To preview this weekend's game between the Eagles and Seminoles, we welcome back Bud Elliott of the excellent SB Nation Florida State blog Tomahawk Nation. In exchange, we answered some questions on BC over on their site.
BC Interruption: The last two seasons, when facing BC, a first-year starting QB has taken down the Seminoles. This week, FSU will likely face a third straight first year starter in true freshman Chase Rettig. Are you concerned at all that FSU won't have enough film to prepare to go up against Rettig? Are the 'Noles concerned at all about BC's offense?
Tomahawk Nation: The film angle is an interesting one I had not pondered. Yes, it does concern me that FSU hasn't seen any tape of Rettig. FSU DC Mark Stoops has shown a propensity to take away a team's strength and make the opponent beat FSU with its lesser tools. Against Miami, that was not allowing Jacory Harris to throw moon-balls down the middle. Not having tape on Rettig means FSU will likely start out in base zone coverage and make him prove he can consistently complete the short stuff accurately.
I don't think FSU is concerned with BC's offense. But I am also somewhat concerned that FSU's players won't take BC seriously after watching the tape of this season so far. After the Miami game, FSU's defense has every reason to come in overconfident.
BCI: Florida State has gotten off to a fast 5-1 (3-0) start, but four of those five wins have come against marginal opponents (Samford, BYU, Wake Forest, Virginia). The Noles have one very good win on the road -- that may or may not look better at season's end -- and one beatdown on the road against a very good Oklahoma team. How much do we really know about this team? How much better, in terms of wins and losses, do you think this team is from a season ago?
TN: I think we know a decent bit about this team. We know that Fisher will treat lesser opponents as a scrimmage and work on specific stuff. We know that FSU couldn't get lined up properly against Oklahoma's no-huddle attack, and that OU scored at least 14 points directly from FSU's alignment issues. We also know that FSU has corrected those issues in subsequent games. Lining up in the right position really has little to do with the opponent.
But I also do not think FSU is 28 points better than Miami in the Hurricanes' house on a consistent basis. FSU is a good team with a very good QB, a very good offensive line, and decent skill guys. The defense is loaded with young talent (FSU rotates about 20 guys and that 20 consists of 3 seniors, 5 juniors, 6 sophomores, and 6 freshmen) but is a year away from being one of college football's best. FSU's special teams are tremendous, with arguably the best kicker and kickoff man in the country, speed on the coverage teams, and a return ace in Greg Reid. I'm confident in saying FSU is one of the best 15 or so teams in the country, but I am not yet ready to endorse ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit in saying "FSU is the best team I have seen this year."
I see FSU as four wins better than last season (last year FSU won 7, this year I expect FSU to win 11, though it might take 14 games).
BCI: Last season, the Seminoles defense ranked 100+ nationally in almost every major statistical category. This year the D has been much improved. What adjustments on the defensive side of the ball can you point to that have made the biggest difference in this turnaround? Who's name can we expect to hear called often on defense on Saturday?
TN: Wow, where do I start? First, Jimbo brought in the strength guys who run Alabama and Nebraska. All player meals are monitored and specifically tailored to each player. We profiled it in the off-season, but FSU is now checking in at 1,800 lbs combined for its front-seven, where last year the 'Noles were around 1735 lbs. That added bulk, without sacrificing speed, has allowed the 'Noles to shut down the run without over-involving its safeties. If the safeties can play less run and more coverage, the pass defense also improves.
The coaching is light years better. I love Mickey Andrews and don't want to criticize him after he gutted out his final two years while dealing with a horrible tragedy in his family, but it was obvious some members of his staff didn't want to be in Tallahassee, were washed up, or were family friends of the head coach and had never before coached defense.
Better coaching has given the players much better technique. The new scheme is much more modern and is a mix of the Stoops brothers and the Pelini brothers (Mark is very close with Bo and Carl as they were in the same high school graduating class).
Mark Stoops has to be your runaway winner of the Broyles award this season. No defense (or offense) has improved quite like FSU's defense has. As for a player to watch, I'll go with #5 Greg Reid, one of FSU's stud corners. Greg is probably the most likely to grab a pick-six. On the defensive line, look for #49 Brandon Jenkins to battle Castonzo. Jenkins is the next in the line of great FSU pass rushers.
BCI: Typically, winning cures any sort of attendance problems a program is facing. Yet in three home games, FSU is playing in front of a three-quarters full Doak Campbell Stadium. What's the deal with Florida State's attendance issues? What sort of crowd are you expecting for the game Saturday?
TN: Lots of factors here. FSU doesn't have the tradition of a Florida or Georgia as it has only been playing big football for about 40 years, while the more established programs have been around for 80. FSU is not centrally located and the nearest major city is two hours away. Miami is seven hours away. The economy in Florida is awful. The Oklahoma game hurt and people were gun shy to come back. Young alumni experienced awful football when they went to school in Tally. I'm expecting a good crowd. It is parent's weekend. Let's go with 74,000, which is 90% capacity for this noon kick.
BCI: Are you worried at all about this game? Do you expect any sort of Seminole letdown after smacking around your in-state ACC rivals on the road? In your opinion, what does BC have to do to pull out a W on Saturday?
TN: I'm really not worried about losing the game. I do see FSU coming out a bit flat, and BC's defense is not a defense I want to play when flat. However, I do believe it is as a point where FSU will not lose to BC, even if the 'Noles have a letdown, unless BC also plays the best game it has all year. However, if FSU gets food poisoning, as it did in the Sugar Bowl against UF, I think BC has an excellent shot of keeping the game within a few ... touchdowns.
For BC to win the Eagles will need to really get the run game going, hit a big play off a coverage breakdown, and probably be a minimum of +3 in the turnover game. Right now I give FSU a 90% shot to win this, and if motivation wasn't a factor I'd probably bump it up to "BC wins 1 of 20 in Doak under these conditions."
BCI: Last one. You obviously expect Florida State to win this week -- 90%?! -- so I won't ask for a prediction. Instead, give the wise guys some advice. Do the 'Noles cover the 21-point spread?
TN: It all depends on how much Fisher wants to work on specific plays as opposed to just trying to score, and how much playing time the young guys get. If the freshmen are getting lots of reps, then I see BC covering in a 27-13 score. If Fisher wants to show off for the parents (doubt he cares about this), I could see a 38-10 type score. The wise-guy advice here is to pass on the number. FSU has covered four straight. BC has failed to cover in eight straight. This seems like the perfect time for Vegas to correct both streaks.
BCI: Moral victory? I guess I'll take it.