Questions remain for both FSU, Maryland

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
1:00
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Maryland has started 4-0 for the first time since 2001. The Terps are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 2010. They’ve outscored their opponents 159-41.

And yet the question remains: Are they for real?

Florida State should help answer that. The Noles are ranked No. 8 in the country and are considered a contender for the national title. They’re No. 4 in the country in scoring offense, and they’ve got one of the most talented young quarterbacks in the county in redshirt freshman Jameis Winston.

And yet the question remains: Are they for real?

[+] EnlargeMaryland celebrates
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyMaryland has had a lot to celebrate so far in a 4-0 start, and now gets its final shot as an ACC member at No. 8 Florida State.
Saturday’s game in Tallahassee will be proving grounds for both teams, in spite of the fact they’re both 4-0. It’s the marquee matchup in the conference this week – the lone game between undefeated teams in the Atlantic Division -- and it should show just how far No. 25 Maryland has come in trying to close the gap with one of the ACC’s premier programs. It should also reveal if Florida State’s sluggish defensive performance at Boston College on Saturday was an anomaly or a deeper-rooted problem that Maryland can continue to expose.

On paper, it looks like the Terps could be exactly the kind of tricky opponent that has tripped up the Noles in the past. Maryland had a bye week to prepare for its first ranked opponent of the season, and Florida State allowed BC 200 rushing yards in a 48-34 victory at Boston College. How much of Maryland’s success, though, is simply a product of the poor competition it has played early, and have any of those teams prepared the Terps for what they’ll face in Tallahassee?

Maryland’s wins have come against Florida International, Old Dominion, Connecticut and West Virginia – teams that are a combined 6-12 this season, including two 0-4 programs in FIU and Connecticut. UConn hit a new low this season with losses to Towson and Buffalo, and on Monday fired coach Paul Pasqualoni. Maryland’s best victory was a 37-0 shutout of West Virginia in Baltimore, and it looks even better now that the Mountaineers just knocked off No. 11 Oklahoma State.

That was Baltimore. This is Tally. Maryland hasn’t beaten Florida State in Doak Campbell Stadium – well, ever. The Noles have won all 11 games there and seven straight in the series. This is only the second time Maryland has even been ranked when playing Florida State. For the Noles to go down, Maryland needs to be every bit as good as it looks right now on paper.

The Noles should and will be favored, but they fell behind 14-0 at Boston College and looked vulnerable. It was a surprising start for an opponent FSU was expected to handle with ease, and it’s only going to get more difficult. The Terps will be Florida State’s first ranked opponent as well. FSU padded its stats against Nevada and Bethune-Cookman and looked unprepared on Saturday for what BC had to dish out. The Eagles are a one-dimensional offense that depends heavily on Andre Williams and the running game. Maryland is not. The Terps have more depth and more playmakers and will be an even bigger challenge for the FSU defense.

Maryland’s offense, which finished the 2012 season dead last in the ACC in total offense, averaging just 284 yards, now ranks second in the ACC at 498.5 yards per game, an improvement of 213.7 yards per game.

There’s no question Maryland is light years better than it was a year ago, when it finished the season with just four wins and a linebacker at quarterback. And there’s no question Florida State is still one of the top two teams in the ACC.

Just how good both of them truly are, though, has yet to be determined.

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