orelus be in blitz pickup? Further, with Jermaine Thomas out, how will FSU's backs be in blitz pickup? This could be a great week for the screen game if Maryland wants to blitz a lot. It would be my preference for FSU to go with more I-formation this week with more max protections to avoid confusion and a possible turnover against the zone blitz. But...
Counterpoint: Maryland's linebackers are its best players. The spread can take them off the field. That makes sense and FSU runs it very well.
Maryland is decent on the back end. This is a veteran group comprised entirely of upperclassmen. Without Willie Haulstead, however, how will FSU attack the secondary? I expect Taiwan Easterling to have a big game this week because he has typically played well in cold and poor weather.
If there is one guy in this group FSU can attack it is Hughes. I think Chism is the better of the two. Let's ask Stevens again:
Chism has endured a rougher season than a lot of folks imagined, but he hasn't been a liability either. Hughes is a first-year starter who splits time with redshirt freshman Dexter McDougle. He's solid, but not exactly a lockdown guy, either. Overall, the corners haven't generated much attention --- positive or negative --- this season.
The safeties, meanwhile, are probably the best part of Maryland's defense --- and that's saying something with a well-regarded linebacking corps. Perez began his career at Southern Cal, left after a year and was a reserve his first two seasons at Maryland. As a senior, he's played at an above-average level nearly every game.
Tate was a coveted wideout recruit and was moved to safety upon arriving for his first camp. He's the heir to Maryland's tradition of having one ridiculously freakish athlete on hand who stands out --- in part because of his talent, and in part because Maryland usually only has one or two of these guys. Think Shawne Merriman, Vernon Davis, Jared Gaither, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Bruce Campbell. He had one of his best games against Miami two weeks ago, and he might be Maryland's best hope to create problems for Florida State's offensive line via the blitz.
Here's FSU's starting lineup:
QB 7 Christian Ponder 6-3 222 Sr.
3 EJ Manuel 6-4 234 So.
X 82 Willie Haulstead 6-3 213 So (Concussion, can't fly)
83 Bert Reed 5-10 175 Jr.
81 Kenny Shaw 6-0 170 Fr.
TE 88 Beau Reliford 6-6 254 Jr.
85 Ja'Baris Little 6-3 237 Jr.
Z 8 Taiwan Easterling 5-11 200 Jr.
84 Rodney Smith 6-6 222 So.
I think FSU will go with more of a ball control attack this week, utilizing shorts passes and runs if possible, and if available, some deep balls against zone pressures with max protection. 73 plays and 440 yards sounds about right. That's 6 yards-per-play.
Both teams have good special teams and Maryland has some really good returners, most notably Tony Logan who is every bit as good as Greg Reid.
Chance Of Victory: 66%. Maryland is no pushover. FSU is the better team and should win this game even with the injuries.
Score Prediction: Noles 28, Terrapins 17.