Who: No. 25 Terps (4-0, 0-0 ACC) vs. No. 8 Florida State (4-0, 2-0)
When: Saturday, noon.
Where: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
DMV radio: WTEM (980 AM), WJZ (105.7 FM).
Satellite radio: Sirius Channel 91, XM Channel 91.
Coaches: Terps – Randy Edsall (third season, 10-18). Seminoles – Jimbo Fisher (fourth season, 35-10)
Series: 24th meeting. Terps trail, 2-21.
The Maryland football team has had two weeks to prepare for its biggest test yet – and the biggest game of the Randy Edsall era – in Florida State. The Seminoles, meanwhile, had to scratch and claw their way past Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., last weekend and have No. 3 Clemson to worry about next week. But given Maryland’s recent ascension into the top 25, any abstract notions of a “trap game” get tossed out the window. Both teams boast legitimately powerful offenses and strong, sound defenses. Both teams line up an electrifying quarterback under center – C.J. Brown for the Terps, Jameis Winston for the Seminoles – with a stable of thoroughbreds at wide receiver. It might be a shootout, it might be a grind and it might very well be lopsided if the tomahawk-chopping, war cry-shrieking Doak Campbell Stadium crowd has its way. But the Terps have an opportunity for a program-defining win, one they haven’t had in many years. They’re seeking no moral victories in Tallahassee, however. Maryland thinks it can hang with the ACC’s elite and Saturday will provide the answer.
1) Contain the run? Everything in Tallahassee revolves around Winston. He has gobbled up every morsel of hype and delivered as promised. But Maryland defensive coordinator Brian Stewart will concern himself more with Florida State’s ground game. Why? The Seminoles actually do more damage there. Their frantic-paced offense knocks opposing defenses on their heels with pass after pass, then pounds a long run down their throats. Florida State’s offense has gained 60 yards on one play twice this season, both on runs. Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder Jr., each with at least 23 carries this season, all average over 5.5 yards per carry.
“Our basic defensive philosophy is stop the run, then make the team one-dimensional and play from there,” Stewart said. “That’s what we’re going to do. Load the box, stop the run, then try to be one-dimensional. The score of the game also helps that. Then we’ll be able to play the pass game from there.”
2) Pressure Winston? With an arboretum of tall receivers, most standing well over 6 feet, Florida State could feast on the outside. Will Likely and Isaac Goins, Maryland’s two starting cornerbacks, are giving up 10 and six inches, respectively, to Seminoles wideout Kelvin Benjamin, the tallest of the bunch. With stilts still banned from football fields, that difference isn’t getting any smaller. So Stewart will dial up edge blitzes all afternoon, bull-rushing Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil and Marcus Whitfield off the edge to contaminate Winston’s pocket and force the redshirt freshman into quick decisions. Boston College did a tremendous job of this early before Winston bought more time and took deep shots downfield. The result? Twenty-one straight points before halftime.
3) Protect the football? Maryland has, for lack of a better term, been lucky with turnovers this season. The Terps have recovered five of their own fumbles this season and several of Brown’s passes into traffic wound up batted down instead of intercepted. Mainly thanks to kicker Brad Craddock’s consistency, Maryland has scored on every red zone trip this season, but a costly turnover could give Florida State enough space to swing the momentum toward the home team. And if Tropical Storm Karen bears down upon Tallahassee, things could get slippery.
0: Maryland wins in 11 games at Doak Campbell Stadium.
92.6: Winston’s completion percentage in his college debut against Pittsburgh, a Florida State record.
36.8: Freshman Will Likely’s ACC-best kickoff return average, more than 15 yards better than Stefon Diggs.
“Nothing we can do with genetics at this point in time. But what we can do is make sure we have a plan, a plan in place, if they want to do some jump balls we can attack him also.” – Stewart on defending Florida State’s tall wide receiving corps.
“I’m pretty sure. I don’t watch ESPN too much.” – Terps running back Brandon Ross, on whether he buys into the Jameis Winston hype.
THE SONG OF SATURDAY
“You’re Gonna Go Far Kid,” by The Offspring
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