Maryland comes into this game riding a 4-0 start that includes an impressive 37-0 whitewashing of rival West Virginia. The Terrapins have been explosive on offense, a marked change from last year when they had to resort to a converted linebacker at quarterback.
FSU on Defense
Senior QB C.J. Brown is a true dual-threat quarterback and presents a solid run threat in the zone-read game, which is a staple of the Maryland offense. Seminole fans can think of this year's Maryland offense as a sort of "Clemson lite"—the perfect warmup for the Noles' game against the Tigers two weeks later.
Maryland will spread the field, running the offense through Brown and do-everything receiver Stefon Diggs, who may be the best receiver in the ACC and does for Maryland much of what Sammy Watkins does for Clemson. Diggs is a highly explosive player, and the Terrapins will get the ball to him in a variety of ways—jet sweeps, lining him up as a running back, receiver screens, downfield passes, and the return game.
Expect Florida State to focus a little extra attention on Diggs in the secondary by getting in his face and jamming him whenever possible, using its bigger corners to make him uncomfortable and disrupt his timing in the passing game.
Maryland's spread will allow FSU to put its best defensive personnel on the field as the Seminoles have tended to be best in a nickel or dime alignment, though the loss of Tyler Hunter to injury has somewhat reduced the advantage of those packages.
It'll be especially interesting to see if FSU has managed to fix the gap control and discipline issues that have plagued the defense through the first four games. I expect to see better performance against the run but a few missed assignments leading to a couple scores as Maryland manages to throw a few new things the defense's way coming out of their week off.
FSU on Offense
On defense, Maryland leads the nation in sacks (17) and ranks eighth in interceptions, a testament to the pressure the Terps have put on opposing quarterbacks through the first four games. Maryland's defensive front is not especially big, however, and they will generally rely upon a variety of blitzes and disguise to produce pressure from odd fronts, requiring quarterback Jameis Winston do quickly diagnose where the pressure is coming from. Given the bye, I'd expect a few especially exotic blitzes in mid or long yardage situations that will have been specially prepared for FSU this week.
The weather will also likely be a factor in this game as Tropical Storm Karen (perhaps Hurricane Karen by game time) will bring wind and rain to Tallahassee in advance of her landfall later in the weekend. The wind will likely be a bigger factor than the rain, as Winston has huge hands and is unlikely to be affected much by a wet ball.
Look for Florida State to use its advantage on both lines to pound away, with the FSU running game taking center stage in this game. Karlos Williams got a little earlier time last week and had a few outstanding blocks, displaying continued progress in picking up his role in the offense. With the Clemson game looming, look for Karlos to get even more early time in this one as the FSU coaching staff prepares its second-half weapon for the Tigers.
Maryland is probably the best team FSU will have played to this point in the season, though Pitt is definitely in the discussion. Like Boston College, the Terps are coming off a bye and will likely throw a few solid punches early, forcing the FSU defensive staff to adjust on the fly, but after that initial storm, I expect Florida State's advantage up front on both sides of the ball to ultimately carry the day.
Maryland struggled at Connecticut in their only road game so far this year, with the offensive output nearly three yards per play lower than it has been at home, though the defense has been consistent at home and on the road. I expect FSU to limit the Terps to around 4.8 yards per play while continuing its own very efficient offensive output at just under 8 yards per play.
All told, I expect a big day on the ground for FSU as the Noles pull away in the second half, winning 45-24.
Wayne We don't really know much about what Maryland has due to the schedule that they have played so far. Statistically they have one of the best defenses in the country, and their offense has put up a lot of points so far. The West Virginia game looks like a great win in which they absolutely dominated. However, when you take a closer look you see that West Virginia turned the ball over inside their own 25 three times in the first half and had six turnovers overall.
The Florida State defense has been a little shaky when It comes to stopping the run so far this season but will get a huge boost with the return of standout defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. Florida State will have to weather the storm early from another team coming off their bye week. This will be the biggest challenge for the secondary so far in the season and the primary focus will be stopping Stefon Diggs. Diggs is one of the best wide receivers in the country and will command the most attention. This will put a lot of pressure on the corner covering Deon Long, who actually leads the Terrapins in receptions.
If Florida State can weather the storm and shut down Diggs and Long the Noles will roll big in this one. If they can’t it will be more like last week. I’m going with a combination of both as the Noles win 38-24.
Geoff Florida State played a poor game a week ago, particularly on defense. Chestnut Hill can do that to a Florida team as it is tough to get up for the game. While Maryland is not a name program, they are off to a great start and should have FSU's attention. I have no doubt that FSU's offense will score 40 plus, the question is whether Maryland can move the football. My simple answer is "no," they can't. Maryland will get one or two drives but will be largely shut down. 'Noles roll. 44-10.