Florida State defensive line vs. Maryland offensive line
Florida State has a significant advantage here. The defense has not surrendered a touchdown in 11 quarters. The Seminoles rank second in the nation against the run. Florida State has a faster defense than Georgia Tech, which held Maryland to 81 total yards, and North Carolina State, which held Maryland to 91. And here is the most alarming note: The Seminoles get their starting defensive end, Eric Moore, and nose guard, Brodrick Bunkley, back from injuries for the first time in nearly a month. Maryland's offensive line play has been arguably the most disappointing aspect of the team. Now right tackle Brandon Nixon (ankle) is doubtful, and left tackle Stephon Heyer (knee) and right guard Russell Bonham (knee) are also banged up. Maryland had less contact this week in practice to heal some players.
Florida State quarterback Chris Rix has led the Seminoles to decisive victories over Maryland in each of the past three years. Now he is on the bench, replaced by sophomore Wyatt Sexton, who assumed the starting position when Rix got hurt in late September. Sexton has played well and, aside from last week's three-turnover effort against Wake Forest, does not make mistakes. The onus will be on Sexton to avoid forcing passes, particularly because two of his playmakers are hampered. Starting running back Leon Washington will sit because of an injury. Wide receiver Chauncey Stovall, now expected to play, is recovering from a hamstring injury. Maryland, on the other hand, has two positives this season: Its punter and its defense. The defense has been overlooked in a conference that has seven teams ranked in the country's top 23 in total defense. Maryland ranks 21st. "They have good linebackers," Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden said, "and look a little quicker and faster to me than Virginia."
It's Not Statham
The College Park quarterback controversy has simmered in large part because the player throwing passes is not the problem anymore, at least not the only problem. The offensive line woes have been well-documented. The receivers have failed to get separation from defenders and, when they have, too often drop passes. Granted, Statham misfired on a key pass to Jo Jo Walker last week, which might have iced the game. But Derrick Fenner and Vernon Davis dropped balls that could have been caught. Fortunately for the Terps, Fenner, the team's leading receiver, likely will play today despite an ankle injury suffered last week. Remember the team that compiled 685 yards against Duke on Sept. 25 with relative ease? Florida State does. "They potentially have got an outstanding football team," Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said. "It's hard to put a finger on what happened, but you have to be prepared for them to play like they were playing in the beginning of the year and playing their best."