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September 27, 2013

What to watch for - Florida State at Boston College

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Just The Facts

Florida State (3-0, 1-0 ACC) at Boston College (2-1, 1-0 ACC)
Saturday, Sept. 28 at 3:30 p.m. / Alumni Stadium (44,500) (Chestnut Hill, MA)
TV/Radio: ESPN2/ABC (reverse mirror) / Seminole Radio Network & satellite (Sirius: 85/XM: 85)
Weather: Temperature at kickoff is expected to be around 70 to a low of around 60 by the end of the game. There is a 0% chance rain.
Betting Line: FSU is a 23.0 point favorite

Setting the Stage

Florida State resumes ACC play and will face off against its first Atlantic Division foe this Saturday.

After soundly defeating FCS school Bethune-Cookman 54-6 last Saturday, FSU sets its sights on a 2-1 Boston College team that is coming off a bye week. The Eagles were completely overmatched the week before by USC, 35-7. The Trojans completely dominated the matchup on both sides of the ball limiting the Eagles to just 184 total yards of offense, while racking up over 500 and averaging 8.4 yards per play.

With the Seminoles being heavy favorites to move to 4-0, much of the attention will again be on quarterback Jameis Winston. After leading the nation in completion percentage through the first two games, the freshman phenom cooled off somewhat last weekend completing just 10-of-19 but was the victim of several dropped passes.

Speedy junior Karlos Williams should also get more attention on offense. The former five-star safety was moved to running back a couple weeks ago and has been impressive in his two games on offense. Following last week's win, head coach Jimbo Fisher promised to get Williams in the running back rotation earlier.

On defensive, the Seminoles will have to contend with a Boston College power ground attack under new head coach Steve Addazio. Just as important will be for the FSU defense to break the early trend of getting off to slow starts.

Florida State offense vs. Boston College defense

For three straight games Florida State's offense has lit up the scoreboard with little effort and called off the dogs in the second half. The Seminoles' attack has been extremely balanced with 49.2 percent of the offensive output coming from the run and 50.8 percent coming via the pass. That adds up to a very difficult offense for any team to defend and Jimbo Fisher has shown that he is perfectly willing to adjust his attack based on whatever a defense decides to give up.

That will be the dilemma for Boston College.

In the season opener Pittsburgh opted to have its defense sit back and in response Winston picked apart the Panther secondary for easy chunks of yardage. The end result was a school-record 25-of-27 passes completed and an offense that rattled off seven straight scores after the opening drive.

The other option is to bring a lot of different blitz packages at the offense in hopes of rattling FSU's rookie quarterback and forcing him into mistakes. The downside is that approach will leave FSU's ultra talented receivers in one-on-one coverage against relatively average defensive backs and linebackers. Should Winston, who said earlier this week that he prefers when teams blitz, make the proper reads and get rid of the ball quickly and accurately the aggressive approach could prove disastrous for Boston College.

Nevertheless, from what he said earlier this week in a press conference, Addazio plans to have his defense come after Winston and hope for the best.

"Well, what we need to do is create pressure on the quarterback and penetrate up front and create a disturbance in the run game and disrupt the flow of the offense," explained Addazio. "That's what you need to do then get off the field. You don't want to leave that offense on the field. So that's what we're striving to do."

This is also a game where FSU's running backs should be able to thrive. The Eagles rank 81st against the run and surrendered 257 yards on the ground in their last game at USC. That could mean big numbers for FSU's three-headed monster - Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Karlos Williams. On the whole, FSU is averaging a gaudy 7.2 yards per rush through the first three games.

Florida State defense vs. Boston College offense

As with the Seminole offense, the defense is strong when it comes to both the run and pass. FSU is currently 7th in total defense but will have its run defense primarily tested on Saturday.

Despite the presence of veteran quarterback Chase Rettig the Eagles have relied heavily on a power running game so far this season. In fact, BC has run the ball (112 attempts) nearly twice as often as it has thrown the football (68 attempts). Most of those carries will go to senior Andre Williams. The 6-foot, 227-pound back leads the ACC in rushing with 356 yards on the ground for a 4.7 yards per rush average.

The Eagles' smash-mouth offensive game plan is unlikely to change on Saturday. That's music to the ears of FSU defenders who are used to facing teams that run some form of spread and rely extensively on misdirection.

Film Study: Boston College in transition

"That kind of tests your manhood a little bit," said senior defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel of BC's offensive philosophy. "There's no trickery, no nothing, just old fashion football. You are either going to stop it or your not."

Rettig is a quality quarterback with plenty of experience. While Addazio will likely continue his run-first mentality against the Seminoles, he will pick his spots to utilize play-action in hopes of catching FSU's defense off guard. As such, Jeremy Pruitt's secondary must not only help support the run defense, it must also be on alert throughout the game for Rettig to take some shots down the field off play-action.

Conclusion and Prediction

At one time Florida State had its difficulties with Boston College. Through the first five years of the series after the Eagles joined the ACC in 2005, BC held a 3-2 advantage over FSU. Since then the 'Noles have completely dominated with three straight wins with each of those wins progressively coming by a larger margin. As the Seminoles' program has been on the rise under Jimbo Fisher, Boston College has been on the decline. While new head coach Steve Addazio appears to be a good fit for Chestnut Hill, he inherited a program that doesn't yet have the horses to compete at an elite level.

That drop-off in talent was exposed in BC's loss at Southern Cal and it's reasonable to expect that disparity to reappear Saturday afternoon in Alumni Stadium.

If history is any guide, Florida State might have a hard time defending BC's run attack early but should adjust by the second quarter. Unless Winston has an off day, look for the Seminole offense to roll early and often.

Final Score: FSU 41, BC 10

Notable

FSU Injury Report - BC Game
Out for Season
TE Kevin Haplea (knee)
WR Jarred Haggins (knee)

Out for Game
DB Tyler Hunter (neck)
OL Ira Denson (shoulder)

Probable
DE Mario Edwards Jr. (hand)



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