(4) Florida State (4-0) at South Florida (2-2)|
Saturday, September 29, 6:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Coming off a thrilling shootout victory over nationally-ranked
Clemson, the fourth-ranked Florida State Seminoles take a break from ACC
action, as the make the short trip to Tampa to take on the South Florida
It was a showdown between the top two teams in the ACC, but it was Florida
State which earned the a 49-37 win over Clemson to move to 4-0 on the young
season. Jimbo Fisher's squad is loaded on both sides of the football and
cleared its first huge obstacle with the win over the Tigers.
Skip Holtz's Bulls opened the season with a pair of wins over FCS foe
Chattanooga (34-13) and Nevada (32-31). However, USF is back to .500 on the
year with back-to-back losses to Rutgers (23-13) and most recently, Ball State
South Florida won the only previous meeting between these two teams, posting a
17-7 win in Tallahassee in 2009.
Florida State's offense has caught up to its defense this season, culminating
in a explosion of 667 yards last weekend against nationally-ranked Clemson.
The numbers on the season are just as inflated, with FSU ranking second
nationally in scoring (56.3 ppg), eighth in rushing (281.0 ypg) and fourth in
total offense (574.5 ypg).
Quarterback E.J. Manuel has been the perfect field general for this team. The
veteran signal-caller boasts of a 180.23 efficiency rating thus far,
completing 73.4 percent of his passes, for 905 yards, with eight touchdowns
and just one interception.
He comes into this contest off his best career performance, passing for over
300 yards and rushing for over 100 against Clemson. Fisher was encouraged by
Manuel's near flawless performance.
"I can't remember off the top of my head a bad decision all night," Fisher
said about Manuel. "... EJ Manuel like I say all the time, I get to coach him
every day and look in his eyes and know how he works and what he does and what
he thinks, he is a tremendous young man. A great leader for our football
The passing game is bolstered by an explosive ground attack that has already
accounted for 20 touchdowns in four games. Tailbacks Chris Thompson (357
yards, 10.8 ypc) and James Wilder Jr. (285 yards, 7.0 ypc) have been quite the
tandem, combining for 11 rushing TDs to date.
The FSU defense has definitely had its hands in the team's flawless record.
The Seminoles enter this contest ranked sixth in the nation in scoring defense
(10.0 ppg), fifth in rush defense (59.3 ypg), fourth in pass defense (124.8
ypg) and second in total defense (184.0 ypg).
The unit has already had to deal with adversity, as starting cornerback Greg
Reid was dismissed prior to the start of the season and All-ACC rush end
Brandon Jenkins was lost to injury early on. Others have filled the voids in
both areas of the defense. Ends Cornellius Carradine and Bjoern Werner have
caused fits for opposing quarterbacks this season. Carradine leads the team in
tackles (19) and ranks second in both TFLs (6.5) and sacks (5.5). Werner has
15 total tackles and leads the team in both TFLs (9.0) and sacks (6.5).
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes gives the team All-American talent in the secondary.
The Bulls have a solid offensive scheme, predicated on the play of veteran
quarterback B.J. Daniels. As a whole, USF is averaging 439.0 yards per game,
with 290.2 coming via the pass.
Daniels has struggled taking care of the football this season, with six
interceptions thus far, but he remains a dual threat, with the ability to both
run (47.0 ypg) and pass the ball effectively (285.5 ypg). Andre Davis has been
his top target downfield, leading USF in receptions (23), receiving yards
(309) and TD catches (3).
The Bulls have had some difficulties with consistency on the defensive side of
the ball this year, especially against the run (160.8 ypg). Big plays have
also been few and far between, with just four fumble recoveries and no
Junior LB DeDe Lattimore paces the Bulls in tackles (36), TFLs (4.5) and sacks
(2.5). Senior LB Mike Lanaris ranks second in stops (29), followed closely by
senior LB Sam Barrington (27), who has forced two fumbles on the year.
Holtz knows his team faces an uphill battle in this contest.
"This is probably the best football team we've played since I've been here,"
Holtz said. "At the same time, we've played in some big football games in the
past. You have to line up and you have to play it. I don't think the players
will be intimidated."
The Bulls are in a tough spot here, trying to end a two-game skein, but having
to do so against a Florida State squad that has legitimate national title
aspirations. Look for Manuel and company to roll on offense, while FSU puts
the clamps on Daniels en route to a double-digit win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida State 37, South Florida 17
09/27 07:10:24 ET