“Last year’s team ain’t on the schedule,” Fisher says.
The fifth-year coach began standard filibuster procedures Tuesday, deflecting a comparison question between last season’s defense and the current unit, one that allowed 250 rushing yards to The Citadel. (They’re an FCS team … and not a particularly good one.)
The argument is solid that last year’s defense was better. Five starters from that defense were on NFL opening-day rosters. This 2014 team doesn’t have a single senior starter, and just two seniors are among the 23 players listed on the two-deep defense.
But the 2013 case study in dominant defense is a bigger file, a collection of evidence over a four-month and 14-game period. It’s only been two games into the 2014 season.
“Go back to the first games of last year,” Fisher said. “Bethune Cookman ran for 180 or 190 yards on us and everybody thought the sky was falling on us. Then Boston College ran for [200 yards].”
At Fisher’s behest, we looked at the early portion of Florida State’s 2013 season. Florida State was 42nd in yards allowed per rush (3.7) and 60th in rushing yards allowed per game (151.5) through September last season, but when you account for Florida State’s nine sacks during that timeframe, its yards allowed per rush jumps to 4.4. Bethune Cookman had 53 non-sack rushing attempts for 211 yards (4.0 yards per carry), and Boston College ran 42 times for 222 yards (5.2).
So far in 2014, Florida State is 84th in yards per rush (4.2) and 103rd in yards per game (205.5). When you account for Florida State’s one sack, however, it allows on average 4.4 yards per rush -- the same as last season. And those 2014 numbers are skewed by big rushing numbers for both Oklahoma State and The Citadel at the end of games. Oklahoma State ran 13 times for 79 yards in the fourth quarter, and all 13 runs came with Florida State leading by double digits. Nearly half of the Cowboys’ rushing yards came in the final quarter.
The Citadel totaled 250 yards rushing against Florida State, but 113 came against the second-string defense.
In 2013, Pitt ran just once in the fourth quarter and seven times overall in the second half. Nevada rushed the ball six times in the fourth quarter, and Bethune Cookman ran 14 times for 49 yards over the final 15 minutes.
There have been missed tackles through the first two weeks this season. Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill eliminated angles like few players nationally can do, and the Citadel outran and outmuscled would-be tacklers Saturday.
But that might be a common thread between the Florida State defenses. After the Bethune Cookman game, Fisher said: “We have to tackle in space better," Fisher said. “I wasn't happy with the way we tackled in space at times tonight. We have to do a better job.”
Third-down defense has been iffy for Florida State so far this season, too. The Citadel converted 11-of-17 third-down attempts, many of which came on rushing plays despite third-and-long situations. Against the starters, the Bulldogs converted 6-of-12 third-down attempts, including five that were at least five yards. All came on rushing plays.
However, over the course of last season, Florida State allowed 18-of-26 third-down attempts and 3.5 yards per rush on third-and-3 or less. When opponents ran on third-and-4-6, they converted 6-of-12 attempts.
It should be noted Florida State has been without linebackers Ukeme Eligwe (foot) and Matthew Thomas (suspension), and Fisher said those are among the most athletic linebackers he has coached during his tenure at Florida State. Eligwe practiced for the first time since the spring Tuesday and could play Sept. 20 against Clemson. Against The Citadel, the Seminoles were also without three of its five starting defensive tackles, including starters Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample.
There are realistic concerns on this defense -- few would argue otherwise -- although it is not as if the unit has played poorly eight consecutive quarters to start the season. But it’s unrealistic to assume a defense missing five NFL-caliber players and a single senior starter would immediately look like the top-five defense nationally it was the three previous seasons. It’s time to temper expectations, which were too high to begin with all things considered, and allow the defense time to evolve before a much tougher second half of the season.
Ultimately, the defense could be what prevents Florida State from repeating, but it’s too early to make that distinction.
Can Georgia finish No. 1?
There is not a program in the country that enjoyed a more fruitful July and August on the recruiting trail than the Bulldogs. With the efforts and momentum created with the hire of Jeremy Pruitt as defensive coordinator, along with the work of the entire staff with an increased presence on social media, Georgia is positioned nicely to make a run for No. 1.
Should the Bulldogs go into Columbia, South Carolina, and beat South Carolina, a 10-win regular season looks like a strong possibility, as well as a huge leg up in getting to the SEC championship game.
As for his side of the story -- which involved Hunt getting kicked out in the second quarter for throwing a punch on a Villanova defender -- the Orange quarterback said that there were things going on in the game that people didn't see.
"I'm not going to speak on it, but, you know, dirty things that happened," Hunt said, according to Syracuse.com's Nate Mink. "I let it affect me. I let it get the best of me."
Hunt had hit Wildcats linebacker Dillon Lucas and missed the second half and the two overtime periods of the Orange's Aug. 29 win. His head coach, Scott Shafer, had said that he was wrong. The ACC determined no other punishment was necessary.
Hunt spoke with former Orange players Donovan McNabb, Floyd Little and Jason Poles, saying that he learned that, as the leader of the team, he cannot afford to lose his cool the way he did. He is hoping to put the incident behind him as Syracuse enters its second game of the season Saturday at Central Michigan.
Elsewhere in the ACC ...
- The Citadel suspended guard Victor Hill indefinitely after his comments about going for FSU players' knees.
- AthlonSports' Corby Yarbrough looks at 10 amazing ACC stats from Week 2.
- The Raleigh News & Observer's Laura Keeley looks at news and notes around Duke as it prepares for Kansas.
- Well that didn't take long: A Miami fan is campaigning to get a "Fire Al Golden" banner during the FSU game.
- UNC's police report had misleading information about a possible assault on a football player, Dan Kane and Andrew Carter write in the Raleigh News & Observer.
- Pittsburgh is realistic amid its 2-0 start, Jerry DiPaola writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Great story here from the (Syracuse) Post-Standard's Nate Mink on the mystique of Marvin Harrison, and why the Orange's greatest receiver hasn't returned.
The Citadel has indefinitely suspended guard Victor Hill, who in an online post Sunday wrote that the Bulldogs' offensive line was intentionally "going for the knees" in Saturday's game against No. 1 Florida State, which lost three defensive linemen to injury during its 37-12 win.
In a release published on The Citadel's athletics website, Bulldogs coach Mike Houston announced Hill, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound senior, was suspended for "inappropriate comments he made on social media." In the comments section of a Post and Courier article focusing on Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher's thoughts on the Bulldogs' cut-blocking techniques, Hill wrote that he "contributed to the injury list and that was just the mindset going into the game."
"I am very disappointed in the words chosen by Victor Hill, who is a member of The Citadel football program," Houston said in a statement posted Monday. "After speaking at length on multiple occasions with Victor and careful review of video footage of our game from this past Saturday night, I have found no purposeful intent to injure from Vic ... or by any other member of our football program."
Houston, in his first season as coach, said Hill is a "morally good person" and would rejoin the team "when he successfully demonstrates that he can abide and live by the core values that should be demonstrated by any individuals who have the privilege to represent The Citadel and our football program."
The Bulldogs' next game is Sept. 20 against Charleston Southern.
It was a highly anticipated showdown in October, and while the hype machine isn't quite rolling like it was in 2013, the Sept. 20 version could end up being a much better game. That is because both teams have a bye, and will have two weeks to prepare.
But which team benefits more from the extra week?
Florida State benefits most, says Jared Shanker:
There is certainly a case for each school needing the bye week more, but, for starters, Florida State's defensive line is reeling after The Citadel game when three tackles, including starters Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample, exited early with lower leg injuries. The Seminoles were considerably luckier in 2013, dealing with very few injuries, especially at marquee positions.
The depth at defensive tackle was already questionable for Florida State, so the bye week allows the Seminoles to rehab. If the tackles can't go, and Goldman might be the most likely candidate to sit out, the extra practices should help prepare backups Desmond Hollin, Derrick Mitchell Jr. and true freshman Derrick Nnadi for a significant number of snaps. And with Clemson's up-tempo approach, those three could be on the field a lot if the Tigers' offense finds a rhythm.
Florida State's defense could use the extra week to shore up a few early-season deficiencies. Both Oklahoma State and The Citadel found running room against the Seminoles, and ESPN metrics are not impressed with the defense thus far. Florida State ranks 85th among FBS schools in defensive efficiency after finishing No. 1 in that category last season.
It was known going into the season there would be some bumps for a defense that lost pieces throughout the unit, including the coaching staff. Linebackers coach Charles Kelly was promoted to defensive coordinator after Jeremy Pruitt resigned to become the DC at Georgia. The front seven was dealt major blows this offseason with the departures of Timmy Jernigan, Christian Jones and Telvin Smith. All three were on NFL opening-day rosters.
The offense is seemingly in good shape, although Florida State could stand to continue developing a threat opposite Rashad Greene at receiver. There is a lot of confidence in Jesus Wilson, who scored a touchdown in his first game back from suspension. The 5-foot-9 Wilson doesn't have prototypical size for an outside receiver, but coach Jimbo Fisher and quarterback Jameis Winston both believe Wilson more than makes up for his height with his speed and route running.
Overall, it isn't panic time in Tallahassee, but the early bye is definitely welcomed.
Clemson benefits most, says David Hale:
There's no doubt Clemson benefits from the bye week before the trip to Tallahassee, but just what coach Dabo Swinney and his staff plan to do with the time remains something of a mystery.
The biggest reason for that, clearly, is the topic Swinney doesn't want to talk about: Quarterbacks.
In the first two games of the season, Cole Stoudt has gotten the bulk of the reps, leading 21 drives. Freshman phenom Deshaun Watson has led just seven drives, but there are plenty of Tigers fans who believe he looks like the better option already.
That's not necessarily fair, because Stoudt was subjected to much more time on the field against Georgia, while Watson padded his stats a bit against South Carolina State. But it is true that the offense has been far more prolific with Watson under center -- nearly twice the yards-per-play -- through two games, and the freshman has made some very pretty throws while also proving to be a weapon as a runner. Stoudt's biggest asset is his experience, but even Swinney admitted after Saturday's game that Watson's knowledge of the playbook isn't far behind.
So what happens against Florida State?
Frankly, it would be a shock if Watson started, but it also would be a surprise if offensive coordinator Chad Morris hasn't gotten busy already dreaming up some new ways to utilize Watson against an FSU defense that has looked a bit vulnerable in the first two games -- particularly against a mobile QB in Oklahoma State's J.W. Walsh, who had 65 yards and two TDs on 10 carries in the opener.
It's not that an extra week of prep is suddenly going to allow Watson to morph into an experienced veteran, but after two weeks of real games -- one against tough competition, one not -- Clemson may have a better idea of what it has in the young QB, and Morris may have a few new ideas about how to use that ability as a weapon.
All the other bye-week narratives apply here, too: Getting healthier, getting rested, extra film study. But the real wild card is Watson, and even Florida State can't be sure what to expect when he's unleashed on Sept. 20.
Biggest commitment: Florida State
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Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris was a high school coach in Texas for 16 seasons before joining Tulsa’s staff in 2010. Whenever there is an opening at just about any school, Morris’ name is almost certain to come up. However, Morris has remained loyal to the Tigers and is waiting for the right opportunity.
On its surface, it might not make much sense considering SMU is not a Power 5 school, and Morris could possibly land at one of those programs if he waits for the right opportunity. However, just how much will the draw of returning to Texas interest Morris, who turns 46 in December? FOXSports.com’s Bruce Feldman listed seven potential replacements for June Jones, and Morris is one of them. (Ohio State assistant Tom Herman also has ties to the state and is the other popular name being mentioned.)
The season is still in its infancy and it’s early to speculate about potential candidates for the Mustangs job, but few would be surprised if Morris’ name begins popping up on the rumor mill.
Here are a few more links from around the conference:
- Virginia Tech has moved on from the big win Saturday and is focusing on East Carolina, a tough Group of 5 opponent.
- Florida State receiver Jesus Wilson made an immediate impact upon returning from suspension. The Seminoles will need him as they determine a suitable No. 2 receiver opposite Rashad Greene.
- Miami is sticking with true freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya.
- USC coach Steve Sarkisian said it is "natural for [a letdown] to be a concern" against Boston College this weekend.
- It hasn't always been pretty, but NC State is 2-0 and in large part to new quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
- Three Pitt players earned weekly honors from the ACC.
- A preseason goal of eight wins is now in question after Syracuse's close win over Villanova in Week 1.
- Louisville is 2-0 and nationally ranked, but (second time) first-year coach Bobby Petrino is still not satisfied with the offense.
But he is a football coach, which means he knows injuries are a part of the sport. His Florida State team was lucky in 2013, avoiding the injury bug and remaining healthy over the course of a national championship season.
That became evident Saturday night as top-ranked Florida State lost three defensive tackles to lower leg injuries, including starters Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample. Fisher did not disclose any specifics on the injuries or the amount of time, if any, that will be missed, but Goldman's left foot was in a boot and he needed the aid of a walking cane to gingerly limp to the locker room after the game.
"When I rub that crystal ball I can't ever figure it out," Fisher said after the game about planning for more injuries in 2014. "Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. That's the thing about football -- you don't [know]. ... That's just ball. You keep your fingers crossed."
While Florida State has arguably the country's most talented roster, there was concern at defensive tackle leading up to the season. Timmy Jernigan declared early for the NFL, leaving the Seminoles thin on the interior of the defensive line. And by halftime Saturday, Florida State was without three of its top five defensive tackles.
The schedule offers a brief reprieve for Florida State as they enter a bye week, which could allow for all three to return. The Seminoles' next game is Sept. 20 against Clemson, and they might need all the defensive linemen they can get to combat the Tigers' up-tempo offense.
The 6-foot-4, 320-pound Goldman was one of the better defensive tackles in the conference, and his presence would almost certainly be missed most if he is forced to the sidelines. Junior defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. said the defense would have a much different feel without Goldman, who he calls "the big man in the middle."
"He can two-gap it, he can hold up the blockers so that a lot of linebackers can scrape over the top, and with Eddie missing it'd be a big piece missing," Edwards said.
Linebacker Reggie Northrup said Goldman's presence often draws double teams, which frees him up to make tackles. He is confident in the backups, and defensive tackle Derrick Mitchell Jr. could see a bulk of the snaps in Goldman's stead. Mitchell, a redshirt junior, is 20 pounds lighter than Goldman, however.
"It's definitely going to affect [the defense] because Eddie's a big part of our defense," Mitchell said. "He's in a lot of our defensive packages. We're going to have to make some changes if he can't go. He's a very important part of our defense."
I was having that discussion Sunday afternoon and felt it is still too early to make any meaningful determination on the Seminoles. After all, our Brad Edwards has Florida State still in his predicted playoff field even if the Seminoles did drop to No. 4 in the Football Power Index (FPI).
Everyone agrees Florida State has not been as dominant as most expected, but Oklahoma State, despite the lineup overhaul, is probably better than many gave the Cowboys credit for. It's not as if the Seminoles played poorly in Dallas either, but rather did not win in a convincing manner.
In Week 2, Florida State beat The Citadel 37-12, and the defense struggled at times in the first half. But The Citadel is an FCS opponent and a team that runs the option, and it can be tricky defending those teams with just a week of practice.
ESPN metrics, however, raises questions on the Seminoles' defense. According to ESPN's defensive efficiency, which measures how many points a defense contributes to its team's net scoring margin and adjusts for the strength of opposing offenses, Florida State is ranked 85th among FBS teams. They Seminoles led the country in defensive efficiency last season.
I'm still not ready to judge Florida State based on the season's first two weeks, although it's clear this team has legitimate concerns. Every team does.
What is worth keeping an eye on is Florida State's schedule might be tougher than originally thought. Florida, Louisville and Notre Dame look to be bigger challenges as the three have combined to start the season 5-0 with a convincing win in each game. The FPI originally gave Florida State a 38 percent chance to finish the regular season undefeated, but that number has dropped to 13 percent.
Before the season began, the FPI gave Florida State a 94 percent chance to beat Notre Dame. That percentage has now dropped to 66. Their chances of winning dropped double-digit percentage points against Clemson (13 percentage points), Florida (20) and Louisville (17), too, according to the ESPN Production Analytics Team. The Seminoles' next game is Sept. 20 against Clemson.
Is Florida State as good as advertised this preseason? It's still probably too early to tell. What is clear is the Seminoles' road to a second undefeated season is much tougher, and that could pose the biggest threat.
Here are a few more links to help kick off Week 3:
- With the big win at Ohio State, is Virginia Tech set up for a run into the College Football Playoff conversation?
- Duke's Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo has rid himself of the injury bug and is making plays for the Blue Devils' defense.
- Dabo Swinney isn't inciting a quarterback controversy at Clemson, but backup and freshman Deshaun Watson is doing just that in Death Valley. Swinney did acknowledge Stoudt is not that much further ahead than Watson, though.
- Grades for Miami in its win, including a C for the quarterbacks.
- Louisville starter Will Gardner has looked good through two games, but backup Reggie Bonnafon showed poise in mop-up duty Saturday. That should give the Cards some confidence should they need to count on Bonnafon.
- Boston College still needs work on the passing game.
- Chad Voytik personally thanked the Pitt defense for its effort against Boston College.
- Grading Virginia's three keys to a win against Richmond.
- NC State still needs to shore up its defense.
- Notebook items for North Carolina following its Saturday win.
- Seven takeaways from Georgia Tech's win over Tulane.
College Football Playoff: Florida State
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech
Russell Athletic Bowl: Notre Dame
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Louisville
Belk Bowl: Clemson
Hyundai Sun Bowl: North Carolina
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Pittsburgh
Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman: Duke
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Miami
Quick Lane Bowl: Virginia
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl: Georgia Tech
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Citadel guard Victor Hill wrote in an online post that the Bulldogs' offensive line was intentionally "going for the knees" in Saturday's game against top-ranked Florida State, which lost three defensive linemen to injury in the 37-12 win.
Hill, a 275-pound senior, admitted The Citadel's approach Sunday in a posted response to a story by the Post and Courier, which focused on Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher's thoughts about the Bulldogs' cut-blocking techniques.
Seminoles starting defensive tackles Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample, along with reserve Justin Shanks, all suffered first-half lower leg injuries. Goldman was seen with his left foot in a walking boot and walking very gingerly with the aid of a cane after the game.
"I played in the game last night and also contributed to the injury list and that was just the mindset going into the game," Hill wrote in his post. "Me and my offensive line brothers preached to each other all week that we would be going for knees from the first play to the last play with the A-backs included. We saw it as if they [won't] respect us for blocking them then we'll make them respect us for cutting them!"
Each week throughout the season, the Playoff Predictor will use ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) and human logic (i.e., the eye test) to determine which teams are still alive in the chase for the inaugural College Football Playoff. These rankings take into account perceived team strength (including injuries) and remaining schedule difficulty (including prospective conference championship games).
The Playoff Predictor is not intended to be a forecast of the selection committee's weekly Top 25, which will be released every Tuesday starting Oct. 28. It is a projection of which teams have the best chance to be in the top four come December.
The teams best positioned to reach the playoff after Week 2.
FPI's chance of winning out: 13.2 percent
FPI's chance of winning the conference: 56.2 percent
According to FPI, the chance for Florida State to go unbeaten decreased significantly over the weekend thanks to dominant performances by the four teams that figure to give FSU its biggest challenges -- Louisville, Clemson, Notre Dame and Florida. But with three of those four games (all but Louisville) being in Tallahassee, it's still hard not to like FSU's playoff chances better than any other team's.
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After impressive performances in two of the young season's most attractive nonconference showdowns, Oregon jumps to No. 2 in The Associated Press college football poll behind No. 1 Florida State -- and ahead of No. 3 Alabama -- and Virginia Tech vaults into the rankings at No. 17.
The Ducks pulled away late from Michigan State on Saturday at Autzen Stadium in Eugene to beat the Spartans 46-27. Oregon receives 16 first-place votes from the media panel.
Florida State has 38 first-place votes.
Michigan State slipped six spots to 13th.
Big Ten rival Ohio State dropped to 22nd after losing 35-21 at home to Virginia Tech, which is ranked for the first time since the middle of last season.
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