Thursday, November 15, 2012
Five Storylines: FSU vs. Maryland
By David M. Hale
It's the final game of the ACC regular season for Florida State, and while the enthusiasm surrounding the road date with bruised and battered Maryland isn't exactly scorching, there are plenty of big questions looming for the Seminoles.
So as FSU preps for its final true road test of the season, here are five big issues Jimbo Fisher and Co. hope to find answers to on Saturday.
1. Can Florida State clinch its division?
It has seemed a foregone conclusion for most of the season, save a few tenuous weeks following a loss to NC State, but Florida State can make it official with a win over Maryland on Saturday. The Atlantic Division title would be Fisher's second in his three years at the helm, and it would likely set up a rematch in the ACC title game against a team -- either Duke or Miami -- that the Seminoles have already beaten once. Florida State hasn't won a conference championship since 2005.
2. Will Maryland move the ball at all?
Don't expect the Seminoles to feel much sympathy, but it's hard not to have a twinge of pity for what's happened to poor Maryland. The Terps are on to their fifth quarterback of the season, a converted linebacker. Last week, they were without top rusher Wes Brown and receiver Stefon Diggs, too. Maryland ranks last in the ACC in scoring offense and total offense, and is 11th in rushing and passing offense. Meanwhile, the Seminoles sport a top-five defense and figure to be licking their chops at the prospect of devouring the overmatched Terps.
3. Can the Seminoles' running game get back on track?
Through the first nine games of the season, FSU's ground game averaged nearly 6.5 yards per carry. Against Virginia Tech last week, the Seminoles finished with negative rushing yards. In fact, the minus-15 total was the fourth worst in program history, so there's nowhere to go but up this week. Still, Maryland's run defense ranks second in the ACC, and tailback Devonta Freeman said he's expecting the Terps to blitz early and often -- a strategy that caused major headaches against Virginia Tech. In a final tune-up before highly ranked Florida, FSU needs to see marked improvement from Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Lonnie Pryor this week.
4. Can Florida State get over its road woes?
Florida State is 3-1 on the road, but that record hasn't come easily. The Seminoles have trailed in every game they've played away from Doak Campbell Stadium, and last week's come-from-behind victory with less than a minute to play was the latest heart-stopper for a team expected to dominate. With Maryland banged up and a tepid crowd expected, this could be the week for FSU to put it all together on the road, however, and turn in a performance that looks more like the 40-point blowouts that have been so common at home.
5. How's the punt return game look for FSU?
Rashad Greene had his chance, but he fumbled three times. He gave way to Tyler Hunter, who fumbled twice in as many games. Now, it's on to Plan C for FSU's punt-return game, and it sounds like Greene and Kenny Shaw will both set up deep against Maryland. Can splitting the responsibilities in half fix the problem? Greene sounded enthusiastic, but the simple task of catching the football hasn't come easily to anyone this season.