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Florida State (1-1) at (7) B-Y-U (2-0)
Saturday, September 19th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: After opening the season with two straight games outside of Provo, the seventh-ranked BYU Cougars finally open up the home portion of their 2009 schedule, as they host the Florida State Seminoles in an intriguing matchup from LaVell Edwards Stadium this weekend.
The Cougars are sporting their highest ranking since 1996 and enter the game following an upset win over Oklahoma in the season-opener (14-13) and a rout of Tulane last week (54-3). Bronco Mendenhall's squad will remain home for two more games after this and brings an 18-game homefield winning streak into this contest.
The Seminoles will do everything in their power to bring that lengthy streak to an end, but Bobby Bowden's squad has started slow in 2009, dropping a 38-34 decision to rival Miami in the opener and just getting by FCS foe Jacksonville State (19-9) last time out.
This game represents just the third all-time meeting between these two teams and first since 2000. FSU has won the first two matchups.
The Seminoles got a second solid start from quarterback Christian Ponder, but despite throwing for 324 yards against Jacksonville State, the Seminoles were unable to put this game out of reach early on and actually had to come from behind to earn the first victory of the season.
The passing game has been impressive in the early stages, netting 309.0 yards per game. Ponder has completed just over 60 percent of his passes and has spread the ball around, with WR Richard Goodman leading all receivers with 13 catches, for 162 yards.
The ground game hasn't kept pace, with the team averaging a mediocre 94.0 ypg thus far. Still, Ty Jones has shown flashes, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and scoring two of the team's three rushing TDs.
The FSU defense was gashed by Miami in the opener, but did a better job against the Gamecocks. although still allowing over 300 yards of offense. Standout linebacker Dekoda Watson was instrumental in the victory and finished the game with nine total tackles, including 3.5 sacks. In all, FSU recorded seven sacks and 10 TFLs against JSU and will look to bring the same kind of pressure in Provo.
Watson is the undeniable leader on defense for Florida State and is tied for the team lead in tackles with Kendall Smith (15 stops). The 6-2, 235-pounder is also responsible for more than half (4.5) of the team's eight total sacks to date and really enjoyed when the team allowed him to rush the passer up front against JSU.
"This funny thing is that they already had it setup for me, and initially I didn't put my hand on the ground, but shoot I felt like I had a better take off from a three- or four-point stance. I kinda took matters into my own hands. I just hope that they allow me to keep my hand on the ground. It was a lot of fun, it brought back a lot of memories."
The Seminoles better do something in terms of rushing the passer, or All- American candidate Max Hall will pick them apart. The Cougars are an explosive offensive team that thrives on the vertical game. Thus far, the team is averaging 325.0 yards per game passing, thanks to Hall's 71.4 percent completion rate. In the rout of Tulane, Hall completed an efficient 24-of-32 passes, for 309 yards and two TDs. His favorite target is All-American tight end Dennis Pitta (11 catches for 137 yards), although McKay Jacobson (seven catches, for 148 yards and two TDs) has made some big plays as well.
The ground game helps to keep defenses honest and is responsible for 117.0 ypg thus far. Bryan Kariya (3.6 ypc, one TD) has received the bulk of the work, but both JJ Di Luigi (5.8 ypc, two TDs) and Harvey Unga (5.7 ypc) add to the mix.
The BYU defense has been sharp in the first two games, allowing a mere 8.0 ppg, on just 213.5 yards of total offense. It has certainly helped that the unit has forced six turnovers in the first two games.
Brandon Bradley currently leads the team in tackles with 10.5 stops from his cornerback position. Linebacker Terrance Hooks ranks second at 8.5 tackles. Up front, opposing teams need to keep All-American candidate Jan Jorgensen (six tackles) from causing havoc in the backfield.
Getting a top-level opponent to come to Provo has not been easy, but BYU is starting to get the credit it deserves and Mendenhall thinks it is certainly deserved.
"When you have the chance to have Florida State - a team of the caliber - that is willing to play and then come to LaVell Edwards Stadium is an awesome thing and I think it's something that the program has earned over a long period of time."
The Cougars won't disappoint the hometown faithful and behind another solid showing from Hall, should be able to earn the win over the 'Noles and continue what could be a magical season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: BYU 31, Florida State 17
09/16 10:56:33 ET