In our sixth installment of our weekly series, we sit down and talk with Tomahawk Nation about this weekend's matchup with FSU.
BC Interruption: Florida State has the seventh ranked offense in the nation. Of course most of the talk has been the play of E.J. Manuel. Talk about some of the other weapons FSU possess this year and some of the ways they can beat you.
Tomahawk Nation: Florida State’s offense has feasted on bad opponents in 2012. The ‘Noles ran over the two FCS schools, a nose tackle-less Wake Forest, and an awful Clemson defense in a start that piled up some gaudy numbers. Against more talented, though still not great, units of USF and NCST the offense came back to earth. Most of this has to do with the offensive line, a group that saw an obscene amount of injuries last season. It featured ten different players earning a start last season including four true freshmen in the bowl game. So, what does FSU do to shore up the revolving door of an OL from last year? Well, they convert a defensive tackle and start him at left tackle and bring in a JUCO from Manchester, UK who has been playing football since 2011 and start him at right tackle. Sounds like a plan for success, right? It actually has been reasonably serviceable. The tackles have been generally good, and the young interior line has played well also. The ‘Noles have gashed teams with their stretch runs on outside zone (OZ) plays. Chris Thompson, who actually broke his back in 2011, has been a resurgent force. The other primary back has been James Wilder Jr., a sophomore who was a highly touted recruit from Tampa. This is a run first FSU offense.
The wide receiver corps is deep without real standout players. Rashad Greene is very fast and a quality player, Rodney Smith is 6’6" and is good in games in which he shows up to play. Kenny Shaw, Greg Dent, and Scooter Haggins are solid route runners. Tight end Nick O’Leary has seen an increased role in 2012, and if you didn’t know he’s Jack Nicklaus’s grandson you will by the end of Saturday’s broadcast. So far the Seminoles have moved the ball primarily on the ground with their backs and with Manuel’s legs (though this needs to be a bigger part of the offense than it has been) and has thrown off of it. EJ is probably capable of airing it out to get the ‘Noles to a win on Saturday, but I wouldn’t expect to see it.
BC Interruption: The Seminoles defense has been stout this year, holding offenses to 221 yards per game. Of course much of that that can be attributed to FSU's schedule, but how have they looked against their ACC opponents?
Tomahawk Nation: I’ll be interested to see Football Outsiders’ FEI ratings for the FSU defense when they come out after week 7, which include an adjustment for opponent. The Seminoles were expected to be very good on defense in 2012, even after losing All-American defensive end Brandon Jenkins and starting corner and fantastic punt returner Greg Reid for the year. Though Clemson really went to the well and pulled out everything they had, piling up impressive numbers against FSU, the ‘Noles have still been very good on defense thus far. They ripped Wake to pieces, made some great third quarter adjustments against the Tigers, and shut down the Wolfpack for much of the game last week. The offense hung this group out to dry in Raleigh with a ridiculous disadvantage in time of possession in the second half. The defensive line is very good and quite deep, the defensive backfield is extremely talented, and the linebackers are decent though underwhelming relative to expectations. It’s a very good defense in Tallahassee this season. One concern that we do have is the snap counts played by the starting defensive ends this year. Brandon Jenkins’ loss hasn’t really been felt in the quality of contribution from the starters, as Tank Carradine was really like the 2a player on the depth chart, but it has hurt the rotation. Bjoern Werner and Carradine have played far more snaps than FSU fans would like, so we’re hoping to play the sort of game that allows them some rest on Saturday.
BCI: Jimbo Fisher has done a phenomenal job recruiting for Seminoles during his time at FSU. Are there any freshman players on the two deep that BC fans should be aware of?
TN: The contributions from the 2012 recruiting class have actually been few and far between. Corner Ronald Darby gets some reps behind Nick Waisome at field corner (Greg Reid’s old spot), Cason Beatty is a true freshman at punter, and Mario Edwards Jr. has played a few snaps at defensive end. Eddie Goldman was in for a couple of plays early in the season, and a couple of linebackers have seen some special teams play. It really speaks to the quality of Jimbo’s previous classes that the top class in the country in 2012 is unable to place many meaningful contributors into the starting lineup. There has been a lot of quality depth accumulated in Tallahassee over these last few years, and it’s a major reason why expectations were so high for the ‘Noles coming into the year.
BCI: Sorry I have to ask, what happened last weekend? How are Seminole fans reacting to the loss, and how will FSU respond this weekend?
TN: Scholars will attempt to answer that question for years to come. It was truly perplexing. Yes, FSU had its difficulties finishing drives in the redzone in the first half, but the ‘Noles dominated on offense and defense and led 16-0 at half. Some will tell you that they were uneasy at this point, but do not count me among them. NC State hadn’t posed any semblance of a threat on offense and the Seminoles were running the ball down their throats, with Thompson on pace for a 200+ yard game. I think this is why I understand Jimbo Fisher’s second half actions a little more than some. It seemed as though going into a Saban-like shell with the lead to bleed the clock and protect the ball was a feasible if not desirable option. It turned out that this conservatism, as well as a bad interception thrown by EJ Manuel and allowed by Rodney Smith allowed the Pack back into the game. From there it became apparent that Fisher did not trust Manuel to put the game away, along with a multitude of terrible errors by the ‘Noles that ultimately cost them the game and any chance at a national title. As I mentioned, though the defense failed to stop the Wolfpack on the final long drive for the win, the seeds of this loss were planted by the offense. Zero points in the second half and a complete cluster of an effort drive in and drive out. It was a debacle, an embarrassment, and a real look in the mirror for Florida State fans. The coaching staff and this team have had to answer a lot of questions this week, and the foundations of the program itself have come into question. It will be interesting to see the response on Saturday in Tallahassee.
BCI: Alright prediction time. How much are the Eagles going to win by. I kid I kid, what do you think will happen this weekend?
TN: Oh, how I wish that I knew. FSU has shown its ability to lay eggs all over the place. The ‘Noles also blew the doors off of Wake at home to begin the year. Trying to think about this game in a vacuum, the Eagles’ struggles on the offensive line do not bode well in their matchup with the elite FSU defensive line, and their struggles in run defense are going to be a problem against the one thing Florida State has consistently done well on offense this year. I certainly think that the Seminoles will win. Could I see an ugly, 16-point kind of win that just leaves everyone disgusted? Yes. Could I also see a furious start from an embattled team and coaching staff that leads to an easily covered 27ish point spread? Yes. I’m usually inclined to lean towards the former scenario when it comes to FSU, but this is a home game and an important one for the program. Hopefully my expectations of a flat FSU to start games in which they’re a heavy favorite fall by the wayside on Saturday.
Thank you for your answers, and make sure you stop by Tomahawk Nation for all of your Florida State Seminoles news and opnions.