Saturday, October 5, 2013
Five things: FSU vs. Maryland
By David M. Hale
The big knock on both Florida State and Maryland thus far has been that neither team has faced stiff competition. That won't be the case after Saturday, as the two undefeated teams face off at Doak Campbell Stadium. Here are a few key stats and matchups to watch.
Protecting Winston: Florida State has one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country, but quarterback Jameis Winston still found himself under pressure routinely last week against Boston College. Winston was sacked four times, and Jimbo Fisher was tepid in his review of the line's performance. Winston chalked up the sacks to his own eagerness to look downfield rather than checking down to quicker throws, although his patience was rewarded with a handful of big plays, too. Regardless, Winston and the line figure to be tested this week. Maryland leads the nation with 17 sacks, and Winston said he expects the Terrapins to be aggressive.
Eyes on Brown: Fisher chalked up FSU's struggles against Boston College to a lack of eye discipline, saying a minority of players were too quick to react to motion and misdirection rather than stick to their assignments. That could play perfectly into what Maryland likes to do with quarterback C.J. Brown, who has the legs to break plays on the ground and the arm to take advantage of any overzealous safeties willing to leave a receiver in one-on-one coverage. Brown always has been a strong running QB -- he had three 100-yard rushing days as a sophomore -- but he has developed as a passer this season. So far this year, Brown is completing nearly 67 percent of his throws, averaging 10.5 yards per attempt, and he has seven passing TDs.
The deep ball: Both Florida State and Maryland have enjoyed their share of success by looking downfield this season. The teams have combined for 26 passing plays of 25 or more yards, with Winston consistently looking for big-play opportunities and Brown using misdirection and play-action to open up receivers. Meanwhile, the Seminoles and Terps have been among the stingiest defenses when it comes to big-play chances. They've each allowed just four passing plays of 25 or more yards this year, tied for the ninth fewest in the nation.
Dynamic Diggs: A week ago, Florida State's special teams struggled mightily, coughing up a handful of big plays on returns, giving Boston College an average starting field position at its own 34. The Seminoles must hope they've gotten those problems fixed this week, when Stefon Diggs arrives in Tallahassee. The Terrapins receiver and return man is one of the country's best all-purpose players. He finished 2012 with nearly 1,000 return yards to go with 848 receiving yards. This year, he's averaging 3 more yards per touch. Diggs hasn't had quite as many opportunities in the return game as he got a year ago -- he has returned just five kicks -- but he's as dangerous a weapon as ever.
The ground game: Maryland's ground game has largely been predicated on Brown's mobility, but Brandon Ross has shown some flash, too. For the season, the Terps are averaging 227 rushing yards per game, which is a concern for a Florida State team that just allowed 200 yards on the ground to Boston College last week. Since Fisher took over as head coach in 2010, the FSU D had allowed 200 or more rushing yards just two other times. Meanwhile, the Seminoles are looking to jump-start their running game, too. Their 6.52 yards/rush average ranks fourth nationally, but that number drops to 4.50 per rush in their two ACC games.