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September 13, 2013
What to watch for - Nevada vs. Florida State
Just the facts
Setting the Stage
In what has been the longest wait for a home opener since 2004, Florida State will finally play in Doak Campbell Stadium this Saturday.
After soundly defeating Pitt 41-13 on Labor Day, FSU will set its sights on a 1-1 Nevada team that is coming off a 36-7 victory over UC Davis, an FCS program. In the opening weekend the Wolf Pack suffered a 58-20 beating at the hands of No. 17 UCLA.
With the Seminoles being heavy favorites to move to 2-0, much of the attention will be on freshman phenom Jameis Winston. The rookie quarterback had a record-breaking coming-out party in his first game as a starter, racking up 358 passing yards, 4 passing TDs and added one rushing score. He also completed a school record 25-of-27 pass attempts.
Doak Campbell Stadium will be packed with FSU fans on Saturday afternoon anxious to see what the former five-star recruit will do for an encore.
Many will also be interested to get a first-hand look at a redesigned and more aggressive defense under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
Florida State offense vs. Nevada defense
Florida State's offense lit up what was supposed to be a pretty good Pitt defense in week one. The Panthers returned nine starters from a defense that ranked in the top 20 in 2012. Nevertheless, Winston and the Seminole offense moved the ball at will for most of the game scoring on six straight drives after the opening series. The offense also racked up 533 total yards and were an impressive 7-of-11 on third down conversions.
The story is very different for a Nevada team that ranks 103rd nationally in total defense. That poor ranking is due primarily to the Wolf Pack surrendering a whopping 647 yards to UCLA in week one. Surprisingly, the Bruins held just a four point advantage at half but piled on 41 second half points thanks to six straight touchdown drives.
Nevada is especially weak against the run, ranking No. 112 nationally. UCLA rushed for 7.3 yards per carry and piled on 345 total yards on the ground. Even UC Davis, a 4-7 FCS team that went 4-7 in 2012, managed a respectable 4.7 yards per rush average last weekend against the Wolf Pack.
Sophomore middle linebacker Jordan Dobrich is off to a good start in 2013 and leads the Wolf Pack defense in tackles with 15. Junior end Brock Hekking, the player with the mullet haircut noted by FSU QB Jameis Winston, is probably Nevada's top defender. Last season he was the far and away leader in both tackles for loss (10) and sacks (8). He will have to have a huge day if Nevada hopes to pull off the monumental upset.
"The one guy that stood out to me, he had a mullet. He was playing d-end and that was very exciting," said Winston.
Florida State defense vs. Nevada offense
From a purely competitive standpoint this is the matchup to watch.
Nevada will field a difficult-to-defend high-tempo pistol offense. The Wolf Pack ranked eighth in total offense last year and return quarterback Cody Fajardo. As a sophomore last season, Fajardo racked up more than 3,900 all-purpose yards (1,121 rushing, 2,786 passing) and had 32 total touchdowns.
Even without legendary coach Chris Ault, who is considered the inventor of the pistol offense, Nevada's offense is still considered formidable. The Wolf Pack run the same system under new coach Brian Polian and do so at a frenetic pace designed to keep a defense from substituting or resting its starters. In fact, through the first two games Nevada is averaging 88.5 plays per game (FSU averaged 67 per game in 2012).
It's that no-huddle fast paced style that has caught Fisher's attention.
"It's the nature of ball today. That's what everybody is doing. That's football today," said Fisher of Nevada's up-tempo style on offense. "Everybody knows how to play it. You have to play it, and you have to play it consistently. It will be a great challenge. You have to have (depth) all the way across the board, because they can get some snaps in. The good thing is if you stop them, then they aren't on the field very long. That's a lot easier said than done."
Florida State's defense under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt had a good but not great debut versus Pittsburgh. In the first series of the game, the Panthers both ran and threw effectively en route to an 80-yard touchdown drive. The defense picked things up after that limiting Pitt two just two field goals for the rest of the game.
While the Seminole defense showed improvement as the game went on, it was far from perfect.
"There was the first drive and then we go six-straight drives where they don't score a point and we're able to score and they score late," explained Fisher. "For the most part I thought our defense made nice adjustments. I like the adjustments they made during the game."
With a new coordinator and several significant changes to FSU's personnel and its philosophy being implemented it's to be expected that the defense will experience some growing pains, especially early in the season. That defense will have a good challenge this weekend going against one of the more difficult systems to prepare for.
Conclusion and Prediction
It's reasonable to expect the Seminole defense to have some difficulties early on against a high flying pistol offense. As such, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Nevada hang with FSU early on as it did with UCLA in the opener. However like the Bruins, the Seminoles should be able to adjust to the Wolf Pack offense after seeing it for a few drives. Also, in his 23 games as starting quarterback, Fajardo has never seen a defense as fast as Florida State's. It will be interesting to see how much success he has running the football and buying time with his legs against an elite defense.
On the other side of the ball, the Seminoles should hold a huge advantage. Nevada has been awful defensively, especially against the run, and it's hard to imagine much resistance against a powerful FSU offense. Only turnovers and penalties can slown down the 'Noles' ability to light up the scoreboard.
Final Score: FSU 48, Nevada 17
FSU Injury Report - Nevada Game
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