Here are five things to watch for when FSU and Syracuse play this afternoon.
1.) Focus, Focus, Focus
This is the hardest week that FSU will have had all season in terms of eliminating clutter and trying to focus on the task at hand. Since early morning Wednesday the storylines coming out of Florida State have had nothing to do with football -- at least not in an X's and O's sense. It's easy to forget that these are student athletes, young men between the ages of 18-22. Things like this do affect people and if Florida State's players weren't in the right mindset it could show up on the field.
For what it's worth, Jimbo Fisher thinks that won't be a problem. On Thursday he said this is an exceptionally tight knit group that has rallied around one another this week.
“You always talk about that," said Fisher. "We have no problems expressing our feelings for each other. I love our players, they love each other. There is nothing wrong with saying that and we say it all of the time. I think it’s very important.”
2.) Take Your Pick
Syracuse has an offense that would prefer to run the ball today, control the clock and shrink the number of possessions. That's largely because rushing is their strength and also because they've thrown 15 picks as a team this season and are facing a Florida State secondary that leads the nation in interceptions. If Syracuse can establish the run and use it to set up the pass they will have a much better shot today than if the Seminoles can stop their run, build a lead and force them to pass.
3.) Can Syracuse take advantage of single coverage?
If Syracuse is successful establishing the run in the early going they also have to show they can exploit single coverage situations when they get them. If FSU can confidently load the box on run downs and still defend the pass, they will have very little problem completely shutting down the Orange offense. Ultimately the Seminoles want to make Syracuse one-dimensional and force them to pass. They can't do that until they build a lead though. But if Syracuse can't show enough balance to make FSU respect the pass early in order to loosen the box and help the Orange continue to establish the run -- they'll be one-dimensional very quickly.
4.) Mr. Winston
Jameis Winston has not been rattled all year, but this has been a very different week for him. His personal life is in flux now. He's had all kinds of allegations made against him, his campus is abuzz and for the first time in his career his name has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons -- fairly or unfairly.
How does he handle this?
Jimbo Fisher said he took all the first team reps this week -- as per usual -- and was very sharp. It's possible he looks flat and has a mediocre day. But given his history of rising to the occasion, I also wouldn't put it past him to have a career day.
5.) The 1993 FSU Team Returns to Doak
Lost in all the commotion this week is the fact that FSU will be honoring their first national championship. This is the 20th anniversary and all of the legends -- from Charlie Ward to Derrick Brooks to Warrick Dunn -- are in town to celebrate. Even Bobby Bowden will be in the house today. The '93 team featured FSU's first Heisman Winner (Ward) and cemented Bowden's legacy as one of the greatest coaches in the sport. If you're going to be at the game today, make sure you get there early so you don't miss the festivities.
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