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September 17, 2009

FSU-BYU Preview, Keys to Victory & Prediction

videoWarchant.com Report - FSU-BYU Preview

After a disappointing start to the 2009 season, the Seminoles are looking to get back on the right track and will have a golden opportunity this weekend.

After a narrow victory over Division 1AA (FCS) Jacksonville State, Florida State travels to Provo, Utah to take on No. 7 BYU. After a short week to prepare for Jacksonville State, the coaching staff is just glad to have a full week to prepare and to have film to study.

"They've got two games under their belt and had to show everything against Oklahoma," head coach Bobby Bowden said of BYU. "At least we'll have a much better feel of what they do."

After posting some big numbers in the season opener, the Seminole offense cooled down last Saturday against JSU managing just two touchdowns. Nevertheless, quarterback Christian Ponder was sharp throwing for a career high 324 yards. He also directed FSU to the game-winning touchdown in the final minute of the game.

The larger concern for the Seminole offense has been the inability to run the ball more effectively. The 'Noles' rushing average per game has been nearly cut in half from last year despite the return of the entire offensive line. That's something the coaches and players hope to turn around this weekend.

On the other side of the ball, the Seminole defense had to replace seven starters from 2008 and the lack of experience has been obvious early on. Mickey Andrews' troops surrendered 38 points and nearly 500 yards of offense against the Hurricanes in the opener. After getting off to a slow start last week against JSU, the defense settled down in the second half and played fairly well.

FSU's opponent is riding high after a huge upset win over Oklahoma in the season opener. In fact, there has already been talk of the Cougars being BCS busters with an outside shot of sneaking into the national championship game.

BYU is led by senior quarterback Max Hall who is up for several national awards. The senior signal-caller has completed over 71 percent of his pass attempts through the first two games. Last week, he led his offense to 52 points in a thrashing of Tulane.

Defensively, the Cougars have been dominating and rank in the top 20 in total defense, scoring defense and pass defense. They have surrendered just one touchdown, which came in the first quarter against Oklahoma, in the first two games.

Five keys to victory for Florida State:

5. Don't let Max Hall get into a rhythm

When you complete over 70 percent of your passes and throw for over 300 yards in two straight games you are doing something right. FSU's defense, which has struggled against the pass, must find a way to keep Hall from dictating the action with his precise, short passing game. That's a lot easier said than done especially for a defense that is very young and still trying to find itself.

While this isn't a game where you want to blitz much, if FSU can slow down BYU's rushing attack and can focus primarily on defending the pass there's a chance they can throw a wrench into BYU's plans. One option might be going to the Prowler (1-5-5) defense on more than just passing downs. Also, Mickey Andrews should let his defense do what it does best - bump-and-run and man-on-man coverage. Getting physical with BYU's receivers and utilizing FSU's speed advantage on defense is the best way to challenge a solid, disciplined offense.

Will it happen? It will be very difficult. While Oklahoma didn't win the game they did hold BYU to just 14 points in the opener proving that an athletic defense can at least slow down the Cougars' senior quarterback. However, FSU's defense isn't at the level of Oklahoma.

4. Take advantage of opportunities on defense and special teams

Last weekend against JSU was a perfect example of how not to take advantage of opportunities. The Seminole defense dropped three sure interceptions and let Ryan Perilloux convert several third-and-long situations. The special teams were responsible for two plays that would have given FSU's offense the football after a defensive stop - a roughing the punter call and a punt that bounced off the leg of a Seminole player (led to JSU's only touchdown).

It's a given that BYU will put up some points but when the defense has the opportunity to force a punt or create a turnover they must take advantage. Giving Max Hall extra chances to move the offense is suicide. And at the very least, FSU's special teams can't give the football right back to the Cougar offense when the defense does force a punt.

Will it happen? I have a feeling that after the dressing down the defense got for dropping interceptions and giving up third and long plays that they will be more focused this weekend. And I would be surprised if we saw many attempts to block a punt in this game.

3. The receivers need to turn in some big plays

The Seminole wide receivers have been a bit of a disappointment so far. There were too many drops, including what should have been the game-winner, in the Miami game, the blocking was poor against JSU and big plays have been few and far between.

Going into this weekend, the longest reception for FSU has come from tight end Caz Piurowski. Even though Christian Ponder has had good protection and been accurate on his throws, the receivers have only been in on a handful of plays that have gone for over 20 yards (and none for 40 or more yards). With BYU a little short in the athleticism and speed department on defense, this is a golden opportunity for the Seminole wideouts to strut their stuff.

Will it happen? It should. Christian Ponder is only a roll and is only getting better. As long as the offensive line does its job, it will be up to the speedy Seminole receivers to make plays in the open field, which they are very capable of doing.

2. Cut down on the mistakes!

Against Miami, missed assignments, missed tackles and dropped passes prevented FSU from winning the game. Against Jacksonville State, the 'Noles continually shot themselves in the foot with turnovers, penalties and mental lapses. Having an inordinate number of mistakes in the first two games is somewhat understandable given the circumstances. However, there are no excuses this Saturday.

When you are a road underdog against a confident team the last thing you can do is create additional obstacles for yourself. In order to pull off the upset, FSU must drastically reduce the mistakes it had in the first two games.

Will it happen? Yes. The first game was a season opener against a rival so mistakes were inevitable. The JSU game was coming off a short week and a heartbreaking loss - not to mention lousy weather. But with a full week to prepare and a chance to look back at the self-inflicted errors, there's every reason for the Seminoles to play a clean, crisp game.

1. Run the football effectively

One area where FSU hasn't excelled where it should is running the football. The offensive line is experienced, strong and well-coached, there are several talented and explosive running backs to rely on, and FSU ran extremely well last year with less ability. Whatever is holding down the ground game must end this weekend if the 'Noles are going to have a shot to win.

BYU has been decent but not great against the run. Oklahoma had to break in a brand new offensive line and still managed to run pretty well at times against the Cougar defense. The Seminole offensive line and running backs must be firing on all cylinders on Saturday to make this happen.

Will it happen? It should. The running attack is due for a breakout game. Whether it's Ty Jones or Jermaine Thomas, one or both of FSU's sophomore running backs will need to have a big game for FSU to leave Utah with a win.

Score prediction

With two teams with very different styles, different personnel from different parts of the country there's no telling how his game will play out. But odds are pretty good that it will be entertaining.

Look for FSU to rely on its strength and try to control the ball on offense by running effectively and mixing in a controlled passing game. On Defense, FSU must take advantage of the few opportunities it gets during the course of the game.

FSU 27, BYU 20.


Gene WilliamsGene Williams is the founder and administrator of Warchant.com and writes stories and features covering all of FSU's sports with an emphasis on football and football recruiting. For seven years, Williams hosted a weekly sports radio show in Tallahassee. He currently appears as a weekly guest on 1010 XL Sports Radio in Jacksonville and 1270 The Team in Tallahassee during football season. Williams is also a former ACC correspondent for College Football News (weekly national newspaper), and contributes to The Osceola. Story about Gene Williams & Warchant.com.

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