Previewing Maryland-Florida State

Image from al.com.

After two close games against top (and undefeated) ACC schools, Maryland heads back on the road to take on another top program – the Florida State Seminoles. While FSU stands at a less-than-impressive 3-3, they’re statistically (and talent-wise) one of the better teams in the country. Let’s run down the game, unit-by-unit.

Maryland Passing Offense vs. Florida State Passing Defense:

The Terps rank 71st in the nation in Passing S&P+ (a combination of success rate, points per play, and opponent adjustments) while Florida State ranks17th in Passing Def S&P+. For those in favor of more simple statistics, Maryland has passed for 205.5 yards per game (83rd in the nation) with a 110.66 pass efficiency rating (103rd in the nation) while the Seminoles have given up 197.83 yards per game in the air (30th in the nation) with an opponent pass efficiency rating of 129.88 (67th in the nation).

Maryland has recently made the switch at quarterback from former ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O’Brien (97/156, 930 yards, four touchdowns against six interceptions) to speedster C.J. Brown (27/59, 269 yards, four touchdowns against two interceptions, 33 rushes for 315 yards and two touchdowns), with mixed success. Brown has been excellent on the ground, but haven’t found a consistent passing touch – or a consistent target. With Kevin Dorsey (29 receptions for 361 yards and two touchdowns) out for the game, Brown’s only reliable passing option will be tight end Matt Furstenburg (21 receptions for 256 yards and two touchdowns), who broke out with a big five reception, 104 yard, two touchdown performance against Clemson. Starting at wide receiver will be senior Quintin McCree (ten receptions for 57 yards) and true freshman Marcus Leak (four receptions for 24 yards), making his first career start.

Off the edges, Florida State starts Bjoern Werner (17 tackles, seven for a loss, five sacks, five pass breakups, one fumble forced, one fumble recovery, one touchdown) and Brandon Jenkins (22 tackles, five for a loss, two sacks). Werner is one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the ACC, and broke up four passes last week against Duke. At corner they start Xavier Rhodes (21 tackles, one for a loss, one pass breakup), Mike Harris (34 tackles, six for a loss, three pass breakups) and Greg Reid (12 tackles, one for a loss, three pass breakups). At safety are LaMarcus Joyner (27 tackles, one for a loss, two interceptions, two pass breakups) and Terrance Parks (20 tackles, one pass breakup).

Advantage: Florida State. Maryland can’t pass against anyone.

Maryland Rushing Offense vs. Florida State Rushing Defense:

Efficiency-wise, Maryland isn’t doing that much better on the ground than in the air, ranking 70th in Rushing S&P+, compared to Florida State’s 22nd in Rushing Defense S&P+. In terms of yardage statistics, Maryland is 38th in the country with 186.5 rushing yards per game, while Florida State is 9th in rushing defense, allowing 86.83 yards per game on the ground.

Maryland adds the aforementioned Brown to their group of effective runners, joining Davin Meggett (99 rushes for 482 yards and three touchdowns) and Justus Pickett (39 rushes for 175 yards and a score). Power runner D.J. Adams is still mysteriously missing from the rotation.

Florida State starts Everett Dawkins (14 tackles, one interception) and Anthony McCloud (14 tackles, four for a loss, two sacks) on the interior defensive line, and McCloud has been great this season. At linebacker they use Christian Jones (25 tackles, four for a loss, two pass breakups, one sack, one forced fumble), Vince Williams (24 tackles, four for a loss, two sacks, one pass breakup), Telvin Smith (16 tackles, four for a loss, two pass breakups, one sack, one forced fumble) and Nigel Bradham (34 tackles, five for a loss, two sacks, two pass breakups). The Seminoles are averaging over 8.5 tackles for a loss per game, tops in the conference and third in the nation.

Advantage: Florida State. This is usually the one area Maryland does well in, but the Seminoles have an A+ rushing defense.

Florida State Passing Offense vs. Maryland Passing Defense:

Florida State is 26th in the nation in Passing S&P+, while Maryland is actually 15th in Passing Defense S&P+ (absolutely shocking). The Seminoles are 12th in the country and first in the conference with 311 yards per game through the air, and 18th in pass efficiency with a 154.97 mark. Maryland is 60th in the country against the pass, giving up 220.67 yards per game, and 68th in pass efficiency defense (130.25). Lots of variety there between the advanced stats and more common ones. As someone who has watched Maryland play this year, they are not the 15th best pass defense in the country.

E.J. Manuel (87/137 for 1,191 yards and ten touchdowns against six interceptions, 32 rushes for 132 yards and two touchdowns) starts at quarterback for the Seminoles, but freshman Clint Trickett (44/72 for 675 yards and seven touchdowns against four interceptions) has seen significant playing time as well. Those ten interceptions has been one of the bigger problems Florida State has faced all year. Their top targets are true freshman Rashad Greene (26 receptions for 457 yards and six touchdowns), junior Rodney Smith (22 receptions for 386 yards and three touchdowns), and redshirt freshman Christian Green (14 receptions for 301 yards).

The only advantage Maryland may have here is that Florida State doesn’t have a Sammy Watkins to watch out for. But really, only one team can ever have a Sammy Watkins.

Advantage: Florida State. As the game goes on, the Terps’ secondary will be worn down.

Florida State Rushing Offense vs. Maryland Rushing Defense:

The Seminoles have struggled on the ground this year, ranking 71st in rushing S&P+ and 100th in rushing offense (111.67 yards per game). Meanwhile, the Terps are 65th in rushing defense S&P+ but rank 108th in rushing defense (214.67 yards allowed per game).

Ty Jones (20 rushes for 67 yards and one touchdown) is the starter, but true freshman Devonta Freeman (40 rushes for 188 yards and two touchdowns) has been getting most of the carries. The Terps have a pretty stout interior defensive line with Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis, but a deteriorated linebacking corps will make it hard for them stop anyone. Regardless, FSU just doesn’t have that many options on the ground.

Advantage: Maryland.

Yet again, we’re left with a 3-1 split in the favor of Maryland’s opponents. Like the past two weeks, it’s hard to see the Terps as anything but massive underdogs. Those last two weeks, however, the Terps played to the skill of their opponent, and it will be interesting to see if they can do that again in Tallahassee. There is one big difference, however – Maryland kept those two games close on the ground, and the Seminoles haven’t let anyone run on them this year. It’s hard to see the Terps being the exception. Florida State 34, Maryland 13.

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