- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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Boston College's fast start was dealt a blow with an ugly loss to USC two weeks ago, while Florida State is riding high with three straight big wins but little in the way of stout competition. Here's what to watch for when the two teams face off Saturday in Chestnut Hill.
Stopping the run: Florida State's defense had run off a streak of 14 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher before Andre Williams came to Tallahassee last season. He'll be a focal point again -- for both teams. The Eagles have run the ball on 62 percent of their plays so far this season, and Williams leads the ACC in rushing (119 ypg). But if BC's ground game has the attention of Florida State's defense, Devonta Freeman and the Seminoles' offense should have the Eagles worried, too. Freeman is coming off consecutive 100-yard games, is fourth in the nation in yards per carry, and the Seminoles have run for nearly 650 yards in their last two games.
Take what's given: It's tough to find much fault in Jameis Winston's performance through three games. The freshman is second in the country with a 210.5 QB rating, and he has accounted for 10 touchdowns and just one interception thus far. But Winston says much of his success has come easily so far, and the tests promise to get bigger. That means he needs to be more patient, he said, instead of looking for the big play on every throw. He missed several open receivers against Bethune-Cookman by looking downfield, and his INT against Nevada came on a throw he admits he wasn't supposed to make. BC ranks 12th in the ACC in QB rating allowed, so there should be room for Winston to find yards -- if he doesn't try to do too much. Meanwhile, BC's Chase Rettig was just 15-of-31 for 122 yards in last season's game, and star wide receiver Alex Amidon had just three catches for 44 yards. They'll need to find more room to work this season if BC is to have a chance.
Quick starts: In last season's blowout loss, Boston College actually controlled the game early, driving to the FSU 1-yard line on its opening drive before being stuffed. Florida State has seen overmatched opponents enjoy similar early-game success this season, too. Seventeen of the 47 first downs FSU has allowed this year came in the first quarter, and teams are averaging half-a-yard more per play on their first four drives against FSU than they do the remainder of the game.
Get defensive: If Boston College has an advantage in this game, it's on defense, where the Eagles have racked up 22 TFLs and eight sacks in three games. The BC linebacking crew of Kevin Pierre-Louis, Steele Divitto and Spenser Rositano is among the league's best, and coordinator Don Brown likes bringing pressure. On the flip side, FSU's D looks like a work in progress, and after playing last week without four starters, there has been little time to refine the technique. Coach Jimbo Fisher said FSU missed far too many tackles against Bethune-Cookman, and that's been a focus throughout practice this week.
Looking ahead: On paper, this looks like a significant mismatch for Florida State, but if motivation is a factor, it's a big edge for Boston College. The Eagles are fresh off a stinging loss to USC and are eager to rebound. They've had an extra week to prepare for Florida State, too. The Seminoles, meanwhile, have had it easy through three games -- all blowouts -- and have matchups against undefeated Maryland and Clemson ahead on the schedule. Will FSU overlook its date with Boston College? Players insist they won't, but the sluggish effort a week ago against Bethune-Cookman suggests Fisher has his work cut out for him.
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