Bud Elliott, "Chief" of Tomahawk Nation, the highly successful Seminoles blog at SB Nation, took the time this week to answer a few of our questions in relation to Saturday's game in Provo. So thanks to Bud and enjoy his valuable insights below...
1. What will the Seminoles' general game plan be for stopping Max Hall and BYU's versatile passing game?
It's a major concern. I have a ton of respect for BYU's attack. As with any Air-Raid based attack, you have to pick your poison. I anticipate that FSU will press and blitz, which means BYU must go deep. Hall seems to be very accurate generally, but I haven't seen him throw the deep ball with accuracy (not the lob pass, but some of the deeper tough stuff). The NFL draft scouting reports also express skepticism over Hall's ability to threaten teams by driving the ball deep. So press and blitz. It's a high-risk, high-reward strategy. It's also high variance, a strategy favoring underdogs.
FSU has CBS' #1 CB prospect nationally in Patrick Robinson, which should help. I have no doubts that he can shut down Jacobson. If BYU is going to throw on FSU, they will have to do so with their secondary wideouts, TE's and backs. One thing I don't anticipate is FSU playing a lot of zone. FSU doesn't play a good zone, and Hall looks like really plays well against zone defenses. Additionally, BYU's guys are unreal at sitting down at the holes in zones. So hopefully there won't be much zone. I just can't see FSU letting BYU move down the field in 5-10 yard dink and dunk passes. I have worried about covering Pitta and the other TE (George) [because] he did look good on film. FSU has traditionally been burnt by tight ends that they forget about. Pitta will get some, but I worry about the #2 TE more. Expect FSU to treat Pitta as a wideout.
Much more after the jump...
2. What should Mendenhall and the Cougars be the most concerned about? (Ponder's play-making ability? FSU's pass rush? Etc.)
Definitely Ponder. FSU will make BYU Defend 11. FSU is going to spread BYU out. They will test BYU's 3rd and 4th cornerbacks. If BYU wants to blitz, they will have to do it from a slightly greater distance, which will make it easier for FSU to pick it up because it will take just a bit longer to get there and is thus easier to identify.. But most of all, defend 11. I haven't seen BYU play well against a team with a mobile QB. A terrible UW team almost beat BYU last year because BYU couldn't account for Jake Locker. TCU dismantled BYU by running their QB and putting a wideout at QB. And Utah of course runs the spread option. FSU had the most efficient rushing offense in the ACC last season, running a lot of the zone-read and option principles. They return their entire offensive line which is considered one of the best in the country.
Can BYU defend all 11 offensive players? If so, at what cost? Are they dropping a safety down into the box? If so, that limits the possible coverages they can play. Are they able to stop the run game with only their front 7? If so, huge advantage BYU. I have my doubts about their ability to stop the run while playing the cover-4 they ran against OU. But the only 2 teams that were able to stop FSU's run game with only their front 7 last year were Boston College (DT's selected 8th overall and 40th overall in 1st and 2nd round of NFL draft, and a Butkus Award Finalist), and UF. I happen to think BYU will need that extra guy to stop FSU from running Ponder, who was the quickest player on the team last season (fastest shuttle time). Will BYU put their corners on an island? This will be an interesting chess-match.
3. Who is the one Seminole player VTF isn't necessarily familiar with and should be aware of going into Saturday's game?
I had to think about this, and I decided on Greg Reid over Jermaine Thomas. Reid was the 2nd rated cornerback prospect coming out of high school last year and he is flat electric. Here's some film. He's out-running Miami's special teams speed. Reid also plays nickel corner for the Noles, and if Hall is late with a throw, Reid has the incredible closing speed to cut off a route and take the ball the other way for 6. Maybe BYU's recent kickoff woes are a blessing in disguise? If you kick if out of bounds, the ball won't be in Reid's hands.
4. What is the general consensus at TN regarding BYU's win over OU? (Fluke? Legit? OU-choke job? Etc...)
Well I wrote this last night, but I honestly believe that it was a combination of better BYU defense and unforced OU errors. It takes two to tango. If they played again, with a healthy Bradford, I'd make OU a 14 pt favorite rather than a 21 point fave, because I think OU would try to do a little less on offense, and their fumbles are unlikely to be so untimely. But football isn't played in a 7-game series, and BYU got the win. That doesn't stop me from making performance based, rather than end results based conclusions.
5. What is the general perspective at TN on the MWC's recent success toward gaining future respectability from the BCS?
I think the MWC should earn it a bit more like FSU did when they were coming up. FSU went to the big house and beat Michigan, went to Nebraska and beat them in the sea of red, etc. I go to Alabama for law school (FSU undergrad) and I can honestly say that they didn't care much about playing Utah in the Sugar Bowl. While Utah was incredibly hyped, Bama saw the game as a letdown. Their season was dashed the previous game against UF.
I don't think MWC teams face as challenging a schedule as many BCS conference teams, and when you have a lot of games in which you can sit your starters, it decreases the chance of injury. Additionally, you can focus on your big games when you don't have to consistently get up to play each game. I'd like to see Utah or BYU come east and make their mark against some good teams (not Virginia). Beating OU was a good start, but playing Tulane, Colorado State, Utah State, UNLV, San Diego State, Wyoming, New Mexico and Air Force is a joke and to counteract that most MWC teams need to schedule 2 or 3 non-conference games against consistently ranked teams. I think BYU, TCU, or Utah should seek to join the Pac10.
A really important and underrated game for the MWC this year will be TCU @ Clemson, which seems to be the only example of a MWC team willing to come east of the Mississippi to face quality competition. If Clemson, a 6-7 team last year from the ACC, though likely a bowl team this year, beats TCU, that doesn't say much about the MWC. It's not about winning or losing one game, it's about being able to consistently play with good competition week in and week out. MWC teams completely underestimate the grind of playing a schedule like FSU's (11 bowl teams from last year) or South Carolina's.
I wrote about some of the motivational issues here. I worry that FSU will see BYU as just another game on its schedule, because I see BYU as one of the better teams FSU will play this year. I respect BYU, but I don't believe that most teams from the MWC and especially the WAC have earned the respect they seek. Go out and do what FSU did to get that national respect. Play 4 top-15 teams in consecutive weeks, three of them on the road. As a program on the outside looking in, you can't demand home-and-home games from a lot of these teams. You have to go to their house and beat them.
6. Even if FSU were to lose in Provo, what would their outlook be on winning the ACC this season?
That is an interesting question. I happen to think they will end up in a tie with Clemson for the Atlantic Division at 5-3 or 6-2, but FSU must play at Clemson, and while both teams must play Georgia Tech and Miami from the Coastal, FSU has to play at UNC on a Thursday night as their 3rd Coastal contest, while Clemson draws pitiful Virginia. The schedule should make the difference.
I expect a well-played game with a turnover or two for each side and a few big plays as well. Good luck guys!