Maryland-Florida State Preview

Lots of stuff happened this week: Maryland got a commitment from Ashton Pankey, lost one from Tobias Harris, and learned Dino Gregory's status. Actually, so much happened that it's easy to forget there's a football game tomorrow.

There is one, and it's against a team everyone loves to hate: Florida State. The Seminoles, actually, have some strange similarities to Maryland.

Both have coaches in waiting. Both have HCs formerly extremely successful that are falling back to earth. Both have defenses in the bottom 40 in the nation. Both have QBs making their second start due to the injury of a previously entrenched veteran.

Of course, there are some very important differences, too. FSU's QB is former Maryland target E.J. Manuel, a five-star recruit from Virginia Beach. Maryland's QB is Jamarr Robinson, a two star from North Carolina. FSU's offense is in the top 20; Maryland's is in the bottom 20. Most importantly, the Noles are playing for a bowl bid, sitting at 5-5 on the year.

With the motivation for both teams - for Maryland, all but guarantee that F$U misses a bowl; for FSU, making a bowl - out of the way, the actual matchup on the field isn't exactly favorable.

While E.J. Manuel is no Christian Ponder, he might have more raw talent than Ponder, and looked pretty decent in his starting debut against Wake Forest - 15-20, 220 yards, a TD and an INT. Maryland probably won't be able to count on flustering and taking advantage of the redshirt freshman, but they can take solace in the fact that he's not as good at running Florida State's offense as Ponder is.

And that's a very good thing. Florida State has the country's 19th best offense, checking in at 13th through the air. They turned more to the ground attack against Wake Forest last week with the absence of Ponder, but that didn't exactly fail - they picked up 217 yards on 43 carries for a 5 ypc average. I wouldn't expect them to vary too far from that formula, but I would be surprised if they didn't let Manuel open it up a bit more against Maryland's mostly pathetic secondary.

Their top running back is Jermaine Thomas, a well-rounded back with a penchant for breaking tackles who's rounded up more than 5 yards a carry. Manuel is also a threat on the ground; while not as fast as Robinson is for Maryland, he's got quick feet.

Maryland's best hope here is to prevent Thomas from busting big runs, wait for Manuel to throw, and force him to make mistakes. Just because he didn't make them against Wake doesn't mean he isn't capable of making them. It'll be a tough task for this defense, but that's their best shot at staying close.

Not all hope is lost, though - FSU's defense is terrible, and literally worse than Maryland's. They're 109th in total defense, 105th in rush defense, and 96th in scoring defense. Maryland will have to put up points, but they just might be capable of it.

Sadly, FSU's one big strength, if it can be called that, is in their secondary, which houses Patrick Robinson, one of the best corners in the country. He'll match up with Torrey Smith, and probably be able to neutralize him. After that, they're much weaker in the back four, so hopefully Maryland can utilize their WR depth when passing the ball, going five wide often to exploit FSU's lack of depth in the secondary.

Where they're really weak is against the run, particularly on the line. That'll be a nice break for the Terps' much maligned OL, which could use an equal opponent. Similarly to the VT game, putting up rushing yards will be a main key to keeping close. FSU's just much worse at rush defense.

Luckily, Maryland gets Da'Rel Scott back this week, so they'll have a full stable of backs to throw at one of the worst rush defenses in the country. Jamarr Robinson should also be able to make a dent. The folks over at Tomahawk Nation often complain about their overpursuing defense - throw in slippery conditions, and that should be a feast for guys like Robinson and Caleb Porzel, assuming the latter can stay on his feet.

As always, Maryland will need a big performance from their special teams (and probably some points from the defense) if they want to pull out a win. Maryland will definitely be able to score on FSU's defense, but not nearly at the rate that the Noles should be able to score on Maryland's. I'm calling a 38-24 loss.

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