Thursday, December 02, 2010

ACCCG - What Does a Bobby Bowden-less FSU Mean for the Hokies?

Two teams with very different paths to Charlotte, NC will battle on Saturday. You see, one will fly north and the other south.

The Hokies began the year with a disappoi... blah blah... Boise State... blah blah Boise State Part Deux (a.k.a. James Madison). The fact is the Hokies dominated ACC play to achieve what no one has done since 2000: [insert U-word here] in regular season conference play. Coincidently, the team that did it in 2000 was Florida State -- their opponent in Saturday's game from lovely Charlotte, NC. The Hokies have done so well that we SuperFans have them close to the top ten in our weekly poll. Now, you our dear readers and I all know that MadJay, Iceman, and myself take the following sentiment to heart from Spencer Hall over at Everyday Should Be Saturday, "THAT PLAY WAS TERRIBLE EVEN IF IT DID SCORE A TOUCHDOWN" as we berate Bryan Stinespring over and over.

But in all fairness, this is an amazing accomplishment after that start of the season that shall not be named. Not to break your spirit any further but be prepared to enter your fallout shelter/tornado bunker for the start of next season. The Hokies play lovely Appalachian State to start the season. Why is that an issue you might ask? Well, App State was the last FCS team to defeat a ranked FBS team: Meeeeeeechigan. Guess what Corso will be talking about ad nauseum...

The Seminoles had a different path to the ACCCG (say that three times fast). Florida State too had great expectations. Coming into the season, they were the media darlings to win the ACC. Jimbo Fisher officially took over the reins as they quietly (okay Ann Bowden made sure it was loudly) shoved Bobby Bowden out the door. Fisher had virtually been running the team last year so it wasn't going to be a big issue anyway. The team was coming back strong and were ranked relatively high (17th) going into the big game against then number 10 Oklahoma. While the loss to the Sooners was a set back the Seminoles bounced back and beat up on BYU and four more teams thereafter.

The real setback for Florida State came when they lost, in succession, to the two schools with North Carolina in their names. It created competition and one of those crazy matrixed situation that they hire consultants from NASA to figure out where if team A wins and team B loses but all of team C visits their grandmothers then Desmond Howard head will explode, but if...

In the end, they defeated Maryland and Maryland defeated NC State, giving the Seminoles the Atlantic Division title. They ended the regular season with a resounding pummeling of the reeling Florida Gators.

As to the matchup, the Hokies, historically don't do so good against the Seminoles. Overall, the Hokies are 11-22-1 againgst Florida State. 2007 marked the first and only time (so far) head coach Frank Beamer had beaten them and has a record of 1-8 against them. You have to go back to 1975 to find the time before that to find a Hokie victory. This, mystically enough, was also the year before Bobby Bowden took the helm in Tallahassee. So the question becomes: Was it a Bowden curse, or Florida State in general? We'll see as they take the field Saturday night.

The battle begins with its leaders. In this case, ACC Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor and Florida State Christian Ponder.

Taylor's improvement continued all season. His maturation has been amazing through the year. His scrambling to throw attitude vs. scrambling to run attitude has defenses frozen and this will be key to holding sack happy defensive end Brandon Jenkins at bay. Jenkins comes into the game with the third best sack total in the country with 12 sacks. Joining him is Markus White with 7.5 sacks of his own. The o-line will have their work cut out for them as they try and fend the these guys off. The Seminoles lead the nation with 43 total sacks.

On the other end, the preseason Heisman-hype for Ponder is long gone. Ponder was faced with an elbow injury that plagued him for almost half of the season and bruised ribs that kept him sidelined for the Clemson game. And yet he's been able to produce. He finished third in passing efficiency in the ACC behind Taylor and UNC's T.J. Yates and sixth in total offense per game (ACC) at 201.4 yards. The scary part is that he might be close if not at 100 percent for Saturday's game.

If the Hokies can't get to him -- Stephen Friday and Bruce Taylor lead the team with 7.5 and 6.0 sacks respectively for the season -- the secondary will have their work cut out for them.

Davon Morgan knows what it means to face a Ponder style quarterback. NC State's Russell Wilson was able to march down the field with ease as he passed for 362 yards on 21 of 49.

"[We have to] move around, give the quarterback some things to look at, some different looks, and just try to stay ahead of him," said Morgan when asked how they'd deal with Ponder.

The key for Morgan and the rest of the secondary is to stick to their assignments and find Ponder's throwing lanes. Thankfully, we have Jayron Hosley. Hosley has a nation leading 8 interceptions on the year. Combined with Morgan and Rock Carmichael and others, the Hokies are second in the nation with 20 interceptions. Speaking of Carmichael, as of Tuesday, Carmichael said "It's looking pretty good" that he might play on Saturday.

Here's a quick look at the statistical numbers for each offense.

Total yards per game 52nd (390.8) 38th (408.5)
Pass yards per game 67th (228.6) 78th (209.2)
Rush yards per game 35th (177.4) 17th (211.4)
Points per game 37th (31.7) 21st (34.8)

Well the numbers don't lie, just like the Interwebs and Bernie Madoff never lie. Sure the Hokies score more points and sure they have more rushing yards. Any team with 753 All-Star running backs would have tons of rushing yards. The thing I get most from these numbers is that we can just ignore these numbers.

A few key matchups that I think will be significant.

Firstly, Defensive Tackle John Graves vs Offensive Guard Rodney Hudson. Hudson is a beast in the trenches. If Graves can work his way around him, it will open up the lanes for the Hokie pass rush and/or close the lanes for the Seminoles backfield.

Secondly, the Hokie secondary vs. the Seminole receivers. Ponder (and EJ Manuel) have had a balance of four recievers with over 400-yards on the year. Bert Reed leads the bunch followed by Willie Haulstead, Taiwan Easterling and Rodney Smith.

Lastly, I want to address the red zone. Earlier this season, the Hokies were more than predictable in the 20-yards between them and the end zone. Once there, the first play call was almost always run. Early on, it led to only a 50% touchdown rate. The issues were pointed out by the media, the coaches acknowledged it, and all of a sudden the offense was mixing it up. The result: 75% of the 20 trips to the red zone in October resulted in touchdowns. Only one of those trips did not produce points. The trend continued in November with 17 of 19 trips producing points with 12 touchdowns.

Saturday night is going to be exciting. Break out the nachos and tasty beverages. It's likely we'll see a low scoring grudge match as two amazing defenses match up against very good offenses led by intelligent experienced senior quarterbacks. I don't think either team will be able to maintain the 30+ points against each other. The only way I could see that is if either offense gets turnover help from their respective defenses.

Either way, GO HOKIES! Beat Minnesota tonight, FSU on Saturday, and UVA on Sunday [WBBALL, FBALL, MBBALL]!

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