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54 posts from September 2012

September 14, 2012

Three Things to Watch For: Wake vs. FSU

With the Florida State Seminoles set to host Wake Forest in their ACC opener there's more than a little riding on the game. Nobody around the Seminoles team has come right out and said it, but this is personal for Florida State.

In sports, football more than almost any other, coach-speak and party lines prevail like in politics. If you ask the Seminoles they tell you it's a different team and another year.

That the Wake loss was something they got over last year.

If you look at the roster though, there's more than a little carry-over from a team that was nationally outed as "not there yet," last season against Wake. The 35-30 loss still leaves an after-taste like vinegar to the Seminole faithful, who have watched their team drop four of six after dominating Wake for nearly 25 years prior to that.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher and thd Seminoles aren't looking back, aren't dwelling on last year, but it's far from forgotten.

And it's understandable the team doesn't want to rehash it, EJ Manuel admitted on Monday that coming off two difficult losses to Clemson and Oklahoma last year the 'Noles overlooked Wake. Fisher isn't in a huge hurry to remind people he opted to start freshman Clint Trickett instead of Manuel and by the time EJ got in the hole was too big. The Seminoles aren't trying to re-live last season.

But they haven't forgotten it, you didn't have to look too hard to see evidence of that this week during practice and in interviews. 

Here are three keys storylines to follow heading into the game.

1.) Wake Offensive Line vs. Florida State Defensive Line

Jim Grobe admitted on Wednesday, during the ACC coaches teleconference, that his offensive line is still unsettled, "still in flux" as he called it with players shifting in and out of different spots even in week three. That's not unlike some of the uncertainty the Seminoles have on their own O-Line, but the Seminoles aren't facing an elite defensive front, the Deacons are. Bjoern Werner has alsbolutely abused FCS tackles this year, his first chance to go up against an ACC lineman should have him amped up today. Don't expect immediate domination up front, Wake will hold its own early but as Florida State cycles through it's depth, look for things to get rough.

2.) Florida State Defense vs. Wake QB Tanner Price

Skinner is going to be a pain for Seminole fans, he's a smart, scrappy quarterback who doesn't make many mistakes and will not be easily thrown for a loop by an experienced Florida State defense. The Seminoles have given up 3 points in just over three halves of football, while they're going to eventually give up points you know they don't want to surrender their first touchdowns of the season to Wake. The biggest key to defensive success for FSU will be maintaining responsibility. Free-lancing is fatal against a team like Wake who thrives off exploiting match-ups and mistakes. If the Seminoles maintain their responsibilities the results will be closer to the 31-0 shutout they handed Wake at Doak two years ago instead of the upset they suffered last year.

3.) EJ Manuel's Composure

EJ Manuel has not played much this year. Everyone is talking about how the game has slowed down for him, how he's come into his own as a leader, but so far in extremely limited action he hasn't had much of a chance to show that off. Wake will be Manuel's first full game (unless something goes wrong or it's out of hand quickly). It will be interesting how Manuel looks for a whole game when he's healthy for the first time in months. As Manuel goes, so do the Seminoles. Chris Thompson will be emotional for the start of this one, the game means a lot to him personally after breaking his back against Wake last year. Manuel will need to be the calming influence on offense out of the gate. He'll need to get the Seminoles offense rolling and be a leader today. For the record, I expect EJ to live up to the hype, but this is his first real chance to.

I'll have a few items up before the game tomorrow, check back before kickoff.

September 13, 2012

Florida State Injury List: Week Three

OUT vs. Wake

LB Ukeme Eligwe (hand)

OL Daniel Foose (back)

DT Moses McCray (head)

DT Jacobbi McDaniel (ankle)

DT Derrick Mitchell (back)



TE Dan Hicks (knee)

DE Brandon Jenkins (Lisfranc)

RB Mario Pender (sports hernia)

September 12, 2012

Notre Dame Headed to the ACC, Kind of... What it Means for FSU

Coming soon to an ACC stadium near you... Notre Dame. No not in football, depsite news the Irish would be joining the Atlantic Coast Conference this morning, football is not included. Instead the Irish will continue to be an independent, enjoy their own TV contract and play a slate of ACC games that will have every team cycling through every three years.

So while the Fighting Irish are liable to come visit once every year or so in hoops, it will be once every six years in football.

Later today Florida State AD Randy Spetman will address the media about this newest addition to the ACC and I fully expect the conversation to diverge in two much different directions.

As a basketball move this makes sense and adds even more weight to a conference that recently was dissolving into a two-team race. Before Syracuse and Pittsburgh agreed to join the ACC last season, the only consistent standard bearers over the last decade in ACC hoops had been UNC and Duke. Other schools had mounted stretches of their own, but the league was fast becoming a Tobacco Road arms race and now there's a few historically good, storied programs coming to the conference to shake things up.

At first blush, from a basketball standpoint this move makes sense, it strengthens the ACC financially and competitively and it firmly puts the conference back into the conversation as the best in the country.

It doesn't help Florida State much, who has just begun to stake their claim to the top of the ACC hierarchy and now must compete with much more established outfits like the Orange and Irish, but it makes sense.

For football, this just appears to be a horrible decision though.

Here's the thing, and admittedly after today's 2 PM presser this could all change, but Notre Dame gets to have it both ways in football.

This isn't a symbiotic relationship in football because Notre Dame cannot make the ACC look good.

The only reason you would ever want the Irish to beat an ACC team is if they could win the ACC. Which they cannot. 

If Notre Dame wins they did on the shoulders and backs of the ACC but they will get the glory and spotlight (like the TV money) as an independent. The ACC gets none of that, they don't get to say their conference produced a champion or that they had some stake in the success, it all belongs to Notre Dame.

All the Irish can do is hurt the ACC.

They could knock off a team with national aspirations in a forced, out of conference game held under the guise of Notre Dame's new membership in the conference. They could pummel the five ACC schools they will play every year and make the conference as a whole look weak. 

And even if the ACC wins the majority of the matchups the national story is always going to be about what ails Notre Dame and not what's emerging in the ACC.

Notre Dame gets the kind of exclusive membership that was rumored to have helped persuade FSU not to join the Big 12 without considerable incentive. That's the kind of membership Texas enjoys, ripe with their own network and a clear-cut advantage from a revenue standpoint over others in the same conference. It's been a sore spot for the Big 12 for a while, at one point it looked like it may even be the conference's undoing.

It's not the same situation with Notre Dame, but it is the kind of preferential treatment that was highlighted in Big 12 talks about Texas. But now with news of the ACC's decision to triple the exit fee for Universities leaving the conference to 50 million, those Big 12 talks are more or less moot.

I expect to know a lot more after this press conference and the one to be held by Holden Thorp in Chapel Hill. 

Check back later.


September 11, 2012

Greg Dent Talks Receivers, Wake Forest

Greg Dent is one of many Seminole receivers in a crowded rotation looking to have a breakout season in 2012.

He's a 5-11 junior that's earned rave reviews from Jimbo Fisher for his work dating back to last spring, over the summer he seemed to be one of Fisher's favorite guys on the whole team.

You could see why when he talked about the team's tempo leading into this weekend's ACC opener with Wake. 

"From today on the intensity is going to be very high," said Dent. "Everybody's got to be running around, flying to the huddle, running all your routes and blocking. Blocking's going to be big. It's doing the little things."

The Seminoles will be looking to avenge a 35-30 loss last year in Winston Salem. The Demon Deacons have taken four of the last six from Florida State.

Dent should start seeing plenty of opportunities starting Saturday, but credit him for being honest when asked about the past two years when the opportunities to get involved were limited.

"I do get frustrated sometimes but I have to take advantage of the reps that I do get," said Dent. "So it's frustrating but I've learned from my time here that if I practice well and get the confidence of the coaches that I'll eventually get some kind of reps and I'll cherish the reps I do get."

He did that this past offseason and it's about to pay off for him. It's something he says everyone has to figure out.

"For freshmen coming in they really have to work," said Dent. "They really have to work to catch the coaches eye so that's why like [Ronald] Darby I think he really caught the coaches eye that's why he plays with the upper classmen."

Dent is one of a handful of guys that could probably be dominant on another team but vies for reps in a talented Florida State rotation of pass-catchers. But he's managed to distinguish himself in the eyes of Jimbo Fisher and the other coaches to be commended to the media, and he could stand out once he starts getting more time in games with the beginning for Florida State's ACC schedule. 

It might be easy to overlook Dent as a team leader, but he's actually one of the older guys on the team as a junior. He's in his third year in the system and though he's not loud, he leads by example.

"I don't really preach it, I try to just do it," said Dent. "I do it more by my actions, let them see like how it is when you're in practice. You're supposed to run, you're not supposed to take plays off you've got to come out and want to work every day."

September 10, 2012

Seminoles, Fisher Turn Focus to Wake

Today head coach Jimbo Fisher and fifth-year senior QB EJ Manuel fielded their weekly barrage of questions, but in week three the topics were much less general and far more focused on the Seminoles' first ACC opponent, Wake Forest.

For starters, the Seminoles maintain this is not a revenge game.

"It's a different year," said Fisher. "Totally different year, this is a totally different team and we know what we have to do. Wake does what they do, we're going to do what we do, we've got to play well.

"I mean you always want to play well against teams that have beaten you in the past or whatever but year to year the teams change, they're not the same team."

They're not, but they look pretty darn similar to the group that lost its third straight game of the season 35-30 last year in Winston Salem. A few players have graduated on each side of the ball, but this team returned a lot of players from last year's team and despite the proclamations of its players and coaches, you know on some level there are still memories from last year playing out this week.

The fans certainly remember.

As for what Wake does, Fisher was very quick to caution that this Wake team has a lot of experience, they're not a group that makes mental errors.

“[They play] good football. Sound football," said Fisher. "They do make plays. They’re much more athletic than people think. Wake’s got good players. Last year, their first three got drafted before our first one got drafted. They’ve got good players, they’ve always have – since I’ve been here. They’re coached well. They don’t beat themselves. They play very hard. They’re very sound and a good football team.”

What Fisher is referring to is a much different MO than has typically been used at Florida colleges (though Miami is beginning to shift more to it under Al Golden). Whereas some schools really do have the pick of the litter when it comes to signing the best recruits, you can win by developing and coaching players that aren't as heralded when they come out but will stick around for four or five years.

That's why every few years Jim Grobe puts together an ACC-contender, he brings in classes of guys who stay on board, earn their degrees and play at a high level mentally after spending a long time in their system.

I went to high school with a guy that went to Wake, a receiver, he didn't start until his redshirt senior year (like many in his incoming freshman class), but he earned a masters in that time and knew the offense inside and out before he ever saw the field.

It's not the sexiest way, but you don't have to compensate for players leaving early and you rarely have to rely on the athleticism (and inconsistency) of underclassmen if you build a team around that philosophy.

If you can't compete on the top tier of recruiting in college football this is how you win.

“They’ve got good players and they’re coached well," said Fisher. "The first year I was here, they had about five guys drafted off the defense which was an excellent defense. Some of them were the best players we faced all year. They’ve always had a very good football team.

"They’re an experienced football team, a lot of them are redshirt juniors and seniors in the mix. I think people overlook that. They’ve caught the Butler (men’s basketball) syndrome – you get older guys that know how to play together and very well and they understand the system. They’ve been there and understand how to win and play hard. When you get older you get smarter and tougher. That’s how they play."

That's a marked difference from Florida State's last two opponents who thought gap responsibility was a mall retail term. While the Seminoles will have the edge in athletcism on Saturday, they will need to have a mental edge too because Wake isn't going to give them anything.

Florida State is favored by nearly 30 this weekend, they should win, but Wake Forest is going to make them earn it.

September 09, 2012

Florida State Moves Up to 5th in Latest AP Poll

The latest AP Poll was released Sunday morning and the Florida State Seminoles are tied with the Oklahoma Sooners for the fifth spot in the latest round of rankings.

Of course at this stage, rankings means squat. Four of the top 20 teams have already lost to teams outside of the top 25. So take it with a grain of salt.

But for what they want to do the Seminoles are right where they need to be. Last week they were sixth, the week before seventh. As long as they hang around the top five and take care of their own business, they'll be fine.

Arkansas was bounced out of the top ten, which I normally wouldn't mention except for the fact they lost to a Louisiana-Monroe team that was largely in tact from the group FSU beat 34-0 last year. 

The Seminoles are 2-0 after facing two FCS opponents, this week they face Wake Forest in their final tune-up before Clemson visits. The Seminoles were 0-2 last season against the Demon Deacons and Tigers.

Thoughts From the Morning After: FSU 55 Savannah State 0

The rain persisted throughout the day on Saturday and ultimately by the middle of the third quarter lightning had forced a merciful end to the 55-0 thrashing the Seminoles were putting on the Tigers.

Just how impressive were the Seminoles last night? 

It's tough to tell. This was the closest thing to a JV-Varsity scrimmage I've ever seen play out on a college field. There were probably a half dozen plays where Florida State would have scored if not for a collision between its own players or a guy tripping on himself. That in addition to the 8 touchdowns they did score.

Here's what we do know, the starters were excellent, racking up five touchdown and nearly 300 yards in a quarter before relaxing for the rest of the evening.

Here are a few thoughts from the morning after:

-Jacob Coker stayed in the game long enough to throw his first career touchdown but you had to feel for the Seminoles' third string quarterback, he was probably the guy most affected by the early termination of the game. Coker came in to start the second half and likely would have stayed on for the majority of the game. It was probably his last chance to get meaningful reps this year and I'm sure on some level he'd built up to it over the week. I asked him about it after the game.

"I wish I could have played the whole second half," admitted Coker. "I would have loved to have all those reps, that experience."

-Kelvin Benjamin finally showed some of what he's capable of, albeit against a very suspect secondary. The 6-5 240-pound receiver caught three passes for 47 yards and a couple touchdowns. Most notable was his work inside the 20.

"Whenever KB's in the redzone you can't look [past] it," said Coker, who connected with Benjamin on his first career TD in the third quarter last night. "Hes always in the back of your mind."

-Bjoern Werner didn't waste much time notching his fifth sack of the season. He now leads the team with 5 sacks and 6.5 TFL's. 

-Florida State only ran 44 offensive plays on Saturday night. The team averaged nearly 9.4 yards per play, just under a first down, and hung 55 points. All in just over 36 minutes of football (the last 10 of which we played with a winding clock).

-Willie Haulstead caught his first pass since 2010 on Saturday night. It wasn't much, it came after things got out of hand, but the 15-yard reception was a big deal for Haulstead who missed all of last season with the effects of a concussion.

-Dustin Hopkins missed an extra point for the first time 146 attempts on Saturday night. Hopkins was there after the game but I didn't have a chance to ask him about the miss. Frankly, it was the one obvious mistake in an otherwise well-executed night for the Seminoles. If anything, it's probably good Hopkins got the miss out of his system agaisnt SSU instead of in ACC play or when it could really hurt the Seminoles.

-I'm not sure how serious he was, but Savannah State coach Steve Davenport at least insinuated he asked for the tie last night.

"There were four options and that was just one of them," Davenport said about the tie. "Obviously Florida State wasn't going for that. That was my vote. One of the other options was to come back and obviously that wasn't going to work..."

I think Davenport was kidding, otherwise one of the most audacious exchanges in the history of college football must have taken place in the tunnels under Doak Campbell last night as one head football coach looked another coach that was beating his team 55-0 in the third quarter straight in the eye and asked to be let off the hook. No, I'm pretty sure that was a joke...

-Mark Stoops' defense notched its fourth shutout during his tenure on Saturday night. Since 2010 FSU has stonewalled Wake Forest (31-0), NC State (34-0) and Louisiana-Monroe (34-0) in addition to last night's 55-0 win.

The ULM team Florida State shutout last season remained largely in tact this year and upset 8th ranked Arkansas last night. They made 500k for it too. 

-Finally, Savannah State earned just 28 yards on 33 offensive plays.

I'll have more from the game later today. In the meantime enjoy the opening Sunday of the NFL season.

September 08, 2012

What Happened with Florida State's Cancellation

I'm going to be honest, I don't think I've ever been associated (and may never again be) with a game as bizarre as tonight's FSU-Savannah State contest.

After Florida State jumped out ahead a lightning delay came with about four minutes left in the second quarter. 

With another band of bad weather coming later in the evening, both SSU and FSU were looking at all contigencies during the first stoppage. Ultimately, at the discretion of FSU's athletic department, after contacting the ACC and the NCAA the schools first decided to reduce halftime to 10 minutes, and run the final 34 minutes of the game non-stop.

Essentially, a college football game started using Florida High School mercy rules because Savannah State bused it from Georgia, was out of the game already and wanted to make it home at a decent hour.

The second delay is what screwed everything up.

With 8:59 left in the third quarter officials once again asked players to go inside after lightning was again reported in the area. 

The decision was made to cancel the game outright after FSU consulted the NCAA about how exactly to conduct a cancellation without losing the results of the game.

Early this year, the FSU women's soccer team lead Marquette in a ranked matchup when a weather delay forced the cancellation of the game, the FSU women didn't get credit for the win and the game itself didn't even count.

The football team wanted to avoid that tonight.

Afterwards, Florida State released the following statement as an explanation of what exactly transpired:

"In light of the severe weather conditions that we have encountered throughout the evening and after consultation with officials from Savannah State, the ACC and the NCAA, we have determined it is best for us to terminate the game with a determined final score of 55-0 as it was when play was last suspended with 8:59 left in the third quarter. The game will be recorded as a completed game for statistical purposes."

The school also added the official NCAA policy, which reads as such:

If a contest does not reach its full conclusion but a winner and loser, or a tie are determined by the game officials and/or the competing institutions at the site in accordance with the rules of the game, then the win, loss, tie, score of the game and all individual and team statistics will count toward game, season, career and all-time totals. This does not include games declared by the game officials at the site as forfeited or determined as no contest. However, some forfeited games may count in individual and team statistics if the game had reached a reasonable of conclusion as stated in these policies. 

So there you have it. FSU beat Savannah State 55-0 in 36 minutes before some truly weird weather and timeframes forced one of the strangest conclusions to a game I've ever seen.

Keep checking back, I'll have lots headed your way in the aftermath of Florida State's blowout.

Florida State Competing with Weather, Savannah State Tonight

So far the rain has not stopped pounding Tallahassee today. With just over three hours until kickoff the forecast calls for more showers throughout the night and the weather map shows a healthy burst of precipitation headed towards Doak Campbell.


(Weather map courtesy of WCTV in Tallahassee)

So go ahead and pump the brakes on some of the big blowout talk. At the very least the playing surface will be slower tonight and it's possible come gametime that the Seminoles are competing with the weather in addition to Savannah State.

The name of the game will be player health more so than ever now. Before it was going to be a priority to make sure to get starters out of the game with as few injuries as possible, but now with a slick surface I'm sure the coaching staff will want to take even fewer chances.

It will be a good day to run the ball though. 

Now we just have to hope there's no lightning...

The Early Read: Florida State vs. Savannah State

69 and a half points.

That’s the biggest point differential ever set by linemakers in as long as they’ve kept track of those sort of things. It’s the amount the no. 6 Florida State Seminoles are favored over lowly Savannah State tonight when the two square off in Doak Campbell Stadium.

When asked about the line head coach Jimbo Fisher could only sigh and mutter, “you’ve got to be kidding me.”

For Florida State, Saturday’s game is as much about domination, which is almost a given, as it is about managing that domination so as not to appear to be running up the score or acting classlessly.

“I don’t mean this [negatively], but I hope we get it out of hand quick,” said Fisher on Monday. “We have to compete against ourselves, we can’t worry about the opponent we have to execute the plays that are called.”

Savannah State has been 1-10 each of the last two seasons in FCS play, they are 4-72 all time in the lower division. Last weekend they took a payday to travel to Stillwater where the Oklahoma State Cowboys pummeled them 84-0.

This week the Tigers are making 475k to take on a top ten opponent with a much better defense. And many national pundits fear tonight could be much worse for Savannah State.

It’s worth noting Florida State originally had planned to play West Virginia this weekend but a conference move altered the Mountaineers schedule and left Florida State scrambling to fill the vacancy.

In stepped FCS doormat Savannah State.

Tonight, a week after taking their lumps at Oklahoma State they will try to make it look respectable against a much better Florida State team.

Oddsmakers, experts, national media, even fans around the nation think that’s a long shot.

"The coaches are basically just saying to focus on the details from last week. [But] it would be cool to hang 100 on anyone,” joked junior receiver Kenny Shaw.

“But they put us on the schedule, we put them on the schedule, now we're going to have to play them."

The unique challenge for the Seminoles, not so much for the players as for Fisher himself, is that the game will not be televised nationally, so hardly anyone will see anything but the score.

Anything in the ballpark of 84-0 will look like running it up, which could in turn hurt Florida State with the pollsters.

Fisher spoke of his intention to get third string quarterback Jacob Coker in the game if the score permitted, but with the talent disparity between the two squads Florida State’s third team, running a conservative game-plan could still be a threat to score.

“If we can get that far,” cautioned Fisher as he talked about the redshirt freshman. “Everybody has us getting that far.  I want to make sure we can get that far and do the things we’ve got to do.”

Last week the Tigers gave up 682 yards while mustering just 139 yards of their own.

This week against one of the nation’s top defenses and an offense that racked up 600 yards of its own in the opener, things could be even more lopsided.



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