The Florida State Seminoles strolled into College Park, Maryland as a 31.5-point favorite over the Terrapins and looked quite comfortable in their 41-14 rout.
The running and passing games were balanced, with the Seminoles controlling the line of scrimmage as expected, but quarterback E.J. Manuel seems to have had another inconsistent game despite the stats (17-of-23, 144 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) indicating otherwise.
Granted, Manuel appeared to be playing on a sore right lower leg, but with the game firmly in hand, why was he playing in the second half with Florida State up 27-0?
Head coach Jimbo Fisher finally answered the question everyone else was asking and put in reserve quarterback Clint Trickett late in the fourth quarter.
In that same fourth quarter, James Wilder, Jr. scored a touchdown on a beautiful up-the-gut play showing remarkable balance and athleticism behind an offensive line full of reserves. The power running game is there and it's a beautiful thing to watch.
The passing game had moments of brilliance followed by moments of silence. Manuel hit Rashad Green on a beautiful 30-yard touchdown pass to put the Seminoles up 27-0 with under five minutes left in the second quarter. That was the accurate Manuel.
Early in the fourth quarter, Manuel threw a 47-yard pass up for grabs and it was intercepted by Matt Robinson. That was the inconsistent Manuel.
The defense looked good, only allowing Maryland to cross into the Seminoles' territory twice, although Chad Abram fumbled on Maryland's 30-yard line to set up Maryland's final score of the game. The defensive line was downright nasty, and it was headlined by a monster sack by Mario Edwards Jr. on a late Terps possession.
While Florida State was facing the No.16-ranked total defense in the country, it was also facing a Terrapin offense led by a linebacker-turned-quarterback in Shawn Petty. All four of Maryland's quarterbacks—Perry Hills, C.J. Brown, Devin Burns and Caleb Rowe—were out for the season due to injury.
Facing a team decimated by injuries, Florida State didn't seem to play a complete game through four quarters. In fact, there were some moments in the game that may come back to haunt the Seminoles, especially in the way of silly penalties. Midway through the second quarter, the Seminoles were flagged for kick-catch interference. In the third quarter, Ronald Darby was called for a late hit out-of-bounds.
Are we nit-picking a little? Maybe, but this is the same team that was picked by many as a preseason No. 1 favorite. Make no mistake, the Seminoles looked very good, but so has every team Maryland has faced in the past five weeks—the Terps have one of the worst-ranked offenses in FBS.
Maryland linebacker Kenny Tate racked up three sacks against one of the better O-lines in the ACC. Should that be of concern? The Seminoles face the Florida Gators and their No. 5-ranked total defense next week in Tallahassee. Concern is duly noted.
The star power at Florida State is evident—the team is littered with 5-star athletes who look and play the part.
But what is missing is that "next step" improvement. Florida is not the team you want to face when there's still room for improvement.
The Gators have been thoroughly battle-tested this season, dropping one game to the highly-ranked Georgia Bulldogs. Florida State hasn't really been battle-tested and dropped a game to the unranked North Carolina State Wolfpack.
Next week should be very interesting.
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