Florida State vs. The Citadel Complete Game Preview
There will be very little drama or doubt. Florida State will take the field on Saturday against The Citadel, and the Seminoles will win.
After a tougher-than-expected 37-31 win over Oklahoma State in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday, FSU faces a far different (and less challenging) opponent. From the pass-happy Cowboys to the run-first Citadel.
FSU's goals this week are simple: evaluate what worked and what didn't on film against Oklahoma State and spend practice time focusing on what the Seminoles can do to improve. There were plenty of mistakes, from penalties (eight) to missed opportunities on third down (FSU was just 4-of-14). And while Jameis Winston passed for 370 yards and had a dazzling second-half touchdown run, he also had two interceptions and leaned too heavily on Rashad Greene.
The Seminoles will be going for their 18th straight win, which would break the school record (FSU had 17 straight wins from Aug. 1999-Oct. 2000).
Here's an early look at FSU vs. The Citadel:
FSU Keys to Victory
Ignore the quality of the opponent
FSU took Oklahoma State for granted and escaped with a win Saturday. FSU must treat The Citadel like it is a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent and showcase what it can do. The Seminoles lacked focus in the season opener, and this week, the game is about learning and growing from those mistakes.
FSU tried to establish a running game against Oklahoma State but managed just 106 yards on 31 carries. The offensive line wasn't able to win matchups against a Cowboys line that was clearly the strength of the defense.
Karlos Williams (66 yards) had his moments but at times didn't read the blocks well, and potential long plays went for a short gain or no yards. Mario Pender (31 yards, one touchdown) was impressive in his FSU debut and could see more playing time. So should true freshman Dalvin Cook.
Citadel Keys to Victory
Do what you do best—run
The Citadel ran for 358 yards in a 31-16 loss to Coastal Carolina on Saturday. The problem is the Bulldogs are one-dimensional, throwing for just 19 yards. So The Citadel will run, likely on first, second and third down (the offense is very similar to what Georgia Tech runs.)
The Bulldogs will try and turn enough three- or four-yard gains into first downs. It's easier said than done. The Citadel does feature a rushing attack of Tyler Renew (137 yards on Saturday) and Jake Stenson (120 yards).
Don't let the score get out of hand
Again, very challenging. FSU has a significant talent advantage. But The Citadel should try to remain poised and focus on running the ball on offense and making tackles on defense.
FSU Players to Watch
In his first college game, the redshirt sophomore had three carries for 31 yards (including a 10-yard touchdown). He's shown he has earned more carries, and head coach Jimbo Fisher has confidence in him as the No. 2 tailback. Look for Pender to receive more carries on Saturday.
Fisher said Wilson will be back in the rotation versus The Citadel after missing the Oklahoma State game after serving a suspension. Wilson performed well in preseason practices and will likely see plenty of playing time on Saturday. With Jameis Winston needing to distribute the ball to more receivers, Wilson's addition will definitely help.
The slot receiver is the fastest player on the roster is a tough matchup. He should see the ball thrown his way more often. Whitfield had three receptions for 30 yards in the opener against Oklahoma State.
Citadel Players to Watch
The B-back had 20 carries for 137 yards and a touchdown in the season-opening loss to Coastal Carolina. The 5'11'', 210-pound sophomore is a physical, bruising back.
The "Slot" back from Jacksonville, Florida, has mostly played receiver but had 10 carries for 120 yards—including a 39-yard run—against Coastal Carolina.
The Tallahassee native, a linebacker who graduated from Florida High, had 12 tackles and a sack on Saturday to begin his sophomore season.
What They're Saying
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher
"We're still a work in progress. We have a lot of things to work on, but I think most everybody in America has at this time."
"We must play with much more consistency. We know that. Even our experienced players—we know that. We need to get much better and keep improving."
"I was extremely pleased with how Mario [Pender] played. You didn't see a guy who was in his first game. You saw a guy that was out there competing. Very composed and poised."
"It wasn't like our practices were bad, but they weren't as consistent as they needed to be. You play how you practice."
FSU running back Mario Pender
"I was just sitting there waiting to hear my number called. I was on [running backs] coach [Jay] Graham's hip the whole time. He turned around and looked me and said, 'Get ready.' And I said, 'Coach, I'm already ready'" —On Pender's first college game, two years after he arrived on campus.
"I wish I can describe the feeling, but to me it was a blessing. I really felt like it was a blessing God sent me" —On him rushing for a touchdown on his first college carry in Saturday's win over Oklahoma State.
FSU defensive tackle Eddie Goldman
"We started fast, but we let some things slip. We just have to get in the film room and correct the mistakes and correct the mistakes on the field as well" —On the frustration over allowing 161 rushing yards to Oklahoma State
"We gave great effort, but the gap control was the biggest thing. As long as we work at it, work hard at it, we should be able to fix that."
Citadel coach Mike Houston
"What an incredible opportunity we have ... After it kicks off, we're playing on the same size field that we play on here in Johnson Hagood (Stadium). They play with 11 just like we do. We're not going to change anything we do because of who we're playing. We're going to go down there, we're going to get after their rear end, we're going to compete and we're going to play Citadel football."
"No. Not unless we get 85 scholarships."—When asked if he wanted to see more games against elite FBS programs scheduled.
FSU's win is guaranteed. This is a game where FSU's first-team offense and defense will likely only play a half. Expect FSU to be crisp on offense and score four or five touchdowns by halftime.
Fisher hasn't had any scares against FCS teams in the past, and he's been able to get the backups plenty of playing time. The Seminoles have routed Samford (59-6), Charleston Southern (62-10), Murray State (69-3), Savannah State (55-0, weather-shortened game) and Bethune-Cookman (54-6).
But fans shouldn't leave the stadium or channel surf in the second half. The third and fourth quarters will be a good chance to see the second-team offense and defense. How will backup quarterback Sean Maguire look? What about all of the stars of the 2013 and '14 signing class on defense?
FSU will win comfortably. But stick around to watch the backups who will likely become 2015 starters.
Prediction: FSU 55, The Citadel 7
Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.