Maryland is now ranked in the Top 25, and what's their reward? A road trip to No. 8 Florida State, one of the most talented teams in the nation. The Terps have never won in Tallahassee, and a victory this week would certainly be one of the largest in program history.
A tropical storm is looking more and more likely for game time, which could certainly change the outcome of the game. Both teams are arguing it's in their favor -- I'm of the opinion that it helps Maryland, because Jameis Winston is more of a deep threat than C.J. Brown -- but really, it's a serious impediment to both offenses that could have a big effect.
Both teams are 4-0 after convincing wins against less-than-convincing competition. This will be a fairly big test for each squad, and should be an interesting one to see play out.
Let's run the matchup down, unit by unit.
Maryland offensive line vs. Florida State defensive line:
The Terps' offensive line has certainly been better than what was expected of them, but the competition hasn't exactly been stern. Through four games, Maryland has given up 26 tackles for a loss and five sacks, but much of the latter number can be attributed to C.J. Brown's escapability. The tackles for a loss figure (more than six per game) is a bit more of a concern, as the run blocking has been less-than-perfect, and the Terps will face by far the stoutest defensive unit they've seen all year, especially up front.
Florida State has 26 tackles for a loss and nine sacks through four games this year, and have eight players who should make an impact up front in their 4-3. Starting at left end, former top Terrapin target Eddie Goldman (from D.C.) is a highly-touted sophomore that's absolutely massive off the edge. Statistically, his season has not been anything to write home about -- six tackles and a sack -- but he, like everyone else on Florida State's roster, is a top tier talent worthy of your fear.
Off the other edge is more youth for the Seminoles, with freshman DeMarcus Walker. He too only has six tackles, but has two quarterback hurries on the year.
The line is held up by strength on the inside, with Nile Lawrence-Stample (five tackles) and Timmy Jernigan (15 tackles, two for a loss) both serving as experienced players with a whole lot of talent. But there's even more talent off the bench -- freshman Chris Casher (11 tackles, 2.5 for a loss), redshirt senior Jacobbi McDaniel (12 tackles, one for a loss), sophomore Mario Edwards Jr. (seven tackles, one for a loss) and redshirt senior DeMonte McCallister (ten tackles and a quarterback hurry) will all cause problems in the Maryland backfield.
Advantage: Florida State.
Maryland defensive line vs. Florida State offensive line:
Florida State's offensive line has been statistically comparable to Maryland's, giving up 22 tackles for a loss and eight sacks for their freshman quarterback (more on him later).
Where the Seminoles hold the advantage over Maryland's unit is experience -- they star four juniors and one senior on their line. All but one of their starting lineman has received some sort of all-conference accolade -- either post-2012 or pre-2013 -- but it's impossible to know how much of that was simply the name value of being a Florida State offensive lineman (which it's hard to argue isn't notable).
The two best linemen for the Seminoles are likely redshirt senior center Bryan Stork, who was a preseason second-team All-American selection for CBS, and junior right guard Tre' Jackson, who is a Lombardi award candidate.
The Terps have just three starting linemen, but the unit has done a phenomenal job both getting into the backfield and opening up opportunities for the linebackers to do the same. Quinton Jefferson has carried his strong spring into the regular season, leading all Maryland linemen with four tackles for a loss, and Keith Bowers has been solid with 12 tackles on the other end.
The two stars of the defensive line, however, have been starting nose tackle Darius Kilgo and reserve defensive end Andre Monroe. Kilgo has 3.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks on the year, and has been able to consistently eat up space in the middle. Monroe, a former freshman All-American who has struggled with injury, leads all linemen with 2.5 sacks and has been a reliable playmaker off the bench.
Maryland rushing offense vs. Florida State front seven:
C.J. Brown and Brandon Ross continue to have excellent seasons, averaging 6.3 and 5.0 yards per carry, respectively, but Maryland has two additional weapons in Albert Reid and Jacquille Veii. Quick bit of trivia -- did you know Reid has just six more carries than Veii on the year? That has more to do with the blowout nature of many of Maryland's wins than anyone else, but both are averaging more than 4.5 yards per carry and could see some play in Tallahassee.
Florida State's run defense has been well, not as strong as Maryland's, giving up 3.7 yards per carry with just one rushing touchdown scored against the Seminoles this season. At linebacker, they start three seniors -- Dan Hicks, Christian Jones and Telvin Smith. Hicks has eight tackles with one for a loss this season, but the star power comes from the other two.
Jones has 20 tackles on the year, is averaging eight per game over his last six games, and is a candidate for just about every possible defensive award. Smith, meanwhile, has team highs in tackles (27) and tackles for a loss (four) and returned an interception for a touchdown against Bethune-Cookman.
Off the bench, Ukeme Eligwe (14 tackles, one for a loss) and Terrance Smith (14 tackles, one sack) should also play a role.
Maryland front seven vs. Florida State rushing offense
Florida State's rushing prowess has been frankly insane this year. Devonta Freeman is averaging 8.7 yards per carry on 37 rushes, Karlos Williams is at a 9.4 clip on 23 attempts, and James Wilder, Jr. is averaging a relatively paltry 5.8 yards per carry on 30 rushes. The Wilder/Freeman combination has naturally been called Wild and Free, because these things are unavoidable.
The Seminoles have combined for 12 rushing touchdowns this season (including two from their quarterback), and have what appears to be one of the top running back rotations in the country. They're averaging 239.5 yards per game on the ground.
Maryland's two leading tacklers are their inside linebackers, which is a good sign with regards to stopping the run. L.A. Goree has 26 stops on the year, just beating out Cole Farrand, who has 25. The Terps are giving up just 2.9 yards per rush, beating Florida State's clip by about a yard. Right behind them is outside linebacker Matt Robinson, with 23.
The story, of course, comes on the outside, where Marcus Whitfield and Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil have excelled at the WILL position. The two have combined for 10.5 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks, and have consistently found their way into opposing backfields for big plays.
Maryland receivers vs. Florida State secondary
DIGGS DIGGS DIGGS DIGGS DIGGS also Long DIGGS DIGGS DIGGS DIGGS DIGGS
Maryland secondary vs. Florida State receivers
If there's any receiving unit in the country that can compete with Maryland's, it's Florida State's. Kenny Shaw leads the team with 370 yards receiving, Rashad Greene has a team-high 19 catches (and five touchdowns), and Kelvin Benjamin and tight end Nick O'Leary are excellent third and fourth options.
By the way, Stefon Diggs has 400 yards receiving and Deon Long has 21 receptions.
Advantage: Florida State.
Maryland quarterback vs. Florida State quarterback
Let's briefly compare the numbers.
Wee Baby Jameis - 73.6%, 11.5 yards per attempt, 12 TDs, two INTs, 3.83 yards per carry, two touchdowns
C.J. Brown - 66.7%, 10.5 yards per attempt, seven TDs, one INT, 6.29 yards per carry, six touchdowns
As expected, Winston is the better passer, Brown is the better runner. The difference? Winston is a freshman, and freshman mistakes happen.
Maryland special teams vs. Florida State special teams
For those not keeping score, it's a tie heading into this portion of our preview. For those keeping score, thanks for paying attention.
We know the deal for Maryland -- Nate Renfro is averaging more than 44 yards per punt, Brad Craddock has been frankly excellent, and the Stefon Diggs/Will Likely returning combo is explosive. But how does Florida State match up?
Lamarcus Joyner and Kenny Shaw are pretty comparable to Diggs and Likely (although the latter two get the slight edge), and Roberto Aguayo is a perfect seven-for-seven on field goals this year. The difference? Punter Cason Beatty, who has struggled at times and is averaging 40.4 yards per punt.
Overall impressions and final tally
3-2-3 Maryland. With some generous home blog bias.
Our prediction: Florida State 31, Maryland 20. Ultimately, the difference comes in the home-field advantage. Were this game at a neutral site location or in College Park, this prediction would look quite different. But as it stands, it's hard to pick against the Seminoles at Doak, where the Terrapins have never won.