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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Death in Death Valley

Reason #1,792 why I don't gamble.

This week, #5 FSU is favored by 3 points over #3 Clemson in Death Valley.

The only thing that will die is Clemson's National Championship hopes.

Lay the 3 but the over-under is a little trickier.  Most books have it set at 64 or 64.5.

I'd go the under but wouldn't feel good about it.

Noles 37, Tigers 24.

This time I mean it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Run, (Wake) Forest, Run!

There is a lot to be excited about in Tallahassee as the Florida State Seminoles move into conference play in earnest.   They’re off to another 4-0 start, have the 4th ranked scoring offense in the nation (51.3 ppg), they’re sending a trio of stud backs running behind an offensive line that has discovered a nasty streak, and have more than replaced departed quarterback E.J. Manuel with dynamic first-year signal caller Jameis Winston.

On the other side of the ball is a stingy bunch allowing just 15.0 points per game, tied for 17th in the country and just 136 passing yards per game.

But despite all this good news and a Seminole Nation dreaming of being back in National Championship contention, Saturday’s game against Maryland is a bonafide, Class 1, Grade A trap game for the Noles.

In each of the three seasons since he replaced the legendary Bobby Bowden, Jimbo Fisher’s teams have managed to lose games to unranked ACC opponents (NC State and Carolina in 2010, Wake Forest and Virginia in 2011, and NC State again in 2012).  Maryland had a week off to prepare for FSU and there is a very real danger of the Noles looking ahead to their own bye next week before their showdown with #4 ranked Clemson on Oct 19.

Despite being off last week, Maryland snuck into the AP Top 25 when West Virginia (led, coincidentally, by former FSU backup QB Clint Trickett) -- whom Maryland thumped 37-0 -- defeated then 11th ranked Oklahoma State.

Maryland also comes into Saturday afternoon’s game 4-0, largely on the basis of their #3 ranked scoring defense, allowing just 10.3 ppg, and a formidable running game, averaging 226.8 ypg on the ground, good for 24th in the nation and 3rd in the ACC behind Georgia Tech (291.3 ypg) and Florida State (245.8).

And this leads to the biggest reason for Seminole Nation to be concerned about this weekend’s game.

You see, there’s a dirty little secret in Tallahassee:

The Florida State Seminoles can’t stop the run.

It’s bad enough that after four games, the Noles are ranked #62 nationally in rush defense, allowing 151.5 yards per game against less than top-flight opponents.

But the real concern is that their first three FBS opponents are averaging just 160.2 rushing yard per game.  The Noles next eight opponents are averaging 181.4 yards on the ground and if you take out the two weakest opponents left on the schedule -- Wake Forest and Idaho -- the remaining six teams are averaging a whopping 199.2 rushing yards per game.

And the Noles have gotten worse each game.  Pittsburgh rushed for only 96 yards in the season opener, followed by Nevada’s 128.  Then FCS Bethune-Cookman rushed for 182 before the Boston College Eagles gouged the Seminole D for 200 rushing yards, making a game out of what should have been, on paper, a decided blowout.

So opponents have been looking for, and seem to have found, a strategy to keep the high-powered FSU offense off the field and off the scoreboard.  The best way to keep Jaboo from hurting you is to keep him on the sideline of Bobby Bowden Field.

Finally, the Noles have fallen behind in all three games against FBS opponents (7-0 to Pitt, 7-3 to Nevada and 14-3 to Boston College) before rallying for convincing wins.  If they start slowly against Randy Edsall’s Terps and Maryland is able to move the ball on the ground as expected, look for this game to be a low-scoring, hard-hitting affair that could leave the Noles in a position very familiar in the Jimbo Fisher era:

Disappointed on Saturday night, having lost to a conference opponent after being favored by double digits.

THE SMOKEY JOE LINE:  Take the 15 points and bet the under (o/u at 57).