Unless you have been living under a rock, Maryland fans can finally say, “I can’t wait for the top-25 matchup this weekend against Florida State.” As excited as I am, we need to understand that this game can turn ugly if either team rides into this game on their pride. Both Maryland and Florida State are 4-0, but neither have played significant competition. You could make the argument that Maryland blanked West Virginia who knocked off 11th-ranked Oklahoma State, but Holgorsen switched to Clint Tricket for the Oklahoma State game. Florida State played Pittsburgh who shut down UVA, but is that really an accomplishment this year? Both teams have high expectations and this game could be a season-changing win for either team. Regardless, both Edsall and Jimbo Fisher will learn a lot about their respective team.
After watching the Florida State-Boston College game last weekend, there were several things that stood out about the Seminoles, both good and bad. I break down three good and bad aspects heading into the game:
- Passing attack: When Winston is on, he sure is on. Winston threw for 330 yards on just 27 attempts, averaging 12.2 yards each attempt and 19.4 each completion. There is no doubt he has talent. In addition, Florida State has tall receivers, especially 6’5” Kelvin Benjamin. With the talent, height, and speed advantage, Florida State will certainly look to exploit the depleted Terp secondary. As the stats show, Florida State is not afraid to throw the deep ball and seem to abandon the short game at times. This will be the key to the game. Maryland’s cornerbacks Will Likely (didn’t even plan that one) receive help from the safeties to avoid the big plays downfield. If the secondary fails, this will put an enormous pressure on the Maryland offense to match points with Florida State. The Terps do not want to go into a shootout as it could end badly.
- Florida State’s secondary: Led by Ronald Darby, PJ Williams, and Telvin Smith, the Seminoles have the weapons on defense to shut down Diggs, Long, and King. The offense will need to execute in order to allow the offense to run efficiently. You may recognize sophomore Ronald Darby as he was a Terp target in 2012. There was a reason that the Terps pushed for him hard after Locksley was hired: this kid has serious talent, and he is the slot cornerback. The receivers will matchup well against the cornerbacks. There could be some great offensive plays and there could be some breakdowns with the defense taking advantage. Nonetheless, the young receiving corps will never get better unless they play against premier competition. This is premier competition.
- Doak Campbell Stadium: There are other good things about Florida State, but one of the best things for Florida State is their atmosphere at home. Yahoo! Sports ranks Doak as the 13th hardest stadium in the country. With the war chant and the spears, Maryland will travel to the loudest stadium it has heard since 2011, the last time Maryland traveled to Florida State. With a young team, it will take a little bit of time to get used to, but Doak will intimidate.
- FSU’s run defense: Florida State’s run defense was poor. The Seminoles gave up 200 yards against Boston College, who does not possess a very powerful running back. The Seminoles defensive line was pushed around quite around and was not able to stop anything, an aspect of their game that they pride themselves on. Enter Maryland, who ranks 24th in the nation in rushing yards per game. The read option is the perfect offense for dual-threat quarterback CJ Brown, and there is a reason he has exploded on offense. Maryland is used to having dynamic receivers that can make game-changing plays whenever the ball is in their hands. In order to have a shot, Maryland will need to establish the running game early.
- Florida State’s offensive line: There were several plays when Boston College blitzed over five guys and the line collapsed, allowing freshman phenom Jameis Winston to be sacked. In case you missed it, Winston did a good job avoiding pressure at times, including this miraculous hail-mary to end the first half. Nonetheless, there will certainly be plenty of blitz packages. At the end of the day, Winston is still a freshman quarterback. With a defense that averages 4.25 sacks a game, good for second-best in the country, Maryland will certainly use this to their advantage. Prediction: Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil will have at least two sacks along with Yannick Ngakoue, Quinton Jefferson, and Zeke Riser all recording a sack in the game.
- Chemistry: In the first quarter, it seemed as if Florida State looked to not all be on the same page. The defense was being pushed around a little, the offense was not in sync, and very little time was given to Winston on numerous throws. As this team is adjusting to a new quarterback, the Seminoles do not have the chemistry that they had under EJ Manuel. The biggest key will be forcing Winston to adjust to the coverages and pressure from all sides.
To those that think Maryland will get blown out, you are wrong. To those that think Maryland will blow out Florida State, you are also wrong. This game is about as even as possible. While I am not a believer that Florida State is the eighth-best team in the country, this team is still very talented. Maryland will be a good matchup for Florida State as well. If either team makes any mistake, the other team has weapons to exploit the mistakes. With Nigel King and Zeke Riser back for Maryland, the Terps receive some good news that can pay off huge dividends. I am not making predictions on the winner or score, but this game will be decided in a score in the last two minutes of the game. As the legend Bart Scott said, “Can’t wait!”