Two weeks of college football have passed. The nation has already witnessed drastic change to the football landscape. For Florida State, an impressive week one win against Pittsburgh is in the books. This past week the ‘Noles used their time off to regroup and recuperate. They now look ahead to their home opener versus Nevada.
Fans eagerly anticipate the first home game on Saturday. Home openers are always a fun time. However, many fans look further ahead on the schedule to October 19th. Yes, this is the date of the Clemson game. And yes, it’s 40 days away. Even so, preparation for Clemson begins now for the ‘Noles.
That is not to say FSU is disregarding their other games until then. Don’t get me wrong, every game matters. Allow me to explain.
Clemson boasts an explosive offense. In their first two games they have averaged 299.5 passing yards, 190 rushing yards, and 45 points. How do they do this? In simple terms, Clemson uses a no-huddle, hurry-up spread offense (many sets incorporate the pistol formation) with a mobile quarterback and dynamic, dangerous receivers. This isn’t meant to be a Clemson praise fest, though. Other teams run offenses similar to Clemson’s. Two teams in particular come to mind: Nevada and Maryland. What do you know… FSU faces these two teams!
Nevada visits Tallahassee on September 14th, while Maryland visits on October 5th, with games versus Bethune-Cookman and Boston College in between. Practice prep for Nevada begins this week. The Seminole defense will prepare to face Nevada’s original pistol/spread offense. Mobile quarterback, Cody Fajardo, leads the Wolf Pack offense. Last year as a sophomore, Fajardo threw for over 2700 yards and rushed for over 1100 yards. Impressive numbers. Earlier today, in his press conference, Coach Jimbo Fisher mentioned the test of facing Nevada’s offense: "Nevada's offense presents challenges. They go fast and are unique. Nevada's QB can beat you with his arm and his legs. The QB is key." The ‘Noles will no doubt have an athletic and physical edge over Nevada, but they will have to pay attention to and prepare for this somewhat atypical offense that partially reflects Clemson’s offense.
Skip ahead a few weeks. The FSU defense will again face a Clemson-like offense in Maryland. The Terrapins run a pro-style offense that focuses on read-option and spread concepts. Last year, Maryland’s offense had a dismal showing against Florida State; they only put up 170 yards. However, that was with a linebacker at quarterback for the Terps. Maryland has already seen improvement this season. The very versatile and talented wide receiver, Stefon Diggs, will be used again and again (think Sammy Watkins…Maryland version). Newcomer Deon Long is another versatile wide receiver to keep an eye on. Maryland will look to use those guys frequently. The Seminole defense should still have the advantage over the Terrapin offense. Their offense is in no way elite. Nevertheless, Florida State’s practices in the week preceding the Maryland game will surely include another overview of one more offense similar to Clemson’s.
That leaves the ‘Noles with a tune-up game against Bethune-Cookman, a road trip to a 2-0 Boston College team that has not looked great, and a bye week before facing Clemson. By the time that anticipated game occurs, Florida State’s defense should be very familiar with the no-huddle, hurry-up spread offense that Clemson utilizes. In other words, the Clemson offense should not be completely foreign to the FSU defense. They should be poised and in position to handle what Clemson throws their way.
The FSU-Clemson matchup doesn't take place for another 40 days, but preparation starts now for the Seminoles even if they aren’t "looking ahead" to that game. Now, the ‘Noles simply need to keep their focus and keep winning. Easier said than done.