3 Keys for an FSU Win vs. Florida
Following a disappointing loss to Virginia in the final seconds of last week's contest at Doak Campbell, the Seminoles will travel south down I-75 to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to take on their in-state rivals Florida in a battle for the Governors' Cup.
On the whole it could be said that the season for the Seminoles has been sprinkled with disappointment: a near-loss to then-No.1 Oklahoma, a flat performance against Clemson, a road loss to Wake and most recently the defeat to Virginia have all seen BCS and ACC title hopes drift down the drain.
But nothing quite heals a wound like a win over a rival and while the history with Miami is longer, the hatred for Florida runs deeper. There may not be as much on the line as in years past, but there's still plenty to play for this year. Pride notwithstanding, the winner of this game gains a foothold in the recruiting battle in Florida, a state notoriously stacked with Division I talent.
Here are three keys for the Seminoles if they want to capture a victory on the road in Gainesville.
Tackling in the Secondary
It's no secret that Florida has a pair of speedsters in running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey and with the ineptitude of their passing game against teams not named Furman they will lean heavily on the two seniors.
Florida State is stacked at defensive line and linebacker, but it will be hard to corral Demps and Rainey all day, so look for the responsibility to fall to the secondary to stop those two when they get to the second level.
It'll be up to corners Greg Reid, Mike Harris, Xavier Rhodes and safeties LaMarcus Joyner and Nick Moody to keep up with Florida's speedy duo.
Trust Dustin Hopkins
There was a lot of discontent in Tallahassee last weekend after Hopkins missed what would have been a game-winning kick from 42-yards out. Here's the thing, Dustin Hopkins is a great kicker and he's being considered for the Lou Groza award for a reason.
Half of the kicking game is mental and it was no help that the kid had roughly 10 minutes of official review to think about the consequences of a miss. If you're a kicker, you're either a hero or zero and game-winners are erased from memory as soon as you miss one.
The point being, if the Seminoles have a chance at some points in the Swamp, take them off the golden foot of Hopkins.
Open Up the Playbook
The offensive play-calling (and the decision making in general) was surprisingly tentative last week. It seemed all FSU wanted to do on offense was dink and dunk in the middle of the field. Between swearing and covering my eyes during last week's contest, I can't recall more than three deep throws and zero zone reads for quarterback EJ Manuel.
I'm not sure if head coach Jimbo Fisher didn't want to show his hand before the Florida contest, but when given the opportunity this offense can be very dangerous. To put points on the board in Gainesville, Florida State needs to open things up a little more with a variety of different plays: play action, zone reads, screens and certainly more shots deep down the field.
Cut loose Manuel, running back Devonta Freeman, Rodney Smith, Rashad Greene and others. You have the athletes, just put them in a position to make plays.
If FSU can execute on all these fronts, look for the Seminoles to come away with their first victory in Ben Hill Griffin since 2003 and their second consecutive unofficial state title.