Plant The Spear is a weekly column previewing the upcoming matchup for the Florida State Seminoles. Opponent strengths and weaknesses are discussed, a plan of attack is formed, and an honest prediction by yours truly is given.
*Author’s Note* Regardless of my membership with the Seminole Boosters, or my being an FSU fan since I was 10 (I’m 31 now), or the fact that my wife is finishing her master’s degree from Florida State, this is still a No Homer Zone. Always has been, always will be. I’m a college football fan above all else, and you-the fans, deserve a voice of the people. With all that being said…..Go Noles!
I’m going to try and keep things short and sweet this week: Maryland poses absolutely no threat at all in any way whatsoever to Florida State winning the ACC Atlantic Division and getting to Charlotte for the conference title game on December 1. A win against the Terrapins on Saturday will seal the deal for the Seminoles and their quest of returning to the top of ACC Mountain for the first time since 2005. Granted, that mountain is more like a gentle slope or a grassy knoll, but it is a championship none-the-less. FSU rolls into College Park with a 9-1 record, hot off a hard-fought victory last Thursday against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Maryland has probably had the worst depth chart luck I have ever seen at quarterback, losing all of their scholarship signal callers to either transfer or season ending injury. The Terps will start a freshman linebacker (who played QB in high school, mind you) at quarterback against one of the best defenses in college football. I’ll let you do the math on that one.
Offense. Maryland pretty much doesn’t have one this season. I talked earlier about the worst injury luck I have ever seen anywhere in sports, and so here is the breakdown the debacle that is the Maryland quarterback situation. Try to keep up:
First, talented QB Danny O’Brien (ACC Rookie of the Year in 2010) transferred to Wisconsin in the off-season. So that left CJ Brown, expected to replace the departed O’Brien as the starter in 2012. That was until he tore his ACL in a non-contact drill during fall camp before the season began. Next up was then third-stringer Perry Hills, but he tore his ACL in the loss to NC State on October 20. In the very same game, fourth-stringer Devin Burns suffered a season-ending foot injury (Lisfranc, the same type of injury that sidelined FSU defensive standout Brandon Jenkins this year). One week later, true freshman Caleb Rowe, Maryland’s final scholarship quarterback, tore his ACL on the second to last play of the game against Boston College.
That leaves freshman Shawn Petty, a freshman linebacker as the starting signal caller for the Terps. Petty played QB in high school and was Maryland’s best remaining option to go under center. It’s a tough task for anyone to play quarterback at the Division 1 level, let alone a freshman who a few weeks ago had been lining up as a linebacker. Needless to say, the passing attack is pretty much non-existent for the Terps, and with talented freshman wide receiver Stefon Diggs likely out against the Noles it could get real ugly, real fast for the Maryland offense.
The strength of the Maryland team this season has been the defense and it’s not even close. Sure, the Terps are 4-6 on the year, but things could have been much worse up to this point (like, 0-10 worse) if it wasn’t for the play of the fighting turtle defense. Maryland has a huge 3-man defensive line, averaging an imposing 300-pounds per defender. The Terps are second in the ACC in sacks per game (2.5) and defensive ends Joe Vallano (6 sacks, 14 tackles for loss) and AJ Francis (4 sacks, 8 tackles for loss) are a load to deal with coming off the edges.
The Maryland linebacking corps matches the intensity and physicality brought by the stout defensive line. The Terps are very good against the run, ranking 19th nationally and allowing only 112 yards rushing per game. Earlier this season, senior leader Demetrius Hartsfield was lost for the season with an ACL tear, but senior Darin Drakeford and sophomore Cole Farrand have stepped up nicely in his absence. Look for the pair to cause some disruption and make some plays on the defensive side of the ball against the Noles.
Maryland ranks 30th nationally in pass defense, but has on recorded only three interceptions on the year. The secondary has struggled against high powered offenses this season, giving up over 300-yards to both Clemson and West Virginia as well as NC State and skilled passer Mike Glennon. I look for FSU to run a good amount of shotgun and no-huddle this week to give EJ Manuel enough time to throw and attack Maryland through the air. Could be a very long day for the Terrapin secondary.
My dad used to say to me (and still does) that any team can lose on any given day. These conversations would almost always occur when I would be talking about the upcoming game that my Seminoles would surely dominate. I would usually just brush him off with the typical “yeah, yeah, but not my team, not today.” Sorry dad, some things never change. You could give the argument that maybe the Noles could be caught looking ahead to next week’s huge rivalry clash with the team from Gainesville, but I doubt it. The FSU defense will smother the patchwork Maryland offense. It’s hard for me to see a Maryland offensive touchdown, although one could come in garbage time or due to another FSU muffed punt. The Seminole offense should move the ball with relative ease (much like Clemson did a week ago) against this stingy but over-matched Maryland defense.
Coach Jimbo will have his team focused on the task at hand, with a victory ensuring a trip to the ACC title game, potentially the Orange Bowl and a possible top five finish. The Seminoles are more talented than Maryland across the board and this game should be put away early, allowing some back-ups quality playing time and some rest for the starters before next week’s showdown in Tallahassee.
I’d hate to have to call my dad and tell him he was right.
FSU 41 Maryland 10