With Tropical Storm Karen looming in the Gulf of Mexico, threatening to become a hurricane and make landfall in the Florida Panhandle sometime Saturday evening, FSU’s noon kickoff time — once an object of ridicule — suddenly seems well-planned.
The No.8 Seminoles are set to play host to the No. 25 Maryland Terrapins (weather permitting) in what will be the first true test of the season for the Seminoles and the last matchup between these two schools as members Atlantic Coast Conference. Maryland begins play in the Big Ten next season.
The Terrapins enter Saturday’s contest averaging nearly 40 points per game and look to take advantage of a Florida State defense that showed vulnerability last weekend against Boston College.
Meanwhile, Florida State has spent the week trying to make sure that kind of offense output doesn’t happen against them again.
“Every time you don’t play as well as a competitor as you know you are capable of or know what you can do or have in the past, I think there is a natural edge that comes to guys,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Thursday. “They want to play well. And you have to be careful with that — you want that edge, but you don’t want to get it so much that I’m trying so hard that overdo it.”
That seems to be what happened to the Seminoles last weekend.
“It goes back to playing your assignment, do what you’ve got to do and that’s the big thing we’ve been keying in on at practice is do your assignment,” senior linebacker Telvin Smith said. “Don’t feel like you’ve got to do too much or anything like that, because as soon as you do, that’s when the big plays occur and that’s what we’re learning from.”
Unlike Boston College — and the three opponents before them — Maryland will attack through the air. The Terps favor a spread and have a dual-threat quarterback in C.J. Brown who can burn the Florida State defense if it fails to maintain its responsibilities.
“[They have] very dynamic players on offense,” Fisher said. “Quarterback C.J. Brown is playing lights out. [WR Stefon] Diggs is a great player — he’s catching balls everywhere. Their back, [Brandon] Ross is way up there and does a good job. They’ve got a good football team.”
Added sophomore corner P.J. Williams: “It’s going to be a real big challenge. We’ve been waiting for challenges like this — the DBs and stuff — so it’s going to be fun.”
On the other side of the ball, FSU, has the third-ranked scoring offense in the country that averages just over 51 points per game, and it will collide with the third-ranked scoring defense, which gives up just over 10 points.
This will be the best challenge either unit has faced this year.
FSU quarterback Jameis Winston has been just short of spectacular through the first third of his redshirt freshman season but faces his first ranked opponent. And the Terrapins are likely to try and pressure the young passer early and often.
“They have a lot of blitzes. More blitzes than we have seen, just from the variety,” Winston said. “Some teams might be secondary blitz teams, some might be like edge pressures, but they have a lot of blitzing pressures they can get to. And then they mix up their fronts, so sometimes we don’t know if it’s three-down [linemen] or sometimes we don’t know if it’s four-down.
“They do a good job with that.”